By Clint Thompson
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) has brought more questions than answers with respect to financial aid for growers in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The $19 billion program includes $16 billion in direct payments for farmers and ranchers. CFAP has payment restrictions of $125,000 per commodity and a total of $250,000 per applicant for all commodities. Growers and industry leaders hope that cap on payment restrictions gets removed.
“For specialty crop growers, $125,000 is a drop in the bucket for most of their losses,” said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.
Florida vegetable farmer Paul Allen, talked about the financial toll the pandemic had on him and his farming brethren.
“The biggest thing right now is the government allocated per crop a cap of $125,000, which is nothing. We’re really working trying to get the USDA to see and understand the massive hit that Florida is taking and raise the direct payment caps,” Allen said. “What is fair is not always equal.
“It costs 10 times to grow vegetable crops what it does regular commodity crops.”
Pandemic Punishes Producers
In a previous interview in early April, Allen said he left about 2 million pounds of green beans in the field and about 5 million pounds of cabbage. All due to the coronavirus pandemic that shut restaurants down and closed off a major supply chain to foodservice industries.
According to an AgNet West story, a group of lawmakers, which included 28 members of the U.S. Senate and 126 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, issued a letter to President Donald Trump and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. They asked for the removal of payment caps from CFAP before the final program details are announced. The letter points out that the payment restrictions would limit the effectiveness of the program. This is especially true for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers.
Another concern is how payments will be divided between losses sustained before and April 15. An 85% payout will be issued for losses sustained from January 1 to April 15 but only 30% after April 15.
“Our concern was what’s the difference in a loss after April 15 and before April 15. After April 15, that grower has got the same loss as before April 15. Most of our growers’ losses will come after April 15,” Hall said. “We’ve been told that’s going to be fixed, too. I haven’t seen anything firm from the USDA on that.”