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US Stimulus Bill would address most urgent concerns for family farmers and rural hospitals impacted by COVID-19

To alleviate the current and potential economic fallout from the global COVID-19 pandemic, US lawmakers are poised to pass a response, relief, and stimulus package with a nearly $2 trillion price tag.

26 March 2020, at 10:37am

The bill, which is the most expensive in the country’s history, includes direct payments to individuals, $130 billion for hospitals, $14 billion to support family farmers and ranchers through the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), $150 billion for local and state governments, and $300 billion in financial aid for small businesses. Additionally, it allocates funding for nutrition assistance programmes, rural broadband, and rural health resources, as well as assistance for speciality crop growers, local food producers, and livestock and dairy farmers.

National Farmers Union (NFU) is extremely concerned about the public health and financial implications of this pandemic for rural and agricultural communities. On behalf of its nearly 200,000 family farmer and rancher members, the organisation has asked the administration to ensure that rural hospitals are adequately prepared for this crisis and that that our food system can continue to operate. In a statement, NFU President Rob Larew thanked Congress for heeding many of those requests and urged them to enact the legislation as soon as possible.

“The challenges our country is currently facing are unprecedented – and they call for unprecedented solutions.

“Top of mind for most rural Americans is the health and well-being of their families and neighbours. Rural hospitals have historically been overlooked and underfunded, leaving most without the equipment or personnel they need to handle an onslaught of critically ill patients. This is particularly concerning as rural citizens are, on average, older and more likely to have other health conditions, making them more vulnerable to the virus.

“Though public health is the most immediate and pressing matter, family farmers and ranchers are worried about their long-term financial stability as well. Many were already strained after a multi-year farm economy crisis and a global trade war. Now markets are evaporating as restaurants and schools shutter and exports stall. Farm labour is in short supply with borders closed and visa processing at a standstill. And falling commodity prices are quickly eroding farm income. If these disruptions continue, many operations won’t be able to last more than a few months.

“By providing much-needed support for rural health care and family farm agriculture, the stimulus bill would address many of our most urgent concerns. In the coming weeks, we will learn more about the additional needs of our rural health care system, farmers, and rural communities, and we urge Congress to be ready to address them."