June 22, 2020
Farm Service Agency
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 0522
Washington, DC 20250–0522
Re: Docket ID FSA–2020–0004: Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Notice of Funding Availability
Dear Administrator Fordyce:
On behalf of Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, the state’s largest general farm organization, we appreciate the opportunity to submit comments for Docket ID FSA–2020–0004: Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Notice of Funding Availability. We appreciate the Administration’s work to assist farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are thankful for the Department’s quick work as you created and deployed the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). We are especially pleased that the funds have already begun helping farmers throughout the country.
Farmers were already challenged as we entered 2020 in the eighth year of a down farm economy. After facing several years of low commodity prices, trade uncertainty, and severe weather, our farmers were hoping that 2020 would be a year of recovery. However, COVID-19 hit, and markets tumbled, and supply chains were upended as consumer demand shifted. Just as farmers around the country were impacted, so too were Pennsylvania farmers.
With nearly 53,000 farms over 7.3 million acres, agriculture plays an important role in our economy. Pennsylvania is a diverse agricultural state, with our farmers producing a vast array of commodities including dairy, livestock, poultry and eggs, specialty crops, grains, aquaculture, forage, nursery and greenhouse products, and more. Our farmers market their products through a variety of channels, including through direct marketing to consumers. Even though most of agriculture was deemed “essential” when Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home orders began, our farmers were quickly impacted by the demand destruction that occurred.
While the commodities included in the CFAP program do cover many of the commodities produced in Pennsylvania, we do believe there are still more commodities that can be covered. We appreciate USDA’s willingness to consider additional commodities and commodity support through this Notice of Funding Availability. Our national organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation, worked with state Farm Bureaus and analyzed market and price data to develop a case for the listing of additional commodities and additional payment rates for CFAP. To that end, we support the comments submitted by the American Farm Bureau Federation dated June 22, 2020 and ask that this support be noted as part of the comment record. Additionally, we ask that there be an extension of application dates so that producers have enough time to apply once USDA announces any additional commodities that may be eligible. Additionally, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau notes that we have heard from poultry and egg farmers regarding how they have been negatively impacted as a result of COVID-19 and as a result, we ask USDA to reconsider including poultry in the CFAP program.
Again, we very much appreciate the Administration’s efforts to help agricultural producers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe the data provided by the American Farm Bureau Federation demonstrates there is a very clear case for additional commodities to be included in CFAP. We appreciate your consideration of Farm Bureau’s comments and analyze and welcome the opportunity to provide further information.