As Iowa farmers begin a new crop year, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is pressing the Trump administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture to quickly distribute $19 billion in federal aid to address plunging prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Through trade disputes, droughts, floods and now the most imminent thing, this global pandemic, farmers continue to define the word resiliency,” Grassley said Thursday during a conference call from his New Hartford farm where he has been social distancing for three weeks and five days.
“I see it in my neighborhood farmers (who are) very optimistic as they put the seed in the ground,” he said.
At the same time, farmers are “very unsure” of what the corn and soybean markets will be at harvest time. For most of the past five years, Grassley said, farming hasn’t been profitable, “but not catastrophically low like they are now.”
“I never thought I’d ever see it at our local New Hartford elevator that corn is down to $2.72,” Grassley said.
A year ago, the average cash corn prices received by Iowa farmers was $3.51 per bushel.
The last time he saw this level of uncertainty in the farm community was during the farm depression of the 1980s, he said.
He voiced those concerns to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in conversations over the weekend.
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He’s also been talking to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue about the timeline for distribution of the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act that Congress passed in March, it calls for $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers and $3 billion in food purchases.
“I’m sure he was frustrated to tell me, ‘Well, it may not be June 1,’” Grassley said, adding that Perdue said he’s waiting on the regulations for the program. “‘I don’t understand why it takes so long’ is kind of what he was telling me.
“But anyway, I told him that we need to get these payments out to farmers as soon as possible ... to both save farms and America’s food supply,” Grassley said.
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