Under the direction of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, USDA continues to payout millions of dollars to producers who may not have benefited from initial aid offered following the coronavirus pandemic. USDA began issuing approximately $270 million in payments to contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry who applied for pandemic assistance. This is a small portion of the millions more that are still expected to be rolled out in the final weeks of 2021.
To date, USDA has paid out $18.8 billion in Coronavirus Food Assistance Payments or CFAP 2 as well as top-up payments. This is in addition to the $11.8 billion in CFAP1 and top-up payments provided in the initial tranche of federal aid for farmers in 2020.
“We listened to feedback from producers and stakeholders about impacts across livestock and poultry operations and made updates to be more equitable in the assistance we delivered,” says Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “For contract producers this meant expanding eligibility and providing flexibility such as considering 2018 or 2019 revenue when calculating payments and accounting for contract producers who increased the size of their operation in 2020 or were new to farming when the pandemic hit.”
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, provided funding for payments to contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry for revenue losses from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 27, 2020. Contract producers of broilers, pullets, chicken eggs, turkeys, hogs and pigs, ducks, geese, pheasants and quail were eligible for assistance, along with eligible breeding stock and eggs of all eligible poultry types produced under contract. Signup ran from Aug. 24, 2021, through Oct. 12, 2021.
To date, over $42 million was made available to those who had to depopulate livestock and poultry due to insufficient processing access. In addition, USDA provided $350 million in additional dairy assistance related to market volatility.
Additional details of the promised $700 million in biofuels assistance also is still coming, Vilsack assures. He says the good news for biofuel producers is that as the industry awaits the release of the $700 million approved previously under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, this could compliment the nearly $1 billion is available for the sector in the Build Back Better plan to expand higher blend fuels infrastructure and encourage the sales of higher blends. The House advanced the BBB, but the Senate has yet to act on the $1.75 trillion package.
Gaps in assistance
Earlier this year, FSA identified gaps in assistance including in the initial proposal to assist contract growers. In August, USDA released the improved program for contract producers to fill these gaps, providing support as part of USDA’s broader Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.
Under Vilsack’s oversight, CFAP 2 had a fourfold increase in participation by historically underserved producers since the program reopened in April 2021. This highlights USDA’s commitment to increase outreach, education and technical assistance to historically underserved farmers and ranchers, including by investing $4.7 million to assist in targeted outreach for FSA programs.
“Filling these gaps and not letting underserved producers slip through the cracks is a common theme throughout our approach under our Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative,” Ducheneaux adds.