Late Friday, Sec. Sonny Perdue and USDA announced a new program to help farmers and ranchers during the COVID-19 national emergency.
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is a $19 billion program intended to give immediate critical support to farmers while maintaining the integrity of the food supply chain.
“I think more than ever, our country knows where our food comes from,” said Perdue. “They’re depending on our farmers and ranchers to grow and produce the food that we need to live, and I think in times of national emergencies such as this, it has become even more apparent.”
CFAP will use funding form the CARES Act and other USDA existing authorities. The program will use two elements to achieve those goals.
“First there will be $16 in direct payments to our farmers and ranchers who’ve experienced unprecedented losses during this pandemic,” said Perdue. “For this portion of the program, our economists and USDA evaluated commodity-specific losses occurring during the mid-January to mid-April time frame for immediate assistance.”
That program is open and available to all farmers and ranchers, regardless of size. USDA has also looked ahead to give additional assistance with cost because the demand destruction to the market is unknown at this time.
“We know that the disruption of markets and demand is significant, and these payments will only cover a portion of the impact on farmers and ranchers,” said Perdue.
For the second part of the program, $3 billion of fresh produce, specialty crops, dairy, and meat will be purchased by USDA and distributed to Americans in need.
“This distribution will take part in conjunction with the private sector and going to food banks and other nonprofit faith-based and community operations,” said Perdue.
Perdue said this program does not include the biofuels industry at this time.
“Obviously there are huge challenges in the biofuel ethanol industry that will affect our corn growers and producers that supply that, but frankly at this point, there’s just not enough money to go around,” he said. “The demand from all the sectors was even more than we could accommodate at this time.”
There will be $500 million allocated for other sectors of agriculture with damages, such as horticulture and hemp.
“There will be other extraneous people coming along as we develop the rules that we can accommodate,” said Perdue. We want to leave some room there for these sectors that will obviously face some of the same price disruption and decimation we’ve seen in other crops.”
Perdue did not give a specific date on when farmers could receive checks, he is hopeful to have them in the mail by the end of May.
Sen. John Hoeven, (R-ND) chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee, said in a statement that the $16 billion in direct producer assistance would be targeted accordingly:
• $9.6 billion for the livestock industry
• $5.1 billion for cattle
• $2.9 billion for dairy
• $1.6 billion for hogs
• $3.9 billion for row crop producers
• $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers
• $500 million for others crops