Member Alert: March 27, 2020
The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) continues to work with state and federal decision-makers on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We understand the magnitude of this situation for North Dakota cattle producers and the world and are committed to doing all we can to support our members during this incredible time.
Following are some short updates on various coronavirus-related topics:
Phase III coronavirus relief
Shortly after noon CT, the U.S. House passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill after more than three hours of floor debate. The bill provides direct payments of up to $1,200 for most individuals and $2,400 for most married couples filing jointly, with an extra $500 for each child. Other provisions of interest to livestock producers include the following:
Department of Agriculture
· The Office of the Secretary will receive $9.5 billion until expended to provide support for agricultural producers (e.g., producers of specialty crops, producers that supply local food systems and livestock producers) impacted by COVID-19. The NDSA has joined with other state cattlemen’s organizations in a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture urging the secretary’s special consideration of beef cattle producers – cow-calf producers, seedstock producers, stockers, backgrounders and feeders – as plans are developed for the distribution of these funds. The groups reminded the secretary that U.S. cattle production is the largest segment of the U.S. agriculture industry, accounting for $67 billion, or 18 percent, of the $371 billion in total cash receipts from agricultural commodities and has a presence in each of the 50 states on 729,000 operations that are the lifeblood of the nation’s rural economies. The NDSA appreciates the North Dakota Congressional delegation for signing onto a separate letter to the secretary calling for swift assistance for cattle producers through the resources provided through the CARES Act and the development of a program that delivers “targeted, temporary, equitable relief to cattle producers in a manner that limits market distortions and negative effects on price discovery.”
· The Commodity Credit Corporation will receive $14 billion as a reimbursement for net realized losses not previously reimbursed.
· The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will receive an additional $55 million to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus, including necessary expenses associated with the Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Program.
· The Agricultural Marketing Service will receive an additional $45 million for coronavirus efforts, including necessary expenses associated with commodity grading, inspection and audit activities.
· The Food Safety and Inspection Service will receive an additional $33 million for coronavirus-related activities. Specifically, the funds are earmarked to support temporary and intermittent workers and the relocation of inspectors.
· The Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program will receive $20.5 million through Sept. 30, 2021, to support loans to rural business owners.
· The Distance Learning, Telemedicine and Broadband Program will receive $25 million in additional funding to facilitate distance learning and telemedicine in rural areas.
Food and Drug Administration
· The Food and Drug Administration will receive an additional $80 million in funding to develop necessary medical countermeasures and vaccines, advance manufacturing for medical products and monitor medical product supply chains in response to COVID-19.
Taxes and Business
Business Tax Provisions
· Certain changes to the loss provisions made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) are suspended in an effort to allow companies to utilize greater losses, as well as to claim refunds for certain losses. Specifically, the CARES Act:
o Suspends the TCJA’s 80 percent of taxable income limit on net operating loss (NOL) carryovers for three years so that the limit would not apply to tax years beginning in 2018, 2019 and 2020;
o Allows NOLs arising in 2018, 2019 and 2020 to be carried back five years; and
o Suspends limitations on excess farm losses and on the use of pass-through business losses against non-business income for three years, so that the limits would not apply to tax years beginning in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
· The CARES Act temporarily increases the limitation on interest deductions imposed by the TCJA. It increases the 30 percent of adjusted taxable income (ATI) threshold to 50 percent of ATI for tax years beginning in 2019 and 2020. (Special tax year 2019 rules will apply to partnerships.) It will also allow a taxpayer to elect to use Tax Year 2019 ATI in lieu of Tax Year 2020 ATI for the purpose of calculating its Tax Year 2020 limitation.
· The CARES Act adopts a few TCJA technical corrections on a permanent basis related to qualified improvement property, effective dates of NOL provisions and technical corrections related to Section 461(1).
Small Business Administration
The Small Business Administration (SBA) will receive $562 million to cover the costs of and administrative expenses associated with the provision of Economic Injury Disaster Loans to businesses in need. Agricultural cooperatives and businesses that rely on agricultural production are eligible for SBA lending, but, historically, individual producers have not been eligible. That being said, the CARES Act provides delegated authority, allowing lenders to make determinations on borrower eligibility and credit-worthiness without going through all of SBA’s channels. It’s unclear how this will impact agriculture, if at all.
Federal Highway Administration
The bill includes language to clarify that states can issue special permits for overweight vehicles and loads to allow for the free flow of critical relief supplies during the current coronavirus epidemic for the duration of the fiscal year. There will still be a patchwork on weights, as different states have decided to permit different weights.
Earlier this week, the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) temporarily lifted the seasonal load restrictions on state highways. The change was made after an executive order by Gov. Doug Burgum. During this time, the NDDOT still has the authority to implement load and weight restrictions as deemed appropriate under current law if it is determined that removal of the restriction is negatively impacting the roadway or creating a safety risk. Statewide seasonal load restriction information is available by calling 511 or online at www.dot.nd/travel-info. Load restriction e-mail updates are also available athttp://www.dot.nd.gov/roadreport/loadlimit/loadlimitinfo.htm.
Department of Interior
· The Office of the Secretary will receive $158.4 million for equipment and supplies, cleaning, law enforcement and emergency personnel, increased telework capacity and other activities associated with the coronavirus outbreak. These funds will be split amongst the Interior bureaus.
- The Bureau of Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources account will receive $12.5 million to support remote access, teleworking, cleaning and disinfection of facilities. These funds will be used for medical services and equipment related to coronavirus prevention, preparation and response.
