Several commodities were notably left out of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that farmers started signing up for last week.
But this doesn’t mean that producer groups or individual producers should not plead their case if they feel cheated out of help from the government.
Richard Fordyce, administrator of the Farm Service Agency, said the agency is looking for sales numbers to show effects of COVID-19 on commodities that have been left out. More specifically, he said sales numbers should show data from before and after the COVID-19 pandemic to prove that a commodity lost at least 5% market value as a result of the crisis.
Aquaculture, poultry and egg production, hemp, and tobacco were notably left out of CFAP. And leaders of the apple industry argue that the numbers used to calculate losses for apple producers don’t reflect the true reduction in prices the industry has seen.
During a virtual town hall with Pennsylvania ag and legislative leaders, Fordyce said the agency worked with the USDA’s chief economist to calculate documented sales losses by commodity to see what commodities lost 5% or more in market losses as a result of the pandemic.
"That is how we came up with the initial list knowing full well that there were certainly other commodities that were affected, but didn't have the data," he said.
It’s not clear what sort of losses were experienced by hemp or tobacco producers as a result of the pandemic, but it’s been reported that layer chickens in Pennsylvania and millions of broiler chickens on the Delmarva Peninsula were euthanized as a result of processing plants either closing or markets being lost.
Fordyce said that producer groups and individual producers have until June 22 to plead their case to the government to be included for CFAP funding.
“We fully expect to include a number of other commodities into CFAP once this data comes in,” he said.
Comments can be submitted through either of the following methods:
- The federal rulemaking portal at regulations.gov. Search for Docket ID FSA-2020-0004 and follow instructions for submitting comments.
- Direct mail by sending comments to Director, SND, FSA, US Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 0522, Washington, DC 20250-0522.
Fordyce didn’t put a timeline on when funding for more commodities could be added to the program.
He also clarified that direct payments through CFAP will be treated as income by the government, just like Dairy Margin Protection and Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments.
COVID-19 has also been approved as part of the Disaster Set-Aside Program, which allows FSA to consider set-aside of one payment from a borrower if they can’t repay their loan.
The program allows farmers to skip an annual installment payment with a scheduled due date between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 1, 2021, on any current direct FSA farm loan. The deferred payment is then moved to the end of their loan repayment period.