USDA Announces Pandemic Aid for Biofuels Producers

Cindy Zimmerman

Pandemic aid for biofuels producers may soon be on its way.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced implementation of additional aid to agricultural producers and businesses as part of the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, including $700 million for biofuels producers adversely impacted by travel restrictions last year.

“USDA is honoring its commitment to get financial assistance to producers and critical agricultural businesses, especially those left out or underserved by previous COVID aid,” said Secretary Vilsack. “These investments through USDA Pandemic Assistance will help our food, agriculture and forestry sectors get back on track and plan for the future. Since January, USDA has provided more than $11 billion of assistance directly to producers and food and agriculture business.”

In March, USDA announced $6 billion to support a number of new programs or to modify existing efforts. The programs announced today are planned for implementation within 60 days to provide support to timber harvesters, biofuels, dairy farmers and processors, livestock farmers and contract growers of poultry, assistance for organic cost share, and grants for PPE.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Geoff Cooper says they are pleased that USDA intends to administer the aid in the next 60 days. “This assistance comes at a critical time, as ethanol producers are still struggling to recover from COVID-related market losses and are now facing historically high feedstock costs. Many plants remain offline or are operating at reduced output rates. We look forward to receiving additional details on the program from USDA and we are eager to work with the department to ensure smooth and successful implementation.”

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings noted that while the industry sought a higher level of funding to offset the damage done to ethanol producers from the unprecedented global pandemic, we appreciate that USDA is going to make some funds available yet this summer. “The fact that the aid won’t address the full impacts and need reinforces our belief that USDA should not allow a disproportionate amount of funds to go to large conglomerates at the expense of farmer-owned and smaller ethanol producers. We have engaged USDA on ways to ensure equitable treatment for farmer-owned and small ethanol producers and look forward to the specifics on how USDA intends to distribute funds.”

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