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USDA Set to Unveil $15 Billion COVID Farm Aid Package
USAgNet - 04/15/2020

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will spend up to $15.5 billion in the initial phase of its plan to bolster the nation's food supply chain against the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The plan, which could be announced this week, marks the Trump administration's first big push to ensure the pandemic doesn't trigger consumer food shortages as meat packers shutter, dairy producers dump milk, and farmers struggle to find workers to harvest, plant and deliver crops, reports Reuters.

The initial plan will include direct payments to farmers and ranchers, along with other support measures, using a portion of the $23.5 billion approved by Congress to support agriculture in a coronavirus stimulus bill last month, along with some existing USDA funds, according to the sources.

The USDA will announce the initial plan as early as this week, and is expected to detail later phases of the support program once more money from the stimulus bill becomes available, potentially in July, they said.

The USDA declined to comment on the initial phase.

In the United States, several beef and pork packing plants have shut down as workers fall ill or die from the virus. Smithfield Foods, for example, the world's biggest pork processor, said on Sunday it will shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees and warned the country was moving "perilously close to the edge" in supplies for grocers.

The CARES Act also added another $14 billion to the CCC, but those funds won't be available until after June 30, a USDA spokesperson said.

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