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Trump announces $19B program to help agriculture sector

The Hill logo The Hill 4/18/2020 Sylvan Lane

President Trump on Friday announced a $19 billion program to help the struggling agriculture sector and distribute food to families in need amid the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will purchase crops and livestock from farmers and ranchers facing a steep decline in orders and massive supply chain disruption. Funding will come from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief bill and separate USDA funds to support commodity prices.

USDA will offer $16 billion in direct grants to farmers and ranchers to compensate for short-term drops in demand and oversupply driven by the coronavirus pandemic. The department will also purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat to distribute to food banks, community organizations and charities. 

"These are great people, great Americans," Trump said after announcing the program during a Friday briefing at the White House. "Never complain - they just do what they have to do."

The coronavirus food aid programs comes as the economic collapse and social upheaval driven by the pandemic snarl grocery supply lines and create drastic imbalances across the food industry.

As restaurants and schools across the U.S. shutter and millions of Americans are forced to cook a greater portion of meals themselves, farmers are struggling to sell certain products and distributors are scrambling to redirect food quickly.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Trump announces $19B program to help agriculture sector © The White House Trump announces $19B program to help agriculture sector

Some farmers have been forced to let produce rot in the field or dump oversupplies of milk, while COVID-19 breakouts in meat processing plants have raised concerns about meeting the growing demand for store-ready beef, pork and chicken.

"The wholesome food that our families depend upon and starts with America's farmers and ranchers," Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said during the White House briefing.

"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 we all get through this national emergency."

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