Pandemic-aid program adds to list of eligible crops

Issue Date: August 19, 2020
By Dave Kranz

While expressing satisfaction with changes to a key federal pandemic-aid program for farmers and ranchers, agricultural organizations said they would continue to seek inclusion of more crops and commodities in the program through the next round of stimulus legislation and a "CFAP 2.0" package the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to unveil in coming weeks.

USDA said last week it had made dozens of additional products eligible for relief under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP. It also extended the deadline to apply for the program by two weeks, to Sept. 11.

The program provides direct financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who have suffered price declines of 5% or greater for their crops or commodities in the first quarter of the fiscal year, or who absorbed losses due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and faced significant new marketing costs as a result.

The new USDA list of eligible crops adds nursery crops and cut flowers, all sheep and a variety of aquaculture products, plus more than 40 specialty crops, including bok choy, dates, endive, horseradish, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, tangelos and others.

Six crops became newly eligible for funding for sales losses: green onions, pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts and watermelons; originally, they had been eligible only for payments on marketing adjustments.

A full list of the commodities covered by the program, and information about how to apply, may be found at farmers.gov/cfap.

Sara Neagu-Reed, associate director of federal policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said Farm Bureau was pleased by the second round of changes to CFAP, noting they will provide more specialty-crop growers with an opportunity to apply for aid.

But, she added, "The additional commodities, such as nursery crops and fresh cut flowers, should have been made eligible from the start. It shouldn't have taken this long."

Neagu-Reed said Farm Bureau will continue advocating for additional commodities, such as winegrapes and pima cotton, that have not yet been included in the aid program.

The two-week extension of the application deadline, she said, will be of particular benefit for those farmers whose crops just became eligible.

John Newton, American Farm Bureau Federation chief economist, said only about $7 billion of the estimated $15.4 billion in CFAP aid had been distributed through the first eight or nine weeks of the program.

"In the case of specialty-crop producers, at this point only about $300 million has been paid to those growers. I think they need more time to engage with (USDA)," Newton said, adding that the agency should "do a little bit more outreach, so that farmers across the country know that this critical support is available."

AFBF President Zippy Duvall said many farm families have not participated in federal programs before "and need help navigating their way through the process."

Statistics from the USDA indicate about 25% of the nation's farmers have participated in CFAP, according to AFBF.

(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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