President Donald Trump on Friday announced a $19 billion relief program to help US farmers cope with the impact of the coronavirus, including $16billion in direct payments to producers and mass purchases ofmeat, dairy, vegetables and other products.
The US Agriculture Department is partnering with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in such farm goods to be distributed to food banks, churches and aid groups as millions of Americans face unemployment with much of the economy shut down.
“American agriculture has been hard-hit, like most of America, with the coronavirus, and President Trump is standing with our farmers and all Americans to make sure that we all get through this national emergency,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said at a White House news conference.
“Having to dump milk or plow under vegetables ready to market is not only financially distressing but it's heartbreaking as well for those that produce them,” Perdue said.
Direct payments will be sent “as quickly as possible” as farm commodity producers have experienced “unprecedented losses,” Perdue said, who hoped checks could be sent by the end of May.
The $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers will include $9.6 billion for the livestock industry - with $5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy and $1.6 billion for hogs, according to a statement released late Friday by US Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee.