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USDA to distribute pandemic aid

USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last week said it will begin distributing $12 billion in assistance and extend sign-up deadlines for farmers who suffered losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The package, called Pandemic Assistance for Producers, carries out formula payments from previous Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) funding rounds, including the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress last December that had been put on hold during a review of programs following the Biden administration transition. It also has newly allocated money to develop programs or modify existing proposals to reach a broader range of farmers, including those who raise livestock under contract and biofuel producers. 

“Farmers saw market prices and demand plummet amidst the supply chain breakdown early in the pandemic, and although there has been a rebound, the economic hardship continues to take its toll on farm families,” said Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill, a Warren County crop and livestock farmer. “Financial assistance for our livestock producers, biofuels and many other commodities that more accurately reflects actual losses comes as welcome news. This assistance from the USDA will help Iowa farmers to stay afloat and continue to farm and produce the food, fuel and fiber we all rely on.”

Farmers who previously submitted applications for CFAP funding rounds won't have to apply again. The USDA will begin accepting new applications on April 5, and sign-up will continue for at least 60 days. Farmers who need to sign up can do so at their county Farm Service Agency office.

As part of last week’s an­nouncement, the USDA said it will expedite $4.5 billion in payments to about 560,000 crop farmers who are eligible for payments of $20 per acre, including corn and soybean growers, as prescribed in the December aid package. 


Cattle payments

Cattle producers will also re­ceive additional inventory-based payments for livestock on farms last year between April 16 and May 14, totaling about $1.1 billion. Payment rates are $63 per head for fed cattle ready for market, $25.50 per head for feeder cattle above 600 pounds, $7 per head for feeder cattle less than 600 pounds, $14.75 per head for mature cattle and $17.25 per head for all other cattle, including breeding stock.

The USDA said it will continue taking applications for pork producers and other farmers who raise animals under contract but said those payments remain on hold as the CFAP-Additional Assistance program is “likely to require modifications to the regulation as part of the broader evaluation and future assistance.”

 

Working for equity

“The pandemic affected all of agriculture, but many farmers did not benefit from previous rounds of pandemic-related assistance,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to helping as many producers as possible, as equitably as possible. This effort will expand assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers.”

The package also includes $6 billion to develop new programs or modify existing proposals using remaining discretionary funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act. 

The USDA expects this to include assistance for farmers forced to euthanize animals due to supply chain issues, biofuels, dairy farmers and specialty crop growers, among other uses. 

 

Aiding biofuels

“We are pleased that USDA plans to provide long-awaited assistance to biofuel producers, who were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor. “At its lowest, over half of the industry was offline. Secretary Vilsack’s announcement that aid is on the way is a light at the end of the tunnel. We look forward to working with USDA as they iron out the full details of this program for biofuel producers and revitalize the rural economy.”

In addition, $500 million in new funding is included for existing programs such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Farmers Opportuni­ties Training and Outreach Program, Local Agricultural Marketing Program, Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Ag­­ricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills Program.

 

For more information about USDA's announcement, visit https://www.farmers.gov/pandemic-assistance.



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