Washington: US President Donald Trump has announced a $19 billion relief program to help farmers and ranchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The so-called coronavirus food assistance program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted by the pandemic, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA will also partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat, reports Xinhua news agency.
"This will help our farmers and our ranchers, and it is money well deserved," Trump said on Friday at a White House press briefing, adding the USDA will receive another $14 billion in July for further assistance.
"We look forward to additional details about how the aid will be distributed," American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall said on Friday in a statement.
"The coronavirus pandemic forced the closing of restaurants, schools and college cafeterias, causing commodity prices to fall off a cliff and serious disruptions to food supply chains," Duvall noted, adding the relief program will provide a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather.
Last month, 48 agriculture groups, including the AFBF, called on the Congress to expand the USDA's borrowing authority to assist farmers and ranchers facing serious cash flow challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Millions of producers will need help with cash flow given the rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closures of ethanol processing plants, the effective elimination of direct-to-consumer sales and decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand," the groups wrote in a letter to Congressional leaders.