Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven, R-N.D., repeated Wednesday that he is open to increasing nutrition programs in the coronavirus aid package, but he doesn’t want the money to come out of the money set aside for aid to farmers and ranchers.
Asked about statements by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that she won’t support aid to farmers without an increase in federal nutrition benefits, Hoeven said in an email to The Hagstrom Report: “Under the HEALS Act proposal, we worked to provide USDA with $34 billion in funding for agriculture assistance – $20 billion in direct funding combined with the $14 billion replenishment of the CCC from the CARES Act. The language in the proposal ensures that USDA can assist farmers and ranchers, as well as processors which would enable assistance for ethanol. As negotiations continue on the next phase of COVID relief, we believe that ag assistance should be maintained, while also meeting the need for nutrition assistance. However, any increase in nutrition spending should not reduce assistance for our farmers and ranchers.”
Hoeven made the statement as congressional and White House leaders struggled to develop a broader coronavirus aid package.
The HEALS Act, developed by Senate Republicans, does not include any increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or other nutrition programs, while the HEROES Act, passed by the Democratic-controlled House, does contain nutrition provisions.
Stabenow first said at a news conference last week that the Republican proposal to aid farmers and ranchers was dead on arrival without nutrition provisions, and she repeated those statements to Politico this week.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said this week that the word “ethanol” should be added to the text of the bill to give Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue clear direction to aid ethanol plants.
In a floor speech today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, “Republicans proposed a tax break for three-martini lunches but no food assistance for hungry kids.”