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Farmers, ranchers may still apply for CFAP 2 program

Issue Date: November 11, 2020
By Christine Souza

California farmers who suffered price declines due to the COVID-19 pandemic have until Dec. 11 to apply for a second round of federal relief known as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2, or CFAP 2.

Offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Farm Service Agency, the program has already provided millions of dollars in assistance to farmers and ranchers in California, according to Kern County farmer Greg Wegis, who chairs the FSA California state committee.

Wegis said all county FSA offices were working overtime during the early parts of the pandemic, "trying to get the thousands of applications processed and to get growers paid." He noted that the federal relief was not intended to cover all farmers' losses, "but just to ease the pain a little bit."

The original Coronavirus Food Assistance Program resulted from the CARES Act, passed in March, which provided funding for USDA to implement COVID-19 producer relief programs. The first round of CFAP was a $19 billion relief program to support farmers and ranchers and maintain the integrity of the food supply chain. It provided direct financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who had suffered price declines of 5% or greater for crops or commodities in the first quarter of the fiscal year, or who absorbed losses due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions that resulted in significant new marketing costs.

The CFAP 2 round of the program, announced in August, features an expanded list of eligible commodities such as eggs, aquaculture, winegrapes and more than 40 specialty crops, including bok choy, dates, endive, horseradish, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, tangelos and others. CFAP 2 covers losses incurred from April to the end of the year, and includes an additional $14 billion for farmers and ranchers who continue to experience hardship and losses in sales due to COVID-19.

Sara Neagu-Reed, associate director of federal policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the second round of CFAP provides more specialty-crop farmers with an opportunity to apply for aid.

"We were pleased to see the program expanded to include more commodities," Neagu-Reed said. "It was clear USDA officials heard our concerns and revised the program to be more inclusive. We are seeing a larger group of applicants in the dairy and livestock sector receiving payments."

Having applied for both CFAP 1 and CFAP 2, Wegis said his family qualified for almonds sold in the first quarter of 2020 and later in the year for pistachios.

"It helps, but certainly doesn't cover all of our losses that we incurred due to COVID-19," he said. "I feel the sentiment of most growers is one of appreciation for USDA at the federal and state levels recognizing the financial burden COVID-19 has put on agriculture and providing some financial relief during these difficult times."

For CFAP 2, the California FSA office reported that of the approximately 10,000 applications it has received, it has so far provided 6,400 applicants with close to $470 million in total payments. According to the FSA, much of the money—$305 million—was paid to what the program defines as "sales commodities." Aid payments for those commodities are calculated using a sales-based approach, with producers paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales. Dairy producers received $105 million and livestock producers $46 million.

For CFAP 1, California FSA reported it has provided 12,800 applicants about $713 million in total assistance. FSA said it is still processing about 1,000 applications and related documentation that will likely qualify for several million dollars in additional payments for CFAP 1.

Most of the applications paid at this point have been for specialty crops, followed by dairy and livestock. Breaking the total down by commodities, FSA reported the dairy sector received $268 million, followed by almonds at $117 million and cattle at $98 million.

Connie Conway, California executive director for the FSA, said the virus and its ramifications represented "just another unknown to farming."

"Farmers wake up every day and check the weather and are used to the physical impacts to farming, and maybe even market impacts to farming, but this virus took it to a whole new level," Conway said. "A lot of our programs are for fire, drought and unexpected circumstances—and certainly this virus is more unexpected than anything we could have ever imagined."

She said FSA is "here for all farmers, no matter what their crop, no matter what they grow, no matter what they do and no matter what their size. We want to help anybody and everybody that's eligible."

Conway encouraged farmers and ranchers to visit farmers.gov/cfap to apply or learn more about federal relief and commodities covered through CFAP 2, adding, "If you're already in our system, it's a pretty seamless operation and you can sign up online."

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@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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