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Resources to help consumers, food producers in COVID-19 struggle

Resources to help consumers, food producers in COVID-19 struggle
Photo by Adam Niescioruk on Unsplash

Yesterday, the Senate passed by unanimous consent H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The House is scheduled to vote Thursday, April 23 and President Trump announced he would sign the bill into law. 

The American Farm Bureau, along with the Montana Farm Bureau, supports passage of H.R. 266 and has sent a letter to the House. This bill expands farmer and rancher eligibility for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provides additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and includes necessary funding for hospitals and rural health clinics. 

Since the Coronavirus was detected in the United States and Montana, information has been rampant as agriculture, small business, restaurants, entertainment venues, schools and many more try to find ways to stay solvent in this disruptive time. 

For farmers and ranchers, trying to determine where to go for what help and information on COVID-19 as it affects the productivity and finances on your farm or ranch can be daunting. Following are links to help navigate these difficult times, keeping in mind that programs and the available government relief funds available are every-changing. 

National Assistance

U.S. Department of Agriculture

The USDA has a dedicated COVID-19 link on its website the provides updated information on all USDA programs. For complete information visit: usda.gov/coronavirus. 

Funding Resource Matrix organizes funding opportunities identified in the CARES Act and other federal resources that can help support rural America. Opportunities are categorized by customer and assistance type. Look for the Agricultural Producers and Ranchers category. This matrix provides links to each of the programs available.  Click here to view the Funding Resource Matrix.  

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), was announced on April 17, is a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $16 billion program for direct payments and $3 billion for product purchase to be given to food banks. This immediate relief program will provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.  Click here for more information. 

Immigration: Regulations surrounding immigration continue to evolve as President Trump orders a temporary suspension of all immigration; agriculture is working hard for an exemption due to the necessity of immigrant labor.  Read more.

U.S. Treasury and Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Treasury and SBA are administering government programs designed to assist American workers and small businesses, including agriculture producers.  These include the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL) as expanded by Congress under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. EIDL was formerly not available to farmers and ranchers but the Senate-passed version of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act expands coverage to agriculture.

Click here for an overview of the PPP, including loan eligibility, application information and deadlines. Interested producers should consult their bankers/ag lenders now to start the application process. Although the program is open until June 30, 2020, the Administration encourages persons to apply quickly because there is a funding cap, and lenders need time to process loans.  

MONTANA

Although the number of COVID-19 cases are low in Montana, it’s important to know the rules and recommendations to prevent the spread of the disease. On April 22, Governor Bullock announced a phased approach to opening Montana. General information on the Coronavirus in Montana can continue to be found via this link. 

The Montana Department of Livestock has addressed the COVID-19 concerns by adding information that ranchers, livestock markets and horse owners can follow.

The Montana Food Bank Network distributes food directly to food banks and food pantries across the state. It is committed to ensuring everyone in Montana, no matter what community they live in, has access to the food they need to thrive.  Their outreach during COVID-19 includes an extensive list of food banks and pantries with an explanation of how those entities are distributing food.  Find out more at www.mfbn.org

For additional information on COVID-19, visit the Montana Farm Bureau COVID-19 Page.



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