USDA Reopens, Expands COVID-19 Aid to Agriculture

This story has been updated to include a quote from AFBF President Zippy Duvall and the total funding allocated for the the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is putting at least $6.5 billion into new and/or expanded programs to help farmers recover from continued fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to make payments through previously established aid programs.

The agency’s signature pandemic assistance program for farmers, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (or CFAP), will be reopened and incorporated into the new, $12 billion USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. The expanded program aims to fill gaps that USDA said it identified in previous aid programs and reach more producers affected by the pandemic.

“We appreciate [USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s] action to release funds and expand eligibility for farmers hit hard by the devastating effects of COVID-19,” said American Farm Bureau President President Zippy Duvall. “USDA’s decision to distribute aid based upon previous applications will help deliver assistance quickly.”

The CFAP program, which offers direct payments to help eligible producers of certain commodities offset losses caused by the pandemic, has been on hold as part of a government-wide review by President Joe Biden’s administration of regulatory action taken toward the end of former President Donald Trump’s administration. While USDA continues to accept applications, payment and application processing were temporarily suspended.

USDA will reopen for at least 60 days the window for producers to apply for the second round of CFAP in an effort to target underserved producers. At the same time, USDA will resume processing applications and payments related to the expanded CFAP aid enacted in December. That includes:

  • Additional payments to cattle producers who applied for the first round of CFAP and for producers of certain non-specialty crops who applied for the second round of CFAP. (Eligible producers will be paid without need to re-apply).
  • Opportunities for pullet and turfgrass sod producers (who were not previously eligible) to apply for aid.
  • Opportunities for producers to modify existing applications to take advantage of updated payment calculations related to crop insurance and indemnity and disaster assistance programs.

Processing of additional payments to swine producers and applications from contract growers (who were also made eligible in December) remain on hold as USDA reviews those programs. However, producers may continue to apply.

In addition to reopening CFAP and resuming most processing, USDA is allocating at least $6 billion to create new programs or expand current ones to provide assistance in the following areas:

  • Dairy farmers (through the Dairy Donation Program or other means)
  • Producers who had to euthanized livestock and/or poultry
  • Biofuels
  • Specialty crops, beginning farmers, local, urban and organic farms
  • Costs associated with organic certification or conservation activities
  • Other potential expansions of CFAP
  • Timber harvesting and hauling
  • Personal Protective Equipment and other protective measures for food and farm workers
  • Efforts to improve the resiliency of the food supply chain (including assistance to meat and poultry operations to facilitate interstate shipment)
  • Infrastructure to support donation and distribution of perishable commodities
  • Efforts to food waste

USDA is also allocating an additional $500 million to a variety of programs that support agriculture through research; commodity marketing; assistance for socially disadvantaged, veteran, and beginning producers; animal disease assistance and response; and more.