Farm groups applaud Department of Agriculture action to extend the deadline for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Micheal Clements shares why farmers and ranchers need more time to access the program.
Clements: The Department of Agriculture Tuesday extended the deadline for farmers to apply for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to September 11. 28 farm groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, requested the deadline extension in a letter to the USDA last week. AFBF Chief Economist John Newton says data from the Department of Agriculture shows about half the funding is still available.
Newton: Through the first eight to nine weeks we’ve seen only about $7 billion of the estimated $15.4 billion go out to producers. And in the case of specialty crop producers, at this point only about $300 million has been paid to those growers. So, I think they need more time to engage with FSA, do a little bit more outreach, so that farmers across the country know that this critical support is available.
Clements: Data from USDA shows the current farmer participation rate for CFAP is roughly 25 percent. Newton says the availability of aid doesn’t mean the needs of all farmers have been met.
Newton: So, we know there are more producers out there, especially some of our smaller specialty crop producers. We need to make sure that they know these programs are available. When you dive into the specialty crops, two weeks ago only about one percent of the payments for carrots had gone out the door, apple payments were standing around ten percent, so there’s significantly more funding available help specialty crop producers impacted by coronavirus.
Clements: USDA also expanded the number of covered commodities included in CFAP. Among the additions are dozens of specialty crops, aquaculture and nursery crops and cut flowers. Micheal Clements, Washington.