By Craig W. Anderson
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program has expanded its list of eligible commodities again, providing more growers who’ve been adversely affected by the COVID pandemic to receive some financial relief.
The additions were prompted by data researched by the USDA and public comments; the deadline for applying to the program was also extended to Sept. 11.
“After reviewing more than 1,700 responses, even more farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity for assistance to help keep operations afloat during these tough times,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “We are pleased to add additional commodities eligible to receive much needed assistance [including] deferring payments on loans to adding flexibilities to crop insurance and reporting deadlines. [The] USDA has been leveraging many tools to help producers.”
“The CFAP is very important to California’s commodity diversity and it’s good to see this recognized by such a program,” said SJFB President David Strecker. Agriculture in San Joaquin County and California is too diversified for them to be forgotten and our farmers’ commitment to their crops must be recognized.”
USDA collected comments and supporting data through June 22 for “consideration of additional commodities” to be added.
The crops added in the mid-August expansion included:
Specialty crops – aloe leaves, bananas, batatas, bok choy, carambola [star fruit], cherimoya, chervil [French parsley], citron, curry leaves, daikon, dates, dill, donqua [winter melon], dragon fruit [red pitaya], endive, escarole, filberts, frisee, horseradish, kohlrabi, kumquats, leeks, mammy sapote, maple sap [for maple syrup], mesculin mix, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, plantains, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, tangelos, turnips/celerac, turmeric, upland/winter cress, water cress, yautia/Malanga and yucca/cassava.
Non-specialty crops and livestock – liquid eggs, frozen eggs and all sheep. Previously, only lambs and yearlings (sheep less than two years old) were eligible.
The USDA announced that assistance is available to livestock producers who have an ownership interest in eligible livestock that have suffered a 5% or greater price decline due to the pandemic. Also eligible are producers facing additional significant costs in marketing inventories due to unexpected surplus and disrupted markets.
Wool – According to the USDA, CFAP payments are eligible to wool producers who have suffered a 5% or greater price decline over a specified time due to the COVID pandemic and who face increased marketing costs for inventories.
Aquaculture – catfish, crawfish, largemouth bass and carp sold live as foodfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, salmon, sturgeon, tilapia, trout, ornamental/tropical fish and recreational sportfish.
Nursery crops and flowers – nursery crops, cut flowers and cut greenery from annual and perennial flowering plants grown in a container or controlled environment for commercial sale.
Dairy – Program payments are eligible to all dairy operations with milk production in January, February and/or March; any dumped milk production during those months is also eligible.
Additional changes to CFAP included: six commodities – All new crops eligible for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability (CARES) act funding for sales losses includes onions (green), pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts and watermelons. Originally they were only eligible for payments on marketing adjustments.
Corrected payment: Onions (green), pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts and watermelons have all undergone corrected payment rates.
“We’re pleased with the announcement that makes the program more inclusive,” said Sara Neagu-Reed, CFBF associate director of federal policy. “Some of the commodities not yet added take more time to analyze and USDA must find ways to calculate payments for these producers.”
Winegrapes must be included
At the urging of CFBF and the California Association of Winegrape Growers, California U.S. senators and 25 members of the state’s congressional delegation asked USDA to add winegrapes to the eligibility list. “We will continue advocating for additional commodities, such as winegrapes… [that] have not yet been included in the program,” Neagu-Reed said.
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the officials said the pandemic has “broadly undermined” market prices for winegrapes due to a shutdown of key marketing channels. The letter said vineyards are “the foundational element of a very robust and substantial portion of the state’s economic landscape” and pressed for winegrapes addition to the commodities covered by CFAP.
CFAP good for county
“CFAP is still ongoing, still evaluating and analyzing crops and it’s good for the county,” said SJFB Second Vice President Jake Samuel. “If someone wants to apply, they need to get going as the deadline for applications is Sept. 11.”
Money and outreach
John Newton, AFBF chief economist, said only about $7 billion of the estimated $15.4 billion in CFAP aid had been distributed so far during the initial nine weeks of the program.
He said, “In the case of specialty-crop producers, at this point only about $300 million has been paid to those growers.” According to Newton, the USDA needs to do more outreach so the nation’s farmers will know this critical support is available.
According to the AFBF, USDA statistics show about 25% of the nation’s farmers have participated in CFAP.
All ag will benefit
“It’s good to see this program is ongoing and still helping agriculture,” said SJFB First Vice President Ken Vogel. “Even though all of the covered commodities aren’t grown in the county, ag is ag and this program is positive for all crops and that will affect all of us sooner or later.”
CFAP reflects needs
California’s hundreds of crops cut “a large swath” through the commodity marketplace and “ag affects so much of the state’s economy through the ripple effect on hundreds of industries in throughout the state,” Strecker said. “So, the diversity we have in San Joaquin County and California is reflected in the commodities covered by CFAP.”
The CFBF contributed to this story.