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US Senator Tammy Baldwin, along with Sen. John Thune (R-SD), introduced legislation today that would help agriculture producers get more coverage under the Paycheck Protection Program, a subset of the federal CARES Act responding to the COVID-19 economic fallout.

The new legislation would allow farmers to apply for a PPP loan using their gross income, up to $100,000 from 2019 tax returns, rather than net income, in order to receive a higher PPP award amount.

Small businesses with less than 500 employees are eligible to apply for PPP, which will pay 2.5 times the business's monthly payroll to ensure paychecks continue to go out. These loans are forgivable under certain circumstances. Sole proprietors, independent contractors and those who are self-employed can also apply.

PPP loan award amounts are currently calculated using net income from 2019 tax returns, but the release stated that for farmers, those documents reflect a negative net income due to poor planting weather and low commodity prices last year.

Sen. Baldwin said Wisconsin's farmers are "falling through the cracks" because of this issue and they need the assistance. Sen. Thune also said this will give ag producers all over the country a better chance to survive the economic fallout.

"Now more than ever, we must get federal support to the Wisconsin family farmers who need it," Sen. Baldwin said. "Doing right by our farmers and their communities isn’t a partisan fight - it’s just common sense.”

"By making this fix to PPP, more of our country’s producers will be able to keep their farms and ranches operational, make ends meet, and continue to feed the world," Sen. Thune said.

Dairy farmer Nic Schoenberger said farms are run differently than traditional businesses, and the program should be able to service all types of businesses.

“It’s important that the rules for critical programs like the Paycheck Protection Program reflect that farms are often structured differently from businesses in other sectors," Schoenberger said. 

Many dairy farmers in Wisconsin and around the nation have had to dump thousands of gallons of milk in recent months due to a massive drop in demand from restaurants and schools because of closures. Commodity prices have been driven down, but many farmers are still able to sell their product to food banks and get food out to people who need it.

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