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                                                                                                   April 3, 2020

Supplemental Appropriations for Agriculture and the Food and

Drug Administration Due to COVID-19


In March 2020, Congress passed and the President signed
three supplemental appropriations acts in response to the
COVID-19 pandemic (P.L. 116-123, P.L. 116-127, and P.L.
116-136; Table 1). This In Focus summarizes $36 billion of
appropriations and policy changes in the jurisdiction of the
Agriculture appropriations subcommittees.
These supplemental appropriations acts are referred to in
this In Focus by order of passage (i.e., first, second, and
third). For comparison, the regular annual Agriculture
appropriations are discussed in CRS Report R45974,
Agriculture and Related Agencies: FY2020 Appropriations.


For FDA to respond to the public health emergency of the
COVID-19 pandemic, the first and third supplemental
appropriations acts provide a total of $141 million. The
FDA role is development of medical countermeasures (e.g.,
drugs, vaccines), advanced manufacturing, and monitoring
of medical product supply chains. See CRS Report R46285,
Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental
Appropriations Act, 2020 (P.L. 116-123): First
Coronavirus Supplemental; and CRS Report R44576, The
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Budget: Fact Sheet.
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Access to food has been a concern, particularly in light of
school closures. Rising unemployment may also increase
participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance
Program (SNAP) and other food assistance programs.
The second and third supplemental appropriations acts
provide a total of $26 billion for nutrition assistance and
give the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certain
flexibilities to increase program access and accommodate
social distancing. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
estimates that SNAP policies in the second law will
increase mandatory spending by more than $21 billion over
FY2020-FY2021. See CRS Insight IN11250, USDA
Domestic Food Assistance Programs'Response to COVID-
19: P.L. 116-127, P.L. 116-136, and Related Efforts.


The third supplemental provides $9.5 billion for USDA to
support agricultural producers impacted by coronavirus,
including producers of specialty crops, producers that
supply local food systems, including farmers' markets,
restaurants, and schools, and livestock producers, including
dairy producers. This approach is similar to recent
emergency appropriations for wildfires and hurricanes in
which USDA was tasked to develop a payment program
from a general appropriation.


As of the date of this report, USDA has not announced how
it will distribute the $9.5 billion. It has yet to determine the
breadth of producers to be included, payment rates, and the
methods of support (payments or by purchasing
commodities). Several Members of Congress and relevant
industry groups have sent letters to USDA with requests for
how this money should be spent.
The third supplemental appropriation also replenishes up to
$14 billion of funding availability for the Commodity
Credit Corporation (CCC). CCC operates with a $30 billion
line of credit with the U.S. Treasury (see CRS Insight
IN10941, Commodity Credit Corporation: Q&A). The $14
billion would reimburse CCC for past spending. It is not
new spending and not part of the subtotal of the
appropriations act.
CCC uses its borrowing authority to finance authorized
farm bill programs and broadly support the U.S. agriculture
industry. The supplemental reimbursement could increase
opportunities for USDA to use its executive authority in
CCC to provide direct support payments, as it did with
trade aid payments in 2018 and 2019 (see CRS Report
R45865, Farm Policy: USDA's 2019 Trade Aid Package).
The third supplemental allows Marketing Assistance Loans
in FY2020 to be repaid over 12 months (rather than nine
months) to provide flexibility in responding to disruptions.


For producers, the majority of USDA's existing disaster
response programs cover natural disasters (physical and
production) and do not apply to economic or market losses.
The losses from the COVID-19 pandemic are economic and
do not trigger agricultural disaster assistance programs such
as emergency loans, despite the President's declaration of a
public health emergency under the Stafford Act (CRS
Insight IN 11251, The Stafford Act Emergency Declaration
for CO VID-19). However, USDA has announced some
flexibilities for farm loan and rural housing loan programs,
including payment deferrals and moratoriums on
foreclosures.
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The third supplemental appropriation provides $146 million
for USDA rural development programs, including $100
million for broadband grants, $25 million for rural
telemedicine and distance learning, and $20.5 million to
support rural business loans. See CRS In Focus IF11262,
The ReConnect Broadband Pilot Program.


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