The United States Department of Agriculture is accepting applications through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for direct payments (not loans) to agricultural producers affected by price declines and additional marketing costs due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This program is administered by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). Farmers can make an appointment with FSA to request assistance or call the national CFAP hotline at 877-508-8364 with questions.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE AND WHO MAY BENEFIT?
This aid is limited to specific products and types of loss. The benefits of the program will vary significantly based on a producer’s scale, eligible crops, and price losses. You can find eligibility details on USDA’s main CFAP website and also distilled in this fantastic blog post by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).
For whom is this program a good fit? Larger operations focused on growing a few commodity crops, operations with standardized production documentation systems, some livestock producers, and potentially some organic or specialty crop operations who typically sell into wholesale markets and for whom crop prices didn’t drop as sharply as conventional markets.
CFAP will not be as well suited for small, highly diversified operations, especially those focused on direct to consumer market channels due to its price structure.
On a positive note, producers do not need a previous relationship with FSA (past program participation or FSA farm number) to begin the application process.
WHICH ANIMALS ARE COVERED?
Cattle, hog, and sheep producers are eligible to receive CFAP payments if they can demonstrate they have suffered at least a five percent price decline as a result of the pandemic and face additional costs in marketing their livestock due to unexpected surplus and disrupted markets.
Farmers are eligible to receive payments for cattle, hogs, and sheep sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020 or held in inventory from April 16 to May 14, 2020.
All dairy producers who had any production this year are eligible for CFAP.
Dairy producers are eligible to receive payments for their production during the first quarter of 2020.
Wool producers are eligible to receive CFAP payments if they can demonstrate they have suffered at least a five percent price decline because of the pandemic.
Wool producers are eligible to receive a single payment for their inventory held on January 15, 2020, not to exceed 50 percent of 2019 total production.
Poultry (meat and egg) producers are NOT eligible for CFAP payments at this time.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
The program is intended to compensate producers for both price drops and increased marketing costs; USDA made determinations sector-wide to identify eligible crops and livestock. Actual documentation needed will vary by product, and payments will be calculated by commodity-specific formulas, not a producer’s specific costs.
HOW ARE PAYMENTS CALCULATED?
The specific payment amount is different for every eligible item and payments will be based on USDA-determined rates multiplied by volume or inventory of eligible product. Payments will not reflect a producer’s actual market price.
The payment formulas are based on wholesale commodity prices and do not account for higher prices a producer might receive for organic certification, direct to consumer sales, value-added products (e.g. cheese), or production methods (e.g. grass fed beef).
USDA has provided a payment calculator for producers to use to estimate their potential payment.
Pasa Sustainable Agriculture has calculated some hypothetical payments for livestock producers.
Producers will receive 80% of their maximum total payment upon approval. The remaining portion of the payment will be paid later as funds remain available.
HOW TO APPLY
The sign-up window is May 26, 2020 through August 28, 2020, but awards will be made on a first come, first served basis until funding is depleted. It is to your advantage to submit your application sooner rather than later if you intend to apply.
While farmers are not required to book an appointment with FSA prior to submitting their application, they are encouraged to do so if they have any questions or are a new customer. In addition, any farmer submitting their application electronically should call their FSA office prior to sending in their application.
Step 1: Review the eligibility and documentation criteria to determine if you can and should apply.
Step 2: If you have questions or would like feedback on your application, either call the producer hotline at 877-508-8364 or your local FSA office. Appointment delays are expected.
Step 3: Download all forms and begin compiling necessary documentation.
Step 4: Work directly with your local FSA office to submit your application by scanning, emailing, or faxing.
Your local USDA Service Center located at 135 Stonewall Court or directly behind the BB&T Bank in uptown Stuart. The office can be reached at 276-694-3121.