USDA targets more farmers with new $12 billion COVID aid round

  • In this photo taken March 20, 2020, cattle rancher Joe Whitesell rides his horse in a field near Dufur, Oregon, as he helps a friend herd cattle. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

  • Cows stand in a pen at the Vaughn Farms cattle operation March 2 near Maxwell, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The Biden administration announced $12 billion in new farm aid, and said it will seek to expand COVID assistance to producers that weren’t covered under the Trump administration’s pandemic relief programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday it would devote $6 billion to expand COVID support to additional recipients, including biofuels, dairy farmers who donated milk and livestock and poultry producers who euthanized animals when meatpacking plants slowed down.

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The department will also reopen applications for the last round of COVID farm assistance and spend $2.5 million on more outreach to minority communities.

The new round of relief “will help get financial assistance to a broader set of producers, including to socially disadvantaged communities, small and medium sized producers, and farmers and producers of less traditional crops,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The new round also includes $1.1 billion in aid for cattle producers and an additional $4.5 billion for new $20-an-acre payments to producers of major crops such as corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton.

Democrats and advocates for smaller producers have criticized the Trump trade and COVID farm bailouts for concentrating benefits on the nation’s largest producers. Just 1% of farm aid recipients collected nearly a quarter of bailout payments, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group.

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Less than 1% of payments made in the first two rounds of COVID farm aid went to producers who identified themselves as Black, Asian and Native American, according to USDA spokesman Matt Herrick.

The funding was provided by Congress in a COVID relief measure passed last year. The current administration paused payments to review the programs when Biden took office.