On Tuesday United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made announcements on two topics which have been closely watched: The Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
With the government under a partial shutdown, there has been much concern over the future of MFP. This program was designed to help farmers with losses from the trade disputes which occurred during 2018. The program offered two payments based on the total amounts of grains harvested. All commodity producers received payments based on half the total amount bushels produced. Farmers have to certify those results with their FSA offices, which are currently closed. The deadline to sign up for the program was January 15th. Producers who had yet to certify their acres were becoming concerned. Secretary Perdue and the USDA heard this concern and released the following statement:
“President Trump instructed me, as Secretary of Agriculture, to craft a program that would protect farmers from unjustified retaliatory tariffs from foreign nations. As part of that package, the Market Facilitation Program has been making payments directly to farmers who have suffered trade damage. Using existing funds, we were able to keep FSA offices open as long as possible but unfortunately had to close them when funding ran out. We will, therefore, extend the application deadline for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices were closed, once the government shutdown ends. Farmers who have already applied for the program and certified their 2018 production have continued to receive payments. Meanwhile, I continue to urge members of Congress to redouble their efforts to pass an appropriations bill that President Trump will sign and end the lapse in funding so that we may again provide full services to our farmers and ranchers.”
Audio: Agribusiness Matters
As far as SNAP was concerned, rumors were the government was running dangerously close to exhausting the funds necessary to keep the program operating. The government has never let the program’s payments lapse for the estimated 39 million recipients of the nearly four billion dollars spent each month on nutrition assistance. President Trump authorized funding for February’s payments, giving recipients peace of mind during this shutdown. Secretary Perdue had this to say:
“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working with the Administration on this solution. It works and is legally sound. And we want to assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided,” Perdue said. “Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled. And I believe that the plan we’ve constructed takes care of the ‘Do Right’ part as well.”
USDA will be working with individual states to issue the payments earlier than usual. USDA has also ensured the other major nutrition assistance programs have sufficient funding to continue operations into February. The child nutrition programs, including school meals and after-school programs have funding available to continue operations through March. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has prior year funding which USDA will begin to provide states this week to facilitate February benefits. Other FNS programs, which provide critical assistance to our nation’s food banks, the elderly, and Tribal nations, may continue to utilize grant funding provided prior to the lapse in appropriations. Commodity deliveries to those programs will continue.