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Farmers, Take Note About CFAP – Imperfect but Important COVID Relief Program

Many of us hoped that the USDA’s relatively launched Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), would offer financial help for a wide range of farmers, including beginning farmers, those serving local markets, conservation farmers, and historically underserved farmers. late May.

Unfortunately, the program, which passed in late May, isn’t perfect. Like many USDA programs, CFAP is less than optimally suited for diversified farms, those that sell into local and regional markets, and value-added producers (organic, grassfed, etc).  It works best for those operations with the simplest production systems who can demonstrate a loss in price or sales this year, and who sell into commodity and wholesale markets.

But this program will disperse $16 billion to farmers, and it’s important that farmers who are eligible  know that they can apply, that there’s help and advice in applying, and that they should quickly get started applying.  Please note the helpful info from some of our partner non-profits at the bottom of the page that may help you as you consider applying.”

Here’s some basic info:
CFAP can provide financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities that have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline, or farmers with losses due to COVID-related market supply chain disruptions and who face additional significant market costs.  Note that farmers are eligible if the type of commodity which they grow/sell suffered at least a 5% price drop earlier this year; they themselves don’t need to have experienced that price drop to be eligible.

Eligible commodities include: Non-specialty crops (malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, and hard red spring wheat), wool, livestock (cattle, hogs, and sheep [lambs and yearlings only]), dairy, and the following specialty crops:

  • Fruits: apples, avocados, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, kiwifruit, lemons, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines, tomatoes, watermelons
  • Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, dry onions, green onions, peppers, potatoes, rhubarb, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, taro
  • Nuts: almonds, pecans, walnuts
  • Other: beans, mushrooms

To be eligible for payments, a person or legal entity must have an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 for tax years 2016, 2017, and 2018.  However, if 75 percent of their adjusted gross income comes from farming, ranching, or forestry, the AGI limit of $900,000 does not apply.

Program information can be found at: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.  Producers should apply through their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Service Center.  USDA Service Centers are operating by phone appointment only, so FSA is working with agricultural producers by phone, and using email and online tools to process applications.  You should call your FSA county office to schedule an appointment.

USDA is accepting CFAP applications through August 28, 2020, but again, farmers are strongly advised to apply soon, as financial resources for other COVID programs have been exhausted relatively quickly.  Note that applying for CFAP benefits is somewhat more complicated than applying to other USDA programs.  The USDA’s CFAP Call Center is available for producers wishing additional one-on-one support with the CFAP application process.  You can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has an online guide to the CFAP process (https://sustainableagriculture.net/our-work/nsac-response-to-covid-19/cfap-101-for-producers/), while the Farmers’ Legal Action Group has a detailed CFAP guide available to download (http://www.flaginc.org/2020/05/farmers-guide-to-the-coronavirus-food-assistance-program-cfap/).