Farmers Union Minute

Read the latest from North Dakota Farmers Union!

Nov. 21, 2020

NDFU Supports Heitkamp Nomination
Earlier this week, NDFU endorsed former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to be the next secretary of agriculture. According to NDFU President Mark Watne, Heitkamp would bring a “well-balanced approach to the position.” Throughout her career, Heitkamp has been a staunch advocate for family farmers and ranchers, including efforts to strengthen the farm safety net, promote biofuels production and protect mandatory country-of-origin labeling.

Heitkamp is the odds-on favorite for the nomination but is facing a surprisingly public challenge from Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). Outgoing House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), and Pennsylvania Agriculture Commissioner Russell Redding are also rumored to be on the list of potential candidates.

Governor Issues Mask Mandate
Last Friday, Gov. Doug Burgum announced a statewide mask mandate after six weeks of sharply rising COVID cases and a mounting death toll. The decision followed the release of a North Dakota United survey in which 80% of teachers said masks should be mandated in their communities. Burgum was also recently chided by White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx for the state’s poor adherence to public health guidelines.

In addition to the mask mandate, Burgum signed an executive order limiting capacity at bars, restaurants and event venues, and requiring food service establishments to close at 10 p.m. He also suspended school sports and activities until Dec. 14, but later modified that provision to allow practices beginning Nov. 30.

CFAP2 Hits $10 Billion
USDA has distributed more than $10 billion in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) payments to farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. So far, nearly half of all payments have gone to offset corn and cattle losses. North Dakota producers have received over $370 million.

CFAP 2 is a separate program from the original CFAP and requires a separate application. Producers of any agricultural commodity are eligible for the program. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 11. An NDSU webinar providing more information can be found here. 

Pandemic Relief Standoff Continues
The number of days on the congressional calendar is shrinking, but Congress appears no closer to a deal on additional coronavirus relief. President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and presumed President-elect Joe Biden all agree on the need to pass a new package. However, that’s where the agreement ends, as the House and Senate remain $1.5 trillion apart on total funding.

Congress does seem to be making progress on a final appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2021. The Senate released its funding bills, including for agriculture, on Nov. 10. Sen. John Hoeven, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, outlined the bill in a press release. Both the House and Senate bills include several key NDFU priorities.

USDA Announces ECO Coverage
USDA’s Risk Management Agency recently announced the availability of a new Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO) for the 2021 crop year. ECO is similar to the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), but it covers losses of 86% to 90% or 95% of expected crop value. SCO covers losses of 75-86%. Like SCO, an ECO loss is triggered when there is an area-level or county-level loss.

ECO will be available for 31 crops, including several commonly grown in North Dakota.  The policy must be purchased as an endorsement to Yield Protection or Revenue Protection policies. Because ECO and SCO cover different levels of loss, producers can purchase both options on the same unit.


Ask NDFU

Have a question, comment, or concern? Focused on a policy issue we didn’t discuss here? Send Matt Perdue an email at mperdue@ndfu.org, and we will try to include it in the next edition.