Signups for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) are underway, said Oklahoma's USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) director Scott Biggs, on a CFAP webinar May 26. Online tools and a CFAP hotline also are available to assist row crop and livestock producers through the application process.
"CFAP came out of the CARES Act and is where the majority of the agricultural support is," said Amy Hagerman, Oklahoma State University state policy specialist, who also spoke on the webinar. "The CARES Act was the third part in the series of bills for coronavirus aid, but the first to address agriculture."
Through CFAP, $9.5 billion was set aside in direct producer payments, plus another $14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation, which supports disaster assistance programs, Hagerman said.
"CFAP has pieces from both CARES Act authorizations and CCC authorizations," she said. Producers will receive payments with either CARES Act or CCC listed on them. "Don't let the language throw you off. At the end of the day, it will be a single payment."
As producers begin the application process, Hagerman encourages producers to work closely with FSA, "balancing a timely application with an accurate application. We want to make sure the information is accurate and that the payment you receive is accurate to the best of your knowledge at the time you submit your application. And it's important to get it in in a timely manner."
The CFAP application deadline is August 28.
While the program covers crops and livestock, not all commodities are eligible. CFAP is an interim final rule, which means it is subject to change, Hagerman said. "We may see more commodities added to this program."
Producers with concerns or those who would like to request a commodity be added to the program are encouraged to go to the CFAP page and submit their requests through the "Federal Rulemaking Portal," which is listed under "Ineligible Commodities and Request for Additional Commodities."
"I can't stress enough that if there's an issue or something about this program that needs to be addressed, please complete the public comments (Federal Rulemaking Portal) proper form," Biggs said. "If there is anything you want to voice your opinion about, the portal is the place to do that."
For example, hard red winter wheat, an Oklahoma staple which was hit hard by a mid-April freeze, is not eligible for CFAP, while cotton, corn, soybeans, millet, and sorghum are, Biggs said. "A crop's eligibility was determined on the futures market. We saw a 5% decrease in the futures market between January and April, which is where those commodities came from and is part of the reason hard red winter wheat was left out. We did see a rebound in hard red winter wheat at the very end when we were estimating this, and rather than a 5% loss, there was only about 2.5%."
But it doesn't mean it's out, he added. "Public comment is one way to address that issue.
"What CFAP is paying for is unsold crops in storage in January from production in 2019."
Specialty crops, like pecans, are also eligible. "You've got your traditional farmers and then you've got your urban farmers and your high-tunnel hoop house farmers; this program is available to everyone, no matter the size, for all eligible crops."
Livestock, particularly cattle, has two aspects: first is cattle sold between January and April 15, and second is your highest inventory. "You had to have sold cattle between January and April 15," Biggs said. "I realize the April 15 date does not fit well with the cattle industry, but that's the date the interim rule had. If there's an issue, the public comment is available for that as well."
Payments based on livestock sold between January 15 and April 15 are paid out of the CARES Act funding, while payments for livestock sold between April 16 to May 14 are paid out of CCC. "We'll pay on your highest inventory between those dates," Biggs said.
While most FSA programs require an acreage report, CFAP does not. "This application is all self-certification. It's self-certification that you had this number of cattle on hand on this date at this time. That's all we'll need."
When or if a producer is audited, Biggs said third-party documentation will be required, such as veterinary records or sale barn receipts.
Livestock producers will receive $33 per head for the highest inventory of their markets, he said. "You do not have to have sold your cattle to be eligible for some type of payment. We are only paying 80% of your total payment."
Like the staggered Market Facilitation Program payments producers received due to losses caused by trade issues with China, CFAP payments also will be staggered. "The first payment is 80%, the second will be 20%," Biggs said.
To assist producers with the application process, FSA has a toll-free phone number, 877-508-8364, and/or a web-based tool, the "CFAP Payment Calculator." The payment calculator, an Xcel spreadsheet, is available on the CFAP website under the "CFAP Application" subhead.
"If you go to the spreadsheet and click on the dropdown menu under commodity or livestock, it's going to tell you everything eligible at this point," Biggs said. "I want to stress this tool is a phenomenal tool. It will calculate your 80% payment, formulate everything to your CFAP application that you can print off or email.
"This is the first time we've done something like this. This tool is going to be what makes this program work and helps you get your funds."
Once an application is submitted, officials anticipate about a two-week turnaround before a payment is issued. "Congress gave us these funds to help during this time, so please send your application in as quick as possible," Biggs said.
For more information or to view the CFAP webinar, which also includes presentations by OSU area ag econ specialists about the specifics of the program, along with question and answer sessions, go to https://youtu.be/qmRUvZyMQZU.