Farmers react to coronavirus relief bill

— The Wisconsin Farmers Union is praising the coronavirus relief package but says the bill doesn’t address reliance on foreign exports.

The WFU specifically noted the $14 billion to reimburse the Commodity Credit Corporation and the $9.5 billion to support livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers and local food systems as provisions the group favors.

“Though public health is the most immediate concern in our rural communities, many family farmers are also worried about their long-term financial stability,” said WFU President Darin Von Ruden in a statement. “We’re grateful for the speed and seriousness taken by our legislators to secure this critical funding.”

Many farms and rural businesses have already been strained by a multi-year farm economy crisis and global trade war, said Von Ruden.

“Now markets are evaporating as restaurants and schools shutter and exports stall, farm labor is in short supply with borders closing, and falling commodity prices are decimating farm income,” he said. “Without this important support, many farms won’t be able to last the summer.”

However, WFU argues that the $2 trillion package doesn’t address issues in distribution channels, growing consolidation and a dependence on exports that “are making our food system less resilient in the face of a national emergency,” said Bobbi Watson, a WFU government relations associate.

“We want to make sure these funds are fairly distributed and find their way to the farmers who are legitimately losing income, not just large corporations,” said Wilson.

WFU is also calling for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate price fixing by meatpackers.

“Live cattle prices have been falling while in-store beef prices are climbing,” said Von Ruden. “This market manipulation cannot go unchecked.”

He said he hopes that the signed legislation places an emphasis on “providing fair and equitable relief” enough to keep producers afloat.

–By Stephanie Hoff