The $1.9 trillion relief plan moving through the House of Representatives has roughly $16.1 billion in specific provisions for USDA — mainly for nutrition programs — but boosts in agricultural aid steered toward buying commodities or supporting minority or socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
A key part of the bill would boost food-aid benefits, which take up roughly $12 billion in the projected costs of the agricultural provisions. That includes a 15% boost in weekly benefits under USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for lower-income people and those out of work. The higher benefits would run at least through the end of September.
The aid package is moving through Congress under a budget reconciliation process that would allow the Senate to pass the bill without going through its typical 60-vote procedural approval. Both the House and Senate will pass their own versions of the aid package. On Tuesday, the language in the Agriculture and Nutrition title of the FY2021 Budget Reconciliation Act was released.
It’s unclear exactly when the House will bring the reconciliation package to a full floor vote. A big chunk of the aid will be stimulus payments of $1,400 per individual earning up to $75,000 per year, or $150,000 for couples. The bill also could phase in a higher minimum wage as well that could climb to $15 an hour.
Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said he is proud of the work that went into the bill, which will provide assistance for farmers, rural communities and “the most vulnerable among us,” Scott said.
“This bill is a stepping stone to the vision President Biden has set forth to get our country back on track. Each dollar included in this legislation plays an invaluable role in doing just that,” Scott said. “I am pleased to be a part of this effort to put our Black farmers in a better position after suffering the impacts of this pandemic and the inability to receive equal access to USDA programs over decades.”
Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, criticized the agricultural portions of the reconciliation bill because of the lack of Republican input.
“Democrats unveiled their $16 billion, which was drafted behind closed doors, placing secrecy over solutions,” Thompson said. “The package is neither timely, nor targeted, and will fall devastatingly short of delivering direct relief for the agriculture industry and farm families. I implore my colleagues across the aisle to work with us to more thoroughly review resources and need to better provide support.”