Congress and the Trump ad­­ministration last week continued to work to refine the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to aid farmers through the steep downturn caused by the pandemic. And one leading lawmaker, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, said Congress is likely to discuss additional as­­sistance for agriculture next month.

The Senate unanimously pas­­sed and President Donald Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. The changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) are likely to make the program more viable for farmers, according to Veronica Nigh, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The new bill extends the re­­quirement for using PPP funds to 24 weeks, instead of the previous eight-week deadline. It also changed rule on the amount of the loan that had to be used on payroll to be forgivable, to 60% from 75%.

“Hopefully, the flexibilities and the extensions that have been provided in the new bill will increase the share of farmers and ranchers who are utilizing the program,” Nigh said. 

Separately, Iowa lawmakers asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to extend CARES Act funding to egg producers.

In a letter sent to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said egg producers should be included in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) because they are suffering significant losses, especially liquid market eggs.

With nearly 70% of Iowa’s layer flocks producing for the liquid egg market, the COVID-19 market disruption has proved to be devastating to Iowa’s egg producers, they wrote.