The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking USDA to extend the application deadline for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. USDA is accepting aid applications through Aug. 28 and as of Aug. 3, more than $6.8 billion has been paid to producers.
The up to $16 million in direct financial assistance comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and other existing USDA authorities.
“The fact that there is still money available should not lead anyone to believe that the needs of America’s farmers have all been met," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "Farmers and ranchers are still struggling to make ends meet and the pandemic is far from over. We need to increase awareness and that means USDA turning it up a notch, along with ag groups. We’re certainly working to ensure those eligible know the aid is available.”
AFBF, together with 27 other ag groups, sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting farmers be given more time to apply for the assistance.
"We write today to express our concern that the August 28 CFAP deadline may exclude eligible producers from participating in the program -- including producers of commodities that were recently added to the list of eligible commodities and commodities that are likely to become eligible through the NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) process," the letter reads.
The letter also asks Perdue to increase producer and stakeholder engagement activities.
"While the department has done a commendable job in reaching out to all affected parties, communication and outreach by FSA staff has likely been significantly impacted by the lack of face-to-face interactions; in addition, many producers eligible for CFAP may have had limited or no previous interaction with FSA staff," the letter reads.
USDA is also encouraged to announce second tranche payments and further review CFAP eligibility criteria including sales dates, second tranche payment rates and market contract eligibility.
"While we appreciate the flexibility provided within the CFAP payment limit structure for entities structured as corporations, we continue to believe that the limits are too restrictive and disproportionately impact specialty crops, dairy, hogs and cattle producers," the letter reads.
In addition to AFBF, the following organizations signed the letter:
- Agricultural Retailers Association
- American Seed Trade Association
- American Sheep Industry Association
- Association of Equipment Manufacturers
- Biotechnology Innovation Organization
- California Citrus Mutual
- Nation Onion Association
- National Aquaculture Association
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
- National Cotton Council
- National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
- National Milk Producers Federation
- National Potato Council
- National Sorghum Producers
- North American Blueberry Council
- Produce Marketing Association
- Rural & Agriculture Council of America
- Society of American Florists
- Southwest Council of Agribusiness
- Texas Citrus Mutual
- Texas International Produce Association
- U.S. Apple Association
- United Fresh Produce Association
- United States Cattlemen’s Association
- Washington State Potato Commission
- Western Growers
On June 30, Perdue predicted the $16 billion in direct payments wouldn't be enough.