USDA includes more commodities in CFAP
USDA has expanded farmer payments for several specialty crops as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says the agency asked for public input after the program was announced and, after reviewing comments and analyzing USDA Market News data, new commodities were able to be added as well as additional updates for implementation.
Seven currently eligible commodities – apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines, and taro – now qualify for CARES Act funding for sales losses because USDA found they had a 5 percent or greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April.
Payment rates have also been adjusted for a handful of crops including apples, asparagus, blueberries, cucumbers, and potatoes.
One commodity still not included in the program, tart cherries. President of the Cherry Marketing Institute Julie Gorden tells Brownfield growers are not paid monthly and were unable to produce the receipts required for the program. “It’s tough to see the help that’s out there for a lot of agricultural producers and for some reason tart cherries get left behind quite often,” she says. She says some tart cherry sales did suffer from COVID-19 but canner sales for pie filling and canned cherries increased as consumers baked more at home.
The National Potato Council says they appreciate the changes which now make potatoes eligible for all three categories of payments. The group requested in June USDA provide equitable support for potato growers who are facing a 1.5 billion pound oversupply of fresh potatoes-for-processing and potato products, which they say are trapped in the supply chain with no likely customers.
The US Apple Association’s request included 30 pages of actual sales data on more than 43 million bushels of apples, more than half of all apples marketed from January to April. Price declines during that period ranged from 6.5 to nearly 25 percent. The groups said USDA’s analysis was flawed using Ag Marketing Service terminal data, which many times are offerings, not actual sales. Productivity at packinghouses is also expected to decrease by up to 20 percent as processors implement COVID-19 social distancing protocols and labor costs have increased as the industry implements protective measures for employees.