USDA to provide COVID-19 relief to biofuel producers

By Erin Voegele | March 24, 2021

The USDA on March 24 announced its intent to provide COVID-19 relief to biofuel producers as part of its USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, which aims to distribute relief resources more equitably.

The USDA said it is establishing new programs and efforts to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions. The new initiative aims to reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs.

The agency said it will dedicate at least $6 billion towards the new programs. It will also develop rules for new programs that will put a greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesters, as well as provide support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuel, among others. Rulemaking, where required, will commence this spring, according to the USDA.

“The pandemic affected all of agriculture, but many farmers did not benefit from previous rounds of pandemic-related assistance. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to helping as many producers as possible, as equitably as possible,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Our new USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative will help get financial assistance to a broader set of producers, including to socially disadvantaged communities, small and medium sized producers, and farmers and producers of less traditional crops.”

Growth Energy called the USDA’s plan to provide COVID assistance to biofuels producers a welcome relief. “We are pleased that USDA plans to provide long-awaited assistance to biofuel producers, who were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “At its lowest, over half of the industry was offline.

“Secretary Vilsack’s announcement that aid is on the way is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Skor continued. “We look forward to working with USDA as they iron out the full details of this program for biofuel producers and revitalize the rural economy.” 

The American Coalition for Ethanol has spoken out to thank the USDA for the planned assistance. “ACE members are enormously grateful Secretary Vilsack is ensuring a portion of the unspent funding USDA received from previous stimulus bills and the CCC will go to biofuel producers who have been fighting to survive since the pandemic became widespread in the U.S.,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE.

“We understand no one will be made whole for the historic losses they experienced due to the coronavirus pandemic, but something is better than nothing and we now know biofuel producers will not be left behind,” he continued. “We commit to working to support USDA’s Farm Service Agency as they develop a program to ensure biofuel producers finally get some much-needed help.”