Senators want USDA to provide relief funding for farmers; others say to wait

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As many farmers feel the blow from the COVID-19 outbreak, some senators worry if they will stay afloat.

“They depend on being able to harvest their crops and take them to the markets, and there’s no market to go to now,” West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said.

As demand from restaurants and school cafeterias has dropped, Manchin wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide direct relief funding to farmers.

“We want to either cap it at 100,000 per producer or 50% of the total lost revenue,” Manchin said.

He says many farmers can’t rely on their banks because some are not taking part in the new coronavirus relief law.

“Only a third are participating. And the rest of them are concerned because they don’t want to be held liable if the loans defaulted. And these are people they might not know and they don’t know how to handle that,” Manchin said.

Manchin’s office says these disruptions could lead to more than $1 billion in losses through the end of 2020.

But West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito says it’s too early to say if farmers need more relief.

“We did include farmers in those packages intentionally to try to help them to be able to sustain themselves a little better during the economic downturn,” Capito said.

Capito says the existing coronavirus relief law should finance farmers’ immediate necessities and needs time to work.

“Payroll, rent, mortgage and utilities are part of that eight weeks there in a forgivable loan,” Capito said.

However, Manchin says farmers need more and wants the USDA to take quick action to protect those feeding the country.

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