The recently $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package for this fiscal year for government programs approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump continues to fund programs to battle citrus disease.

Funding again was provided to help fight the Huanglongbing, known as HLB — which has the potential to destroy citrus crops — and the Asian Citrus Psyllid which spreads the disease.

This year's package again provides $69.5 million to the Citrus Health Response Program. Citrus grower organizations from California, Texas and Florida aalso contribute to the program to offset the cost to growerswhen it comes to the Citrus Pest and Disease Program.

California Citrus Mutual issued the following statement in response to the funding: “CCM appreciates the strong partnership with Texas and Florida Citrus Mutual as well as our Congressional representatives from citrus districts for maintaining this important funding for citrus growers.”

While HLB has been kept out of commercial groves in California so far, there's always concern as this past fall the Asian Citrus Psyllid was found in numerous counties, including Tulare. The Asian Citrus Psyllid was also found in Kern, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara and Contra Costa Counties this past fall.

As part of the total omnibus spending package approved last month, there was also the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. That package also provided a second round of funding for agriculture, follwing up on funding that was provided in the CARES Act last spring.

The $900 billion bill includes a total of $26 billion — $13 billion for the ag industry and $13 billion for the nutrition assistance with the bulk going to the SNAP program, also known as the Food Stamp program.

The $26 billion is a follow-up to the $49 billion that was provided for food and agriculture in the CARES Act.

As a result of the $900 billion package, SNAP benefits will increase by 15 percent for all those in the program, including those who already receive the maximum amount. Many SNAP users were left out of previous aid packages. SNAP users will receive about $25 extra per person per month.

Senior food programs, tribal nutrition programs and college students also receive help in the latest stimulus package. Nutrition benefits for needy students is expanded.

Many SNAP users also depend on farmers markets and there's $5 million to help with such measures as processing purchases at farmers markets. There's $400 million in the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which supplies food banks.

Much like what happened with the business sector there were complaints previous bailouts, including from the CARES Act, went to larger ag corporations with less of a need instead of smaller farms who truly needed the assistance. The most recent package is designed to address that issue.

Commodity crop farmers will receive payments of $20 per acre, totaling about $5 billion of the agriculture industry’s $13 billion allocation. Specialty crop farmers which basically grow the crops for most foods that are eaten are allocated $225 million for lost crops, also at $20 per acre.

Payments will also go to those in the cattle and poultry industry who have been affected by the shutdowns of food processing plants at basically 80 percent of the value lost. For some reason, poultry farmers have been left out of these kinds of payments in the past, but the need was finally recognized they should be included this time. Also, $60 million has been allocated to small processors.

The program in which the USDA will buy dairy products to donate to food banks will continue as $400 million will be provided to the dairy industry for that program. Another $470 million will expand the Dairy Margin Coverage subsidy program, which is part of the $1.5 billion allocated to purchase and donate agricultural products.

Another $20 million has been provided for the prevention of animal disease. And $200 million has been provided for the timber industry.

The package also establishes a federal livestock dealer to ensure ranchers are paid for their animals. There's also $28 million in block grants for state agricultural departments to support farmers in need.

Dairy production gets big purchases as well, with the USDA to buy $400 million worth of dairy, to be donated to food banks, according to the American Farm Bureau. A further $470 million will expand the Dairy Margin Coverage program, a sort of subsidy. That’s part of $1.5 billion allocated to the USDA to purchase and donate American agricultural products; in addition to dairy, it will include seafood, fruits, vegetables, and meat.

A summary of the package's spending on ag and food programs can be found here: https://agriculture.house.gov/uploadedfiles/overview_of_agriculture_and_nutrition_provisions_covid_package_december_2020.pdf?

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