WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Trump administration has announced it will provide up to $14 billion in additional farm aid for producers through the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP.
Several agricultural commodities — including all varieties of wheat, winegrapes, goats, bison, mohair, tobacco, hemp and mink — will be eligible for payments for the first time. Signup is through Dec. 11.
“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations’ farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted.”
This second round of CFAP funding divides commodities into three main categories, including so-called price trigger commodities, flat-rate crops and sales commodities.
Price trigger commodities are defined as major commodities that meet a minimum 5% price decline over a specified period, such as corn, soybeans and wheat. Payments will be based on 2020 planted acres, according to the USDA.
Dairy payments, on the other hand, will be based on both the actual milk production between April 1 and Aug. 31, and estimated milk production between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31 as determined by the Farm Service Agency.
Payments for beef cattle, hogs, lambs and sheep will be based on the maximum inventory of eligible livestock on a date selected by the rancher between April 16 and Aug. 31.
Flat-rate crops are defined as those that do not meet the 5% price decline trigger, or do not have data available to calculate the price change. Examples include cotton, oats, peanuts, rice and hemp. Payments for these crops will be calculated based on eligible 2020 acres, multiplied by $15 per acre.
Finally, sales commodities include certain specialty and nursery crops that do not meet the price trigger or flat-rate categories. Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach in which producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales.
Industry groups representing commodities covered by CFAP for the first time expressed gratitude at the USDA’s announcement on Sept. 18.
CFAP expanded benefits to wheat growers, including soft red winter, hard red winter and white wheat varieties. Originally, the first round of CFAP only covered hard red spring and durum wheat growers, which accounted for just 30% of 2019 production.
Dave Milligan, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, said the relief comes at a time when futures prices for wheat have dropped more than 12% since the beginning of 2020 through early August.
“Through NAWG’s efforts and support from congressional members of wheat producing states, the organization was able to demonstrate the need for this change and make it happen for its members,” Milligan said. “NAWG applauds USDA’s work on CFAP and will continue to work with the agency throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure all wheat farmers in need of support have access to it.”
Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Winegrowers Association and Winegrape Growers of America, said the challenge for vintners was convincing the USDA that, while their previous year’s grape contracts were already settled, the pandemic does threaten future sales heading into the 2020 harvest.
“These programs are necessarily trying to create an immediate support for those agricultural crops that have seen immediate impact to their sales,” Scharlau said. “The challenge for many industries, and certainly for the winegrape industry, is that ours is not immediate, but it will be severe and will lag.”
One study funded by the Washington Winegrowers Association, Washington Wine Institute and Washington State Wine Commission found that lost winegrape sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic will total $225 million for the state industry.
John Aguirre, executive director of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, said that state’s industry could take a $437 million hit in lost grape sales.
“CFAP assistance has been an important goal for CAWG for the past five months,” Aguirre said. “CFAP 2 will provide growers with much-needed financial assistance to help them with the significant and continuing market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”