By Katie Nichols
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — Beginning today, Alabama farmers and ranchers affected by coronavirus will have an opportunity to apply for monetary relief through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to American agricultural producers who have suffered losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Farm and Agribusiness Management team will be working closely with FSA offices and USDA Service Centers to guide producers through the application process.
Jessica Kelton, the Farm and Agribusiness Management team leader, said the monetary assistance is unique and much needed.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged many of our farmers into more difficult situations,” said Kelton, who is also an agronomic crops regional agent. “So many producers were already struggling after a dry year with an uncertain market. Now, there are a lot of producers with wasted products because of the market declines related to the pandemic.”
The CFAP program specifically targets producers of agricultural products who have suffered a 5% or greater price decline, as well as losses, because of market supply chain disruptions.
Eligible commodities are divided into five groups.
- Non-specialty crops
- Specialty crops
A complete list of specialty crops is available in the Alabama Extension content piece, Applying for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through Farm Services Agency.
Alabama Extension economist Max Runge said unprecedented was a word used to describe many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, but the payments to farmers as a result of this virus really are unprecedented.
“In my years as an agricultural economist, we’ve not seen assistance payments as a result of a pandemic,” Runge said. “While we’ve been in uncharted territory for an extended period of time with COVID-19, the farmers in Alabama have continued to operate their farms as usual facing adversity and uncertain markets. I am thankful that the importance of their work is being recognized through these payments.”
USDA will begin accepting applications today. Producers may submit applications through August 28.
Runge said FSA offices will have an increased volume of applications and phone calls, so patience on the part of the producer will be appreciated. USDA Service Centers will schedule appointments by phone only. USDA will accept applications by email, scan or fax. Extension professionals recommend contacting the local FSA office before sending applications.
Farmers can prepare for appointments by gathering records of recent farm sales and agricultural product inventories. Required application information includes
- name and address
- personal information, including Tax ID number
- farm operating structure
- adjusted gross income
- direct deposit information
Necessary forms are available by visiting farmers.gov/cfap.
Shortage Fears This Spring
Ken Kelley, also an Alabama Extension economist, said the financial assistance for producers comes at a time when many livestock and dairy producers find themselves receiving prices well below the 10-year average, even as consumers see higher prices in the grocery stores.
“There were significant supply chain and processing issues earlier in the spring,” Kelley said. “However, the U.S. was and is amid record production of beef, pork and poultry. The issue was not availability of animals, but the logistics of processing and movement.”
While the situation is certainly improving, Kelley said it will be a while before processors catch back up to supply.
“In the meantime, the backlog of supply will continue to hold producer prices at lower levels,” Kelley said. “CFAP will be a welcome assistance as producers work through the effects of COVID-19 on agricultural processors and markets.”
In order to ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80% of the maximum total payment for their operation upon approval of the application. Producers will receive remaining payments as funds are available.
Find more information from Alabama Extension’s Farm and Agribusiness Management team in the content piece, Applying for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through Farm Services Agency.