Today, the USDA announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Beginning next week, May 26, the USDA will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. While many farm groups appreciate the aid efforts, many believe further assistance will be needed.
Payments will go directly to farmers who have suffered a 5 percent or greater price loss and who are facing significant marketing costs due to the coronavirus. Eligible commodities include cattle, hog, dairy, specialty crops, and row crops. Payments will be limited to $250,000 per person.
The National Milk Producers Federation thanked President Donald Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for supporting dairy in USDA’s $16 billion agriculture payments plan. Still, current aid levels will be insufficient to meet the needs of milk producers and other agricultural sectors facing massive disruption from the coronavirus crisis. NMPF will continue to work with administration officials and members of Congress to achieve adequate aid for all dairy producers, whose projected losses of $8.2 billion, based on USDA data, place them among the hardest-hit U.S. agricultural commodities.
Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF said, “USDA’s plan will provide relief to many farmers, and we appreciate the department’s adjustments to payment limits, an issue which we raised prior to the department finalizing this package. Even so, we believe more flexibility in payment limits and some changes to payment calculations will be needed in future rounds of funding to meet the unprecedented challenges faced by producers of all sizes, in dairy and throughout agriculture. We look forward to working with federal officials and lawmakers on additional assistance.”
NMPF is still reviewing details of the latest USDA plan.
The direct assistance to farmers follows USDA’s acceptance of an initial round of contracts last week to buy $317 million in dairy products as part of its Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which is bolstering both milk prices and dairy supply chains. Mulhern applauded USDA’s planned large purchase of milk and dairy products for distribution through food banks and other non-profit organizations. “All that USDA can do to buy and quickly distribute dairy products to those in need will immediately help lift depressed markets,” he said.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall, who was at the live announcement today said, “This aid can’t arrive soon enough as many farmers file for bankruptcy, facing unprecedented losses. We are grateful to the Administration and to Congress for sending aid to America’s farmers and ranchers reeling from the breakdown in distribution channels resulting from COVID-19. Although supply is strong, the shutdown of restaurants and school cafeterias caused the markets for meat, dairy, and produce to shrink drastically almost overnight.”
Dr. Barb Glenn, CEO, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture said, “The $16 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is the first COVID-19 relief package crafted specifically for agriculture. While farmers and ranchers respond to uncertainty, we applaud the USDA for working to distribute relief funds as quickly as possible. There is still tremendous unmet need for agriculture and rural America. Additional resources will be needed to build resiliency for our post-pandemic rural economy.”