Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to open May 26
During a press conference on Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that farmers could start applying for direct assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) on May 26. More information and application forms can be found at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.
The program will provide up to $16 billion to farmers and ranchers affected by the pandemic, $9.5 billion of which was appropriated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act and will compensate farmers for price declines and specialty crops that spoiled due to loss of marketing channels. The other $6.5 billion, which will cover market disruptions, comes from the Commodity Credit Corporation.
Farmers who grow commodities that have experienced a price decline of five percent or more due to COVID-19 and face significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities are eligible to apply. Covered commodities include a variety of grains, wool, cattle, lambs, yearlings, hogs, dairy, almonds, and an assortment of fruit and vegetables. A full list of eligible crops can be seen at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.
The program eliminates earlier per-commodity payment limits, but maintains overall payment limits. An individual can receive up to $250,000 on all commodities combined, and as many as three members who “actively provide personal labor or personal management” can receive payments, for a total of $750,000 per operation. Those who earn more than $900,000 in adjusted gross income are not eligible, unless three-quarters or more of their income comes from agriculture. To prevent the program from running out of money, producers will only receive 80 percent of their payment up front; the remaining 20 percent will be sent later if there’s adequate funding.
National Farmers Union is relieved that the administration is taking important steps to provide much-needed support to farmers. However, some gaps remain in the program. For one, it does not consider the losses that farmers will likely incur on the crops and livestock that they are growing now, even though the effects of the pandemic will likely linger for some months, if not years. Additionally, the program does not factor in the price premium offered by alternative markets and production methods like local and organic, and it largely excludes poultry and contract pork growers. On top of that, the relaxation of payment limits may allow larger farms to claim a large portion of available funding, which could leave smaller and more vulnerable producers without assistance.