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What farmers need to know as CFAP rolls out this week

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began accepting applications through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) this week for direct aid payments to agricultural producers affected by price declines and additional marketing costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFAP will provide $16 billion in aid to farmers who suffered economic losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, making it the single largest payment program in history for US farmers. However, aid is limited to specific crops and types of loss; the benefits of the program will vary significantly based on a producer’s scale, eligible crops, and price losses. Find eligibility details in terms of eligible entities and eligible products at USDA’s main CFAP website.

We’re glad to see much-needed relief begin to flow to farmers and farm businesses who have been impacted by major market and supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic and the related economic shutdown. Many are also on the front lines, continuing their work to feed their communities in this time of crisis.

Land For Good shares the concerns of many that this farmer relief program will leave out farmers most impacted by market disruptions, as is the case with many smaller, diversified operations selling primarily into local and regional markets.

Farm advocacy groups are working tirelessly to provide good baseline information to help farmers make informed decisions about this program, its suitability and how to go about applying.  Among these, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) offers a helpful summary for producers that includes some financial case studies. And, the Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG) has recently updated its Farmers’ Guide to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Other resources and hotlines are listed below.

How does CFAP 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.

If you’re wondering whether or not CFAP is a fit for you, consider these key factors:

  1. Whether you produce an eligible product (or more than one)
  2. Whether you can provide (and retain) key production records for that product, and
  3. Whether you produce enough volume of that product for the USDA-determined payment rate to be meaningful when compared to your losses.

Actual documentation needed will vary by product, and payments will be calculated by commodity-specific formulas meant to account for both impacts, not a producer’s specific costs. The CFAP website offers full crop-by-crop details.

The specific USDA-determined payment rates differ for each eligible product, and are based on wholesale commodity prices. Payment rates for eligible products 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. grassfed beef). Payments will be based on those rates multiplied by volume or inventory of eligible product impacted.

“This is the balancing act,” shared NSAC, “we don’t want folks to prematurely write off the program if it may help them, but we also don’t want to imply in any way that it’s ideal or that it will work for all – especially as we advocate for better solutions!”

Go to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for how to apply, limitations, structure and a payment calculator.

Note that all applications must be submitted via a farmer’s local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office – after making direct contact with that office.

An FSA CFAP Call Center is available for producers who would like additional one-on-one support with the CFAP application process: 877-508-8364

Where to get more help?

Read more at National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC):
What is CFAP? Who is eligible?
CFAP 101 for Producers which includes some financial case studies

Read more at Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG):
Farmers’ Guide to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Farmers in New England can contact Land For Good for general information about the program and referrals for additional support.

Hotlines for individualized help and referrals

  • FLAG legal services hotline: 877-860-4349
  • FarmAid hotline: 1-800-327-6243
  • National Center for Appropriate Technology’s (NCAT) ATTRA hotline: 800-346-9140 (English), 800-411-3222 (Español)
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