The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking the USDA to extend the application deadline for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). AFBF, along with 27 other agriculture organizations, sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting the deadline be pushed beyond August 28, 2020.
The funding, approved through the CARES Act, is providing much-needed financial support to livestock, dairy, non-specialty and specialty crop producers. The letter states, however, the current deadline “may exclude eligible producers from participating in the program – including producers of commodities that were recently added to the list of eligible commodities and commodities that are likely to become eligible through the NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) process.”
Along with extending the deadline, the letter strongly encourages the USDA to “increase producer and stakeholder engagement initiatives. While the Department has done a commendable job in reaching out to all affected parties, communication and outreach by FSA staff has likely been significantly impacted by the lack of face-to-face interactions; in addition, many producers eligible for CFAP have had limited or no previous interaction with FSA staff.”
The 499,156 applications received represent only 24% of all farm operations. Several commodities have extremely low participation rates including carrots at 1%, oranges at 2%, tomatoes at 6% and apples at 10%. Those numbers may indicate many farmers are not aware they qualify for CFAP assistance.
AFBF President Zippy Duvall said, “The fact that there is still money available should not lead anyone to believe that the needs of America’s farmers have all been met. Farmers and ranchers are still struggling to make ends meet and the pandemic is far from over. We need to increase awareness and that means USDA turning it up a notch, along with ag groups. We’re certainly working to ensure those eligible know the aid is available.”
Read the full letter here.