CARES Act to aid agricultural businesses

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As farmers continue to navigate uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, some needing financial assistance may get relief from the CARES Act.

The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27 and will provide $2.2 trillion in emergency relief to stimulate the U.S. economy.

Approximately $49 billion of the total spending will directly aid agriculture and domestic food programs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is causing serious damage to businesses across our country, including farms, agribusinesses and the rural economy in general,” said Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “The CARES Act will provide aid for those businesses, individuals and local governments. Many rural businesses are small, and the bill will try to address their needs through programs for companies with 500 or fewer employees.”

The CARES Act provides $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 for businesses to cover immediate operating costs.

The bill also includes $350 billion for the Small Business Administration to provide small business loans of up to $10 million. Loans used to maintain payroll, retain workers or pay a mortgage or rental fees will be forgiven under the CARES Act.

The bulk of direct aid for agricultural businesses will come from funds allocated to the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Under the CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was allotted $9.5 billion to provide relief to farmers whose businesses have been affected by the coronavirus. The funds will be distributed to specialty crop farmers; producers who supply local food systems and farmers markets, restaurants and schools; livestock producers; and dairy farmers.

The CCC, which funds agricultural programs such as Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage, conservation programs and disaster assistance programs, was replenished with $14 billion. With the added funds, the USDA will be able to develop additional programs to support producers and agribusinesses.

The remaining $25.5 billion will support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, child nutrition programs and enhanced staffing for key mission areas. A full breakdown of agriculture-related provisions of the CARES Act can be found on the American Farm Bureau Federation website.

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