By Clint Thompson
One agricultural economist fears there might be insufficient funds to cover farmers who apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Max Runge, Extension specialist in agricultural economics and rural sociology at Auburn University, believes the 80% of maximum total payment allotted for applicants will not be enough considering the number of producers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think that will be enough. I think it’ll be short. Agriculture’s big across the U.S. The program covered a lot of it,” Runge said. “I hadn’t sat down and tried to put any kind of numbers to it. But I would be surprised if there’s enough money there to cover it.”
According to www.farmers.gov, CFAP will provide $16 billion in direct support for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term disruptions for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.
To ensure funds will be available throughout the application period, producers will receive 80% of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of each payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date as funds remain available.
“I know that it was a daunting task to try to come up with something to cover everything. I thought it was a good effort. It’s like everything else, you can always look back and say, ‘They should have done this.’ Or ‘This should have been done differently,’” Runge said. “It’s not perfect, but it is something.”
While the program will largely aid vegetable and specialty crop producers in Florida, Georgia and Alabama farmers are hurt by the timeframe. Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association, says the program’s end date of April 15 doesn’t help his farmers much. Not much is on the market then. The same is true for Alabama farmers.
“We don’t have that much produce maturing at that time and ready for market during that time frame,” Runge said.