More COVID Relief Money for Farmers and Ranchers on its Way

March 24, 2021

USDA announced the release of billions of dollars in aid to both crop and livestock producers through the suite of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) aid as well as assurances USDA will be opening up a new $6 billion aid package for an array of producers and industries, including renewable fuels.

Among the highlights:

--USDA will issue $4.5 billion in payments to more than 560,000 crop farmers at a payment rate of $20 an acre as prescribed under the coronavirus aid package that passed Congress in December and will be tied to the CFAP 2 program.

--Along with that, USDA will spend $1.1 billion to increase payment rates for more than 410,000 cattle producers under the CFAP 1 program.

--Tied to the CFAP Additional Assistance program, USDA also will start processing payments for pullet poultry producers, as well as farmers raising turfgrass sod, and release aid from formula corrections tied to certain row crops tied to crop insurance and yields.

USDA will continue taking applications from swine producers and contract growers for CFAP-AA but will not release payments to pork producers at this time. The department stated the payments "are likely to require modifications to the regulation as part of the broader evaluation and future assistance."

The release of the CFAP aid comes after the Biden administration had put a hold on USDA programs following the inauguration for a 60-day review. Some aid programs, such as the $20 per-acre payments to crop farmers, were also part of the December aid package, but the Trump administration did not initiate a payment program for those funds before leaving office.

USDA also will reopen enrollment for CFAP-2 starting April 5 and accept new applications for at least the next 60 days. In a greater effort to reach socially disadvantaged farmers, USDA has set aside at least $2.5 million to connect with grassroots organizations and expand outreach to enroll more minority and women farmers into the coronavirus aid programs as well.

"The pandemic affected all of agriculture, but many farmers did not benefit from previous rounds of pandemic-related assistance," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "USDA is committed to helping as many producers as possible, as equitably as possible. This effort will expand assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers."

Beyond the CFAP funds released, USDA also announced it will spend another $6 billion on other producers that earlier COVID-19 aid programs have missed. Some of this aid is prescribed in the December aid package, while some of the aid programs may require rulemaking this spring before funds are released. The $6 billon will be shared among an array of industries and farmers, including:

Biofuel producers.

Euthanized livestock and poultry.

Dairy farmers through the Dairy Donation Program or other means.

Specialty crop producers, beginning farmers, local, urban and organic farms.

Organic certification and investment in conservation activities.

Timber harvesting and hauling.

Other commodity corrections to CFAP not detailed thus far, "such as support to dairy or other livestock producers."

Personal protective equipment for food and farm workers.

Reducing food waste.

USDA added that funds also could go for "improving the resilience of the food supply chain, including assistance to meat and poultry operations to facilitate interstate shipment. Other funds could go to expand infrastructure for food donation programs and distribution of food aid through farm-to-school programs, restaurants or other community organizations, USDA stated.

Then there is an additional $500 million in new funding set up to boost existing programs. That breakdown looks like this:

--$100 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which focuses on support for fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops.

--$100 million for the Local Agricultural Marketing Program, administered by the AMS and Rural Development, which supports direct producer-to-consumer marketing, local and regional food markets and enterprises and value-added agricultural products.

--Approximately $80 million to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton based on a formula set in the December aid package. USDA plans to deliver that support through the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills program.

--$75 million the Farmers Opportunities Training and Outreach program, administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. The programs helps socially disadvantaged, veteran, and beginning farmers and ranchers in the ownership and operation of farms and ranches.

--$75 million for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, administered by the NIFA, which supports projects providing incentives to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers.

--$20 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to improve and maintain animal disease prevention and response capacity, including the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

--$20 million for the Agricultural Research Service to work collaboratively with Texas A&M the links between agriculture, food production and human nutrition and health.

--$28 million for NIFA to provide grants to state departments of agriculture to expand or sustain existing farm stress assistance programs.

Source: Chris Clayton DTN