TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — U.S. Rep. Jim Baird (R-District 4) is split on his support of two coronavirus relief programs.
One of Baird's top priorities this year is lifting a freeze on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
He joined other members of Congress who sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to resume the program immediately.
"We had milk producers pouring the milk out on the ground, we had meat that we couldn't get to the people," Baird says. "Restaurants were closing down, the food supply chain was under pressure, so here we had a program that we were able to handle that, so I think that continuing that is extremely important."
The program provides direct payments to farmers facing limited demand and excess supply during the pandemic, says Purdue University Agricultural Economist Jayson Lusk.
"In total, at least in the first two waves of these programs, it's been almost 24 billion dollars that have been poured into the agricultural sector," Lusk says.
The USDA also purchases surplus produce, dairy and meat and redistributes it to food banks.
"We need to make sure we get food to our children and we need to make sure that we get food to those areas that are in tremendous need," Baird says.
But Baird doesn't support the proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package that would provide direct relief to millions of Americans, although he did vote in favor of the most recent COVID relief bill in December.
He says a significant amount of that money hasn't made it to many bank accounts.
"Our position is rather than create more new dollars, let's make sure we're getting the ones we've already got approved to the right places," he says.
Baird is assigned to the agriculture and science, space and technology committees for the 2021 legislative session.
He says he wants to grow STEM education and support research at national laboratories to keep America competitive around the world.