U.S. Government Responds to Coronavirus Outbreak

CDC poster, text on blue background: Keep-calm- and wash-your-hands
Mar 16, 2020
WASHINGTON, DC -- As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues spreading across the world, the impacts are being felt here and across the United States.  The Trump Administration has announced travel bans, Congressional offices and the Capitol are closed to the general public, area schools are beginning to close, and meetings and conferences are canceled or postponed. 

Congress continues to consider a relief package in response to the World Health Organization (WHO) declared global pandemic.  Early Saturday morning, House lawmakers passed a proposed multi-billion dollar bill that includes emergency provisions for paid sick leave, free virus testing, domestic food aid, and unemployment insurance. 

Over the weekend, House leadership signaled they would like to make technical corrections to the bill before sending it on to the Senate.  The Senate postponed its scheduled recess this week to work on the relief package, returning to Washington today.  It is likely Senators will not reach a consensus on moving the legislation forward until after their respective party caucus lunches tomorrow. 

President Trump declared a national emergency on Friday in an effort to combat the growing concerns and widespread consequences of the pandemic.  The declaration allocates an additional $50 billion in funding, as well as allows certain regulations related to testing delivery and coronavirus patient care to be waived by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Federal Reserve is slashing interest rates to nearly zero percent in an effort to stabilize tumultuous financial markets, the first time this sort of action has been taken since the financial crisis in the late 2000s.  Additionally, the central bank will purchase millions of dollars in bonds to aid in this effort.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has closed a portion of their South Building for deep cleaning and sanitation because an employee there tested positive for coronavirus.  Other confirmed cases of coronavirus have affected Congressional offices and the Capitol, with access being limited to Members of Congress, their staff, and those on official business only, which requires an escort.

“In efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, that can be deadly to high risk patients, government offices and agencies are following the lead of the private sector in reducing or eliminating non-essential travel, and encouraging telework whenever possible.  To protect our employees and the community at-large, USA Rice is following suit, and has today begun telework,” said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  “While promotion events, meetings, and travel are being postponed, we are still operating at capacity, and our members and stakeholders should not hesitate to reach out to us for service.”

Impacts are being felt widespread across the agriculture industry as the already volatile futures markets are reacting to the trade restrictions and price increases across the globe.  In some Asian countries, freight charges have increased by as much as $3,000.  The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) has closed its trading floor to reduce the risk of spreading; however, most trading markets are electronically based and events such as this should have little impact on commodity trading. Rice itself has seen subtle movements in the market, as there is very little old crop left to trade.