Costa Agriculture Framework Included in Heroes Act
(WASHINGTON) After releasing a framework to provide critical support to the nation’s agriculture industry, which has suffered significant losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-19) announced the following measures were included in the Heroes Act, the latest coronavirus legislation introduced by House Democrats.
"Providing assistance to our agriculture community – farmers, farmworkers and their partners – is essential to our national security,” said Costa. “These measures included in the Heroes Act go a long way to protecting our workers and keeping our food supply chains active, but it’s merely a starting point. I will continue to push for additional assistance to help farmers in this difficult time.”
Rep. Costa worked to build bipartisan support for his plan. He collaborated with California Representatives TJ Cox (CA-12), Josh Harder (CA-10), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), John Garamendi (CA-03), Mike Thompson (CA-05) and Salud Carbajal (CA-14) to ensure the diverse nature of the state's agriculture is well represented. The Framework was sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who supported the plan and included the following points in the Heroes Act:
Integrity of the Food Supply Chain
- Provides direct financial assistance to agricultural employers for the purpose of providing personal protective equipment, sick leave, family leave, and premium pay in line with support for other frontline workers included in our nation’s critical infrastructure, including $13 in premium pay above regular wages.
- Provides nearly $20 billion in funding for childcare services for essential workers, including food supply workers.
- Provides $25 million for CDC and OSHA worker safety guidance on farms and in food processing facilities.
- Provides California with $21.4 billion this year and nearly $26 billion in 2021 to maintain essential government services including plant protection, animal health, and other inspection services.
- Provides more than $9 billion to support health care in underserved and rural areas so workers and farmers have access to proper health care and testing resources.
- Provides legal status and authorizes employment to undocumented farm workers and other workers essential to our food supply chain who are at risk of deportation. Also provides protections for employers of these essential workers.
- Provides $100 million in funding to provide direct payments to specialty crop growers who have seen damages as a result of this pandemic.
Dairy, Livestock, and other Commodities
- Dairy producers will be able to benefit from $16.5 billion dollars in additional funding for direct payments to offset damages due to the pandemic.
- Provides the opportunity for dairy processors to apply for $500 million in recourse loans to ensure they have enough working capital to maintain operations.
- Provides $500 million to purchase surplus dairy products for donation to food banks so we prevent waste and provide for those in need.
- Prevents potential payment defaults from impacting livestock producers by creating a statutory dealer trust like outlined in Rep. Costa’s SALE Act (H.R. 6067).
- Increases benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 15% and eliminates work requirements for a period of 2 years, a win-win for farmers and those who are suffering through this unprecedented crisis. Also provides $10 billion to cover anticipated increases in participation in the program.
- Expands the Farm to Food Bank Program by $25 million to provide funding to agricultural producers to harvest, pack, and ship their products to food banks and other community partners, as outlined in Rep. Costa’s Farm to Foodbank Investment Act.
Paycheck Protection Program Amendments
- Amends the Paycheck Protection Program by extending eligibility to all nonprofits, including farm bureaus and labor unions and makes it more flexible for agricultural operations to serve a larger cross-section of the food supply chain.
- Provides approximately $5.5 billion in broadband projects nationwide. The need for broadband connectivity has never been clearer. We must make the investments in rural broadband infrastructure to bridge the urban-rural divide and emerge from this crisis more connected and ready for the next generation of agriculture innovation.
Costa also worked with the United Farm Workers and extensive industry leaders in dairy and specialty crops, along with small farmers, for input and support of this framework. The Heroes Act, the fifth coronavirus relief bill, is expected to go before the House of Representatives for a vote as early as Friday.