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Claire Hettinger is the 2019 Illinois Humanities Engagement Fellow for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.  Have a story idea, question or tip? Reach her at claire.hettinger@investigatemidwest.org. 

On March 27, 2020, Congress signed a more than $2 trillion federal stimulus bill that gives billons of dollars in assistance to the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs. 

According to an analysis by PennState Extension

The CARES Act dedicates $9.5 billion in assistance to agricultural producers and an additional $14 billion in funding to the USDA to create an aid package for farmers who have seen a crash in commodity prices due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $9.5 billion administered by the USDA is specifically dedicated to providing financial assistance to specialty crop growers, livestock producers and dairy farmers.

The $14 billion goes to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, which is a funding mechanism within the USDA, that covers programs such as Price Loss Coverage and Dairy Margin Coverage, natural resource conservation program, disaster assistance programs and the Market Facilitation Program.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation said they called on Congress to include farmers in rescue measures. The new agreement includes as much as a $14 billion increase in the United States Department of Agriculture’s, USDA’s, borrowing power through the Commodity Credit Corporation. This measure is set to support agriculture and assist specialty crop producers, direct retail farmers and livestock operators, according to the American Farm Bureau. 

“COVID-19 impact on agriculture includes a rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closure of ethanol plants, the dramatic decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand, and the reduction in direct-to-consumer sales,” according to a statement from the American Farm Bureau. 

All the farm bureaus for the Midwestern states have information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have information about how it will impact agriculture. 

The state farm bureau’s responses are in line with what is being done elsewhere in the state. For example, Illinois and Ohio are under shelter in place orders so farmers and agriculture workers are being deemed as essential industries. 

Indiana, Kansas and Nebraska are also classifying agriculture as essential for the coming days. Governor of Kansas Laura Kelley issued an executive order classifying agricultural and food production workers essential in the event of a local or statewide order to shelter in place. 

The farm bureaus of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin have not made calls to include farmers and agriculture as essential businesses. 

South Dakota provided information about monitoring the markets during the pandemic. 

And North Dakota has provided extensive information on the disease outbreak on its website. 

The Illinois Farm Bureau said they recognize the importance of precautions regarding COVID-19, but the organization wants to ensure farmers and agri-businesses can operate and provide food and fuel consumers. 

"We will be able to put a crop in the ground and care for our animals," Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. said in the statement that the organization is working with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Claire Hettinger is the 2019 Illinois Humanities Engagement Fellow for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.  Have a story idea, question or tip? Reach her at claire.hettinger@investigatemidwest.org.