Signups begin for second round of pandemic aid
Applications have opened for a new, restructured federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that features different categories of aid and expands to include several key California-grown crops that had not been included in the program's original list of eligible commodities.
The U.S. Agriculture Department announced last week the beginning of signups for a program dubbed CFAP 2, which will make up to $14 billion in additional aid available to farmers and ranchers who have seen their markets disrupted and production costs increased by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Signups started Monday and continue through Dec. 11.
The California Farm Bureau Federation characterized the release of the new aid as encouraging news.
"The pandemic has affected practically the entire agricultural system, and the second round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program aid reflects that," CFBF President Jamie Johansson said. "Almost without exception, California farmers and ranchers have seen markets for their products disrupted, and costs to harvest their products rise."
Johansson welcomed changes in CFAP 2 that include more crops and commodities.
"From the inception of CFAP, we have advocated for aid for the full range of crops and commodities grown in California. Finally, in this round, crops such as winegrapes, table grapes, raisins, sunflowers and pima cotton have been added to the list of those eligible for assistance," he said.
"We appreciate the administration's flexibility in adjusting CFAP to make it available to a wider range of farmers and ranchers in a wider range of circumstances," Johansson said.
Under CFAP 2, payments will be made for three categories of commodities: Price-Trigger Commodities, Flat-Rate Crops and Sales Commodities.
USDA defined Price-Trigger Commodities as those that showed a minimum 5% price decline during a specified period of time. The category includes most eligible row crops, forage commodities and livestock.
Flat-Rate Crops either do not meet the 5% or greater national price decline threshold or do not have data available to calculate a price change. Commodities in this category include alfalfa, extra-long staple cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed and several others.
The Sales Commodities category broadens criteria used for eligibility, according to Sara Neagu-Reed, CFBF associate director of federal policy.
"Under the first CFAP, commodities qualified for payments if their price had declined by at least 5% during the first quarter of the fiscal year," Neagu-Reed said. "Under CFAP 2, the 5% price decline will continue to be used to determine eligibility for Sales Commodities, but the time period will extend from April 15 to the end of the year."
The category includes 230 fruit, vegetable, nut and other specialty crops; aquaculture; nursery crops and floriculture; and additional commodities not included in the other categories, including goat milk, wool and other livestock.
Full information about eligible commodities and the application process may be found on the USDA website at farmers.gov/cfap.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the restructured program recognizes the ongoing challenges agricultural communities face due to the pandemic.
"We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations' farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted," Perdue said.
The first round of CFAP will distribute almost $10 billion; applications for that program ended Sept. 11, and USDA announced the new round a week later.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said even though concerns about food supplies have ended now that the "initial shockwave of the pandemic" has subsided, economic hardships continue to take a toll on farm families.
"We don't know when this pandemic will end, and we are still feeling the effects of trade imbalances and severe weather," Duvall said. "This lifeline will keep farmers and ranchers afloat as they continue to keep America's pantries stocked."
AFBF Chief Economist John Newton said producers of commodities not included in CFAP 2 can petition for inclusion, and that USDA had encouraged any farmers or ranchers whose businesses had been affected by the pandemic to apply.
"This program is an important down payment in helping farmers and ranchers deal with the unprecedented and unexpected economic fallout related to COVID-19 and is a step in the right direction to help make farmers and ranchers whole again," Newton said.
(Dave Kranz is editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at email@example.com.)
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