Sixty percent of initial farm stimulus money still unused

    Aerial view of a combine harvesting soybeans
    An aerial view from a drone shows a combine being used to harvest the soybeans in a field at the Bardole & Son's Ltd farm on Oct. 14, 2019, in Rippey, Iowa. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

    As Congress debates more aid, farmers have only applied for 40% of the initial $16 billion in stimulus money the federal government offered in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Successful Farming reported.

    So far, $6.55 billion has been paid out since applications began in late May. That’s about 40% of the money available.

    Successful Farming couldn’t reach U.S. Department of Agriculture officials for comment. But economists Pat Westhoff of the University of Missouri and John Newton of the American Farm Bureau Federation said farmers may be reacting to the structure of the program.

    “Besides issues related to getting paperwork filed, it’s possible that some people are not eligible because of AGI (adjusted gross income) rules or are seeing their payments limited by other rules,” said Westhoff. “I do expect a lot of additional payments to be made in the weeks ahead. However, I’m no longer convinced the full $16 billion will be spent.”

    U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said no one complained about the application procedures during his 29 town hall meetings this month.

    Farmers and rural small business owners have raised concerns about access to the programs, however, including at a hearing in May of the Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship (RATE) subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Abby Finkenauer.

    USDA had feared the program would be overrun, so farmers were limited to payments of 80% of what they qualified for, with a promise they could get more later if funds were available. 

    Perry Beeman
    Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.