New crops become eligible for USDA pandemic aid

Issue Date: July 15, 2020
By Dave Kranz

Effective this week, more than three-dozen additional crops and commodities became eligible for pandemic-related aid from the federal government—while efforts continue to expand the list of eligible crops further.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it had added the crops to its eligibility list for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which aids farmers and ranchers who have suffered price declines of 5% or greater during the pandemic or who face additional, significant marketing costs due to lower demand, surplus production and disruptions to shipping and marketing.

Most of the additions to the eligibility list qualify as specialty crops, joining a number of fruits and vegetables included in the original CFAP applications in May.

The newly added crops are: alfalfa sprouts; anise; arugula; basil; bean sprouts; beets; blackberries; Brussels sprouts; celeriac (celery root); chives; cilantro; coconuts; collard greens; dandelion greens; greens in addition to those listed separately; guava; kale greens; lettuce, including Boston, green leaf, Lolla Rossa, oak leaf green, oak leaf red and red leaf; marjoram; mint; mustard; okra; oregano; parsnips; passion fruit; green peas; pineapples; pistachios; radicchio; rosemary; sage; savory; sorrel; fresh sugarcane; Swiss chard; thyme; and turnip top greens.

Farmers of the additional crops could begin applying for CFAP aid effective July 13. The USDA Farm Service Agency said it would accept applications through Aug. 28.

The USDA also expanded categorical eligibility for seven crops it determined had suffered price declines of 5% or more due to the pandemic: apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines and taro. Previously, farmers of those crops had been eligible for category 2 and 3 payments, based on marketing adjustments only.

In addition, USDA determined peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for category 1 sales-loss assistance, and it adjusted payment rates for apples, artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, garlic, kiwifruit, mushrooms, papayas, peaches, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, tangerines and taro.

Sara Neagu-Reed, California Farm Bureau Federation associate director of federal policy, noted that USDA has said it expects to expand the CFAP eligibility list again in coming weeks.

"We are pleased with the announcement that makes the program more inclusive, but we still have a number of remaining concerns and understand USDA will be addressing them in the coming weeks with their next announcement," Neagu-Reed said.

She said USDA officials reassured CFBF that information regarding additional commodities, including nursery crops, winegrapes, pima cotton, aquaculture and others, will be provided in later updates to the aid program.

"Some of commodities not yet added take more time to analyze, and USDA must find ways to calculate payments for these producers, such as nursery crops, for instance," Neagu-Reed said. "USDA is focused on getting it right for those producers, and we continue to engage with the agency to ensure it does just that."

She said she remains hopeful USDA officials "will review the data we sent on behalf of those producers and include them in their next announcement."

At the request of CFBF and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, both of California's U.S. senators and 25 members of its congressional delegation asked USDA last week to add winegrape growers to the CFAP eligibility list.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the elected officials said the pandemic has "broadly undermined" market prices for winegrapes through a shutdown of key marketing channels. Citing studies predicting the pandemic would reduce winegrape value by 11% this year, the letter described vineyards as "the foundational element of a very robust and substantial portion of the state's economic landscape," and urged inclusion of winegrapes in CFAP.

Farmers currently eligible to apply for the program may do so and find additional information at www.farmers.gov/cfap.

Recognizing that many specialty crop farmers may not have existing relationships with the Farm Service Agency, USDA encouraged them to call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee who can offer general assistance.

"This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center," the agency said.

As of Monday, USDA had approved 4,401 CFAP applications from California, with aid totaling nearly $300.7 million. Of that, roughly $171 million was directed to dairy farms, $69.7 million to specialty crops, $55.8 million to livestock and $4.2 million to non-specialty crops.

(Dave Kranz is editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at dkranz@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




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