The U.S. Department of Agriculture is preparing to pay out the rest of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments to the nation's farmers while looking at ways to further cover ag losses, says Bill Northey, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation.
“We have announced that will make the other 20% payment. We just paid 80% to start with for producers. So, we’ll make about $8 billion dollars more in payments to top up that original 80%,” he says.
That will get total payments to $9 billion. Northey says that addressed the first quarter of losses from January to April 2020. USDA is now looking at payments through the rest of the year.
“That would need to be a new program because it needs to have a new set of rules,” he says.
Congress provided an additional $14 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation money to be able to address some other losses, and Northey says that will broaden out the commodities and sectors of agriculture they can provide assistance to.
Payments that have been paid out to farmers under CFAP now are at more than $7 billion. However, there are many farmers that were frustrated with the way the payments were calculated and want USDA to use a different formula for a "CFAP Two" program as well as any other COVID-19 assistance Congress passes. Livestock producers were upset with the time period used to figure the payments, especially cattle producers.
“They have a date in there for cattle producers that sold fat cattle after April 14, they’re not happy with the dates,” Northey says.
USDA is awaiting word on what additional authorities will be provided in the future to have additional support for some sectors that had significant losses after that first quarter.
“Certainly we know there were losses after that additional quarter, and we’ll look at ways of trying to be able to cover that,” Northey says.
Specialty crop production was also at a disadvantage under the existing rules especially since there was very little production in the first quarter. However, they have felt losses in the second quarter and will be included.
Northey says they are actively listening to farm groups and gathering input and shape what "CFAP Two" looks like. USDA is also considering how dollars will be disseminated if Congress manages to pass another coronavirus relief program. He says with additional dollars they will be looking at assessing losses for meat and other processors, plus ethanol plants.
Northey encourages farmers to continue to signup for CFAP. USDA has extended the date to Sept. 11. He says they’ve added an additional 60 commodities and have over 160 commodities that are currently eligible for assistance.
American Farm Bureau analysis indicates the $7 billion of direct payments paid in the first round of CFAP averages out to around $13,600 per producer. The top payout went to Iowa at $697.4 million. Other payment amounts in the region include Nebraska at $499.2 million, Minnesota at $435.3 million and South Dakota at $341.7 million. North Dakota trailed at only $172 million.