USDA offers few clues on ag relief program
Sign-up and details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program's direct payments to farmers and ranchers are not available yet.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Department of Agriculture officials still have few details to release about how the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program's direct payments will work and what they will offer to producers.
A Thursday, May 14, webinar, put on by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service focused on ways producers can prepare to sign up for the $16 billion program once it becomes available. However, it did not address application specifics or how much funding may be available to farmers and ranchers.
The USDA in April announced $16 billion in direct payments will be made to farmers and ranchers. The money for the payments comes from $9.5 billion included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act and $6.5 billion from the Credit Commodity Corporation. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced the livestock industry will get $9.6 billion — $5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy and $1.6 billion for hogs. Row crop producers will receive $3.9 billion, and specialty crop producers will get $2.1 billion. Another $500 million will be for “other crops.”
Sonia Jiminez, deputy director of AMS specialty crop programs, said no further information is available on what specifically will be eligible, beyond, “crops, livestock, dairy and specialty crops.”
Jiminez and Bill Beam, Farm Service Agency deputy administrator for farm programs, spoke on the 15-minute webinar. Jiminez explained that the USDA has evaluated commodity-specific losses from January to April 2020, and has forecast additional losses in the coming months.
“We know that the disruption to markets and demand is significant,” she said, while noting that the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will cover only a portion of losses.
Beam said CFAP will be administered through FSA. While many producers, especially those with row crops, already work with FSA on existing farm programs, many who will be eligible for CFAP have never signed up for an FSA program. Beam walked through a number of forms that such producers can begin filling out, which mostly involve answering questions on contact information, farm structure, income and banking information.
“If we worked with you in the past, chances are we already have that information,” said Beam, noting it may be worth checking with office that information on file at FSA is up to date.
While participants on the webinar were free to ask questions, few were answered live. USDA intends to provide answers at farmers.gov/cfap at a later date. Additional questions can be submitted to email@example.com .
One question that was answered on the webinar revolved around whether producers who participate in other coronavirus relief programs, including the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, are still eligible for CFAP.
“In a word, yes,” Beam said.
The webinar, along with forms that FSA will need to process applications will be posted at farmers.gov/cfap .