Leahy, Sanders, and other Senators decry USDA decision to exclude breeding animals from Coronavirus relief

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The USDA has decided to exclude breeding animals when determining the amount of financial assistance to be provided to farmers under the second Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2), drawing strong criticism from 15 senators, including Vermont’s Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders.

The senators claim that, by excluding breeding animals, dairy farmers will be financially harmed due to the fact that they often sell cows that are no longer being milked for slaughter. Other farmers specializing in breeding animals for sale to other farmers will also be impacted.

Leahy and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) prepare a letter signed by all 15 senators to urge the USDA to reconsider its decision.

As noted by the Senators advocating for dairy farmers, the first CFAP program included breeding animals when determining how much compensation to provide to the farmers. Some critics, however, have pointed out that many of these farmers are already receiving significant subsidies from public tax dollars. However, the case is being made that those in the dairy industry are already suffering due to historically low profits.

In the Senators letter, it was noted “This change will affect the livestock industry and will be particularly harmful to dairy farmers who often operate at extremely tight margins.” They went on to say, “The decision is even more troubling considering that USDA clearly has sufficient resources to cover these losses. Additionally, it is less complicated for both USDA and farmers to cover all livestock and avoid confusion about what animals are covered or excluded.”

USDA’s decision to exclude breeding animals also complicates the process of signing up for assistance, the Senators pointed out.

“Considering the dairy industry’s traditionally tight margins, USDA’s decision to shift course and arbitrarily exclude dairy farm losses related to meat production is a significant blow,” wrote the senators. “We urge USDA to reverse this arbitrary decision and make breeding animals eligible for CFAP 2 like they were under the original relief program.”

In rebuttal to the question of why breeding animals are not included, the USDA posted a statement saying: “The payments to livestock are focused on market inventory because there are limited funds available for CFAP 2 and the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) authority that fully funds the program is meant to assist with costs associated with market disruptions.”