Congress has now approved H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and the American Soybean Association (ASA) is very pleased. The long-anticipated coronavirus relief bill, which passed both chambers with large majorities late Monday evening, will bring needed aid to members of the agriculture community and other Americans.
ASA President and South Dakota farmer Kevin Scott said, “We are very thankful that so many measures in this relief package and the attached omnibus are priorities for which soy growers have diligently pushed: enhanced assistance under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and other direct aid to producers—including a shot in the arm for PPP and per-acre payments for eligible row crop producers—broadband funding, WRDA reauthorization and more.”
Importantly, the legislation provides $13 billion to address COVID-related impacts on agriculture and $7 billion for broadband funding — including $300 million for a much-needed rural broadband build-out — along with an additional $13 billion to support nutrition programs. The legislation also includes a reauthorization of the 2020 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), with an adjusted cost-share ratio for Inland Waterway Trust Fund projects from 50% IWTF/50% General Revenues to 35% IWTF/65% General Revenues through FY2031, a major priority for U.S. soy growers.
“The bill also provides block grant funding for state departments of agriculture to support farm stress programs. Back in April, shortly after all this really escalated, the ASA COVID Task Force highlighted the need for stress relief across our ag communities — and ASA worked in conjunction with our state soy affiliates, the United Soybean Board, and even several interested state departments of agriculture and universities — on the #SoyHelp program to provide tools and resources to those in need. So, this is just one more component included in this legislative package that is keenly important for our ag communities,” said Scott, who led the task force for months.
In addition to provisions specific to agriculture, the 5,593-page bill includes many other important measures; notably, funding for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, another much-needed step for which ASA has advocated. And, the $900 billion stimulus package includes $1.4 trillion to fund the government through September, more welcome news.