(The Center Square) – Gov. Kim Reynolds allocated about $100 million in federal CARES Act funding for Iowa agricultural programs designed to offset the impact of COVID-19 on farmers.
“Iowa is at the foundation of our global food supply chain and the epicenter of the renewable fuels industry,” Reynolds said in a statement. “COVID-19 and a devastating derecho dealt a major blow to everything from the demand for ethanol to the supply of meat on grocery store shelves.”
IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Debi Durham said the assistance was needed.
"Iowa exported more than $16 billion in manufactured goods and agricultural products to 199 countries last year alone," she said. "The critical assistance Gov. Reynolds announced today will support the continuation of Iowa's long-standing legacy of agricultural excellence in our communities and throughout the world."
Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill praised the decision.
“The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation applauds Gov. Kim Reynolds’ assistance and focus on agriculture with the CARES Act funding,” he said in a statement. “This has been a very difficult year in Iowa agriculture. Farmers are battling low prices and negative margins, the effects of the pandemic and the August 10 derecho, which devastated crops and battered farms across a wide swath of Iowa. We are especially pleased that Gov. Reynolds included $60 million for the Iowa Livestock Producer Relief Fund as well as assistance for beginning farmers and the state’s biofuel industry.”
The money will go to seven programs, according to the governor's office.
- $60 million for the Iowa Livestock Producer Relief Fund: Using the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s (IEDA) existing small business relief program infrastructure, this program will provide grants of up to $10,000 to eligible producers of pork, beef, chicken, turkeys, dairy, fish or sheep to serve as working capital to stabilize livestock producers.
- $15.5 million for the State Biofuel Grant Program: Biofuels producers were excluded from receiving aid under other parts of the CARES Act; this program will provide relief to those Iowa ethanol and biodiesel producers based on gallons produced. Grants will also be awarded through IEDA’s existing small business relief program and are capped at a maximum grant of $750,000 per producer.
- $7 million for the Renewable Fuel Retail Recovery Program: Announced previously, this funding supports a program that helps expand retail fueling infrastructure for higher blend renewable fuels, including E15 or higher & B11 or higher.
- $6 million for the Iowa Beginning Farmer Debt Relief Fund: COVID-19 has negatively and disproportionately impacted a large number of beginning farmers in Iowa, creating the potential for longer-term generational damage to Iowa agriculture. This program will provide eligible beginning farmers with a long-term debt service payment of up to $10,000, to be paid directly to their lender.
- $2 million for the Meat Processing Development and Expansion Program: Designed to aid small meat processors, this program is focused on expanding processing capacity across the state to meet protein demand.
- $500,000 for the Farm Produce and Protein Program: This innovative program is designed to help specialty ag producers in Iowa as well as the schools that purchase them. In addition to supporting local growers of fruits and vegetables to expand their capacity, it provides grants to schools that buy produce and other local crops and protein sources.
- Up to $9 million for the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program: The disruption to the meat supply chain due to COVID-19 forced producers to euthanize and dispose of livestock due to lack of market access. This program, announced initially in May, provided direct payments to producers to recoup those expenses.