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Billions paid to farmers in coronavirus assistance

USDA Farmers to Families Food Box USDA milk cheese.jpg
USDA announces additional $500 million for food box program.

In the first month of the application period, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA) approved $7.6 billion in payments to producers in the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2). In addition, USDA announced a fourth round of funding -- at $500 million -- for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

CFAP 2 provides agricultural producers with financial assistance to help absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since CFAP 2 enrollment began on Sept. 21, FSA has approved more than 443,000 applications. The top five states for payments are Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois and Kansas. According to the CFAP 2 dashboard, corn farmers have received $2.18 billion, followed by cattle producers at $1.699 billion, soybean producers at $832 million, sales commodities at $792 million, milk at $790 million and hogs and pigs at $387 million.

Through CFAP 2, USDA is making available up to $14 billion for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. CFAP 2 is a separate program from the first iteration.

The first round of CFAP paid out a total of $10.3 billion, with the lion’s share of payments going to cattle producers at $4.3 billion, followed by corn farmers at $1.77 billion and milk producers at $1.76 billion (see a full breakdown of the first round here.) Originally, the program touted the availability of $14.5 billion to distribute to farmers, but payment limits and restrictions prevented the estimated full amount from being distributed.

“America’s agriculture communities are resilient but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These payments directed by President [Donald] Trump will continue to help this critical industry recoup some of their losses from ongoing market disruptions and associated costs,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. “This program builds upon the over $10 billion disbursed under the first round of CFAP. Agricultural producers who have been impacted by the pandemic since April 2020 are encouraged to apply for assistance.”

Food box program

In another update on Oct. 23, USDA said it has authorized $500 million for a fourth round of purchases for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. As of Oct. 27, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) said it has partnered to deliver 112 million food boxes through the program. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act allowed USDA to purchase up to $4 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products from American producers of all sizes.

USDA is issuing solicitations for the fourth round to existing Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) holders and expects to award contracts by Oct. 30 for deliveries of food boxes from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020.

In the fourth round, as in the third round, states have been allocated boxes based on each state's internal need. The program will continue purchasing combination boxes to include fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products. The program also will continue to require that proposals illustrate how coverage would be provided to areas identified as opportunity zones, detail subcontracting agreements and address the “last mile” delivery of product into the hands of the food-insecure population. Entities meeting the government’s requirements and specifications will be issued agreements and submit pricing through a competitive acquisition process.

“I’m gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Farmers to Families Food Box program from families, distributors, food banks, faith-based organizations and nonprofits in communities across the country. We recently surpassed 110 million boxes delivered, and millions more are headed to Americans in need,” Perdue said. “I’m very pleased that we are able to extend this program and continue our relief efforts for American farmers and families.”

The third round of Farmers to Families Food Box program was announced July 24, 2020, and the President announced on Aug. 24, 2020, that up to an additional $1 billion would be made available for deliveries through Oct. 31, 2020. USDA announced contracts for the third round on Sept. 17, 2020, and has purchased more than $2.981 billion worth of food, to date.

The Farmers to Families Food Box program has delivered approximately $1 billion worth of dairy products -- including fresh fluid milk, various cheeses, yogurt, sour cream and more -- to needy Americans since this spring, the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) noted. Dairy makes up at least one-quarter of all products included in the boxes.

“The Farmers to Families Food Box program has proven to be an effective benefit both for families needing assistance and for dairy farmers and processors providing high-quality products to those families via food boxes,” NMPF president and chief executive officer Jim Mulhern said. “We hope the department will build upon its successes and lessons learned from this program as it considers further initiatives during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and beyond.”

In round 4, USDA said it plans to work with contractors to deliver food boxes to every state in the U.S., and the agency continues to request combination boxes. For a list of the requested dairy products, see USDA Solicitation Amendment 1.

Requirements for the combination box including dairy are: 5-6 lb. of dairy in each box from at least two different sets of dairy items from column A and column B of the amendment, which include cheeses and other dairy; plus the equivalent of 1 gal. of milk (2% or whole) in each box.

Dr. Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Assn. (IDFA), said, “IDFA has worked closely with USDA to ensure dairy remains a key part of the Farmers to Families Food Box program. Since the beginning of this pandemic, IDFA has remained focused on keeping the dairy supply chain intact, supporting our producers and processors and getting nutritious dairy foods to Americans in need. Our members are grateful for the opportunity to partner with nonprofits, food banks and faith and community organizations to help the less fortunate among us.”

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