Virus Relief Package

By former USDA Secretary John R. Block.

We have 2 parties – Republicans and Democrats in our Congress.  And then we have President Trump.  They all want to pass a new relief package to help us through our coronavirus recession.  Democrats want to spend $3 trillion while Republicans are talking about $1 trillion.  That is a big difference and they have serious differences on who gets the money. 

The Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. John Hoeven, wants more than $14 billion to assist farmers.  Priority will be the livestock sector.  (The National Pork Producers Council claims they will lose too many pork farms if they do not get more relief.)  The supply chain has suffered more disruptions than anyone ever imagined.  Food for people is another priority.

Our Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamp program) has seen a surge in new customers, 6 million, since the virus hit.  Democrats are pushing for an increase in benefits and more money to help our food banks.  In the end I think both parties will make more food available for the needy.  Also, USDA wants more money for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.  Democrats support the $600 per week payment to unemployed workers.  That was passed in March and ends this month.  They want it extended to the end of the year.  The consequence of that extra money has not been all good.  Workers receiving unemployment checks plus $600 have no incentive to go back to work.  The $600 will be extended.  Perhaps something less.

Democrats want more federal aid to states and cities.  They will get some, but not close to what they want.  A very high priority for Republicans is to expand liability protection for businesses, schools, and non-profit organizations.  If we do not do that, every virus infected person could sue the company.  We have too many lawsuits now.  Finally, President Trump and some members of Congress want a payroll tax cut.  Not likely.  Look at all the different priorities and options with very little time to negotiate a compromise.  It will not be easy, but I think they will get it done.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill. If you would like to review his radio shows going back more than 20 years, just go online to

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