By Clint Thompson
The United States Department of Agriculture released details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) on Tuesday. It will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to provide relief for farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID-19. It includes relief for livestock, dairy and specialty crops.
But according to Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association, the bulk of Georgia and Alabama growers will not be eligible just due to the timing restrictions detailed in the program.
“This particular package, the problem is the dates of the loss. This package puts January 1 to April 15, which excludes 90% of Georgia’s specialty crop growers. At that point, as of April 14, we’ve had little product on the market at that point. When you’re looking at peaches, blueberries, vegetables, we’re not covered in that,” Hall said. “From January to April, we had broccoli on the market. We had greens, turnip greens, cabbage; some of those cole crops were on the market then and would be eligible to be covered under that. It’s going to help some growers.
“Georgia blueberries may have been on the market a week or two at that point.”
According to the USDA press release, CFAP provides financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of a drop in demand, excess production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.
CFAP also includes the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program. It is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.
Beginning May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses.
For eligible specialty crops, the total payment will be based on the volume of production sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020; the volume of production shipped, but unpaid; and the number of acres for which harvested production did not leave the farm or mature product destroyed or not harvested during that same time period, and which have not and will not be sold. Specialty crops include, but are not limited to, almonds, beans, broccoli, sweet corn, lemons, iceberg lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries and tomatoes. A full list of eligible crops can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Additional crops may be deemed eligible at a later date.
Another Stimulus Package?
Hall is hopeful that if Congress passes another stimulus package, his growers would be sufficiently covered. It would provide a boost to farmers as the economy tries to recover from the current recession.
“The bill that passed the House last week would cover Georgia specialty crop growers because it covered the first two quarters of the year. Most of our growers’ harvest will be through the end of June. That will be helpful from that standpoint,” Hall said.