- The Bureau of Reclamation’s Policy and Administration account will receive $8.1 million to support remote access, teleworking and cleaning and disinfection of facilities. These funds will be used for medical services and equipment related to coronavirus prevention, preparation and response.
· Wildland Fires Management will receive an additional $7 million to cover the costs of personal protective equipment and baseline health testing for first responders.
· Capital Improvement and Maintenance will receive an additional $26.8 million for cleaning of the Forest Service’s administrative facilities and other facility needs related to the coronavirus outbreak.
· The National Forest System will receive $34 million for daily cleaning and disinfecting of recreation facilities, increased supply of personal protective equipment and baseline testing for first responders.
· Forest and Rangeland Research will receive $3 million to re-establish scientific experiments impacted by travel restrictions, such as the Forest Inventory and Analysis program.
Smithfield employee tests positive, production continues
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported yesterday that a Smithfield Foods employee in Sioux Falls, S.D.,
has tested positive for COVID-19. According to the report, the employee is being quarantined for 14 days with pay and will not be permitted to return to work without being cleared by their healthcare provider. All employees at the Sioux Falls plant have been notified, and the work area of the employee who tested positive was "thoroughly sanitized," along with all common areas. Smithfield President and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said the company would maintain normal operations during the pandemic.
The CDC says there is no evidence that COVID-19 is associated with food and “there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.”
Critical infrastructure verification and supporting documentation
Several members have asked questions about how to verify they are part of federally designated critical industry infrastructure, especially as they move cattle through areas with shelter-in-place orders. A sample memo and an affidavit form in which you can use in case you are stopped can be found here: http://www.ndstockmen.org/image/cache/Sample_Letter_Template.pdf
Yesterday, the Department of State and Department of Homeland Security announced a decision to authorize temporary waivers for in-person interviews for eligible H-2 visa applicants.
The announcement said: “In response to significant worldwide challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of State temporarily suspended routine visa services at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates as of March 20, 2020. As resources allow, embassies and consulates will continue to provide emergency and mission critical visa services. The H-2 program is essential to the economy and food security of the United States and is a national security priority. Therefore, we intend to continue processing H-2 cases as much as possible, as permitted by post resources and local government restrictions. Secretary Pompeo, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview. Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no apparent ineligibility or potential ineligibility. This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver. Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months, and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa. We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview. Consular resources and local government restrictions vary widely, and each consular section is continuously reviewing its capacity to adjudicate visa applications during this worldwide pandemic. We encourage applicants to consult with the relevant U.S. embassy or consulate in order to confirm the level of services currently offered. Our overseas missions will resume routine visa services as soon as possible, but are unable to provide a specific date at this time.”
More H2A-related information can be found at https://www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a.
Farm Service Agency
Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices in North Dakota are open by phone appointment only until further notice. FSA staff are available to help producers with program sign-ups, loan servicing and other actions. The agency is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for serving direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to those in need. Call your local FSA office for more information.
EPA enforcement discretion policy
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced yesterday that it is adopting a temporary policy regarding EPA enforcement of environmental legal obligations during the pandemic. This “no action” assurance would allow ranchers to do their jobs without concern for EPA inspectors showing up on site to conduct an inspection or other EPA compliance activity during this time. The policy is retroactive to March 13. EPA will continue to evaluate how long the policy needs to stay in place. The full announcement can be found at https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announces-enforcement-discretion-policy-covid-19-pandemic.
Ag economics information
North Dakota State University Extension will be hosting a series of agricultural economics webinars in response to COVID-19. The webinars begin at 12:30 p.m. CT each Friday. Presenters include Tim Petry, NDSU Extension livestock economist; David Ripplinger, NDSU Extension bioproducts/bioenergy economist; Ron Haugen, NDSA Extension farm management specialist; Byron Parman, NDSU Extension ag finance specialist; and Frayne Olson, NDSU Extension crops economist. For webinar login information and recordings of past webinars, including today’s, visit https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/alerts/coronavirus or search for “NDSU Extension coronavirus.”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced yesterday that it is extending the REAL ID deadline enforcement one year from the current Oct. 1, 2020, deadline to Oct. 1, 2021. Homeland Security will also utilize the additional time to modernize REAL ID implementation.
Mental health resources
The coronavirus situation and a culmination of other factors have made this a stressful time for many farm and ranch families across North Dakota. Know that you are not alone. If you need someone to talk to, call a friend or a neighbor, our office or 211, a statewide 24-hour crisis intervention, health and human services information and referral line.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hosted the “When Stress is More Than a Season” webinar last night. The recorded webinar can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ee-Gvo32CMQ&fbclid=IwAR24JsO6ohtB1S566v5DladHXfty8QXiryDaag-NVYJaYYwZ38uiDo1jAHA.
Sale and industry event changes and cancellations
The NDSA is compiling a list of industry event and cattle sale changes and cancellations. The list, along with other coronavirus resources, can be found at http://www.ndstockmen.org/association/industry-issues/COVID_19. If you have a change or cancellation to report, call our office at (701) 223-2522 and we will add it to the list.
An online movement that now stretches the globe and was reportedly started by a Bismarck, N.D., family is working to share hope during the pandemic. #aworldofhearts is encouraging people to show support of their communities and the nation by posting hearts in their windows. The NDSA has joined in the effort, converting its office windows to colorful inspiration for passersby. Know that our hearts go out to all of you in ranch country across North Dakota and that the organization has your back.