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Billions in USDA pandemic assistance continues

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Deadline extended for livestock pandemic assistance and update offered on $700 billion for biofuels sector.

USDA has made over 20 announcements of significant resources of the pandemic assistance, according to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. An anticipated $700 million in COVID aid for the biofuels industry waits at the Office of Management and Budget for final rule review, while the administration continues to dole out pandemic assistance to farmers and related industries.

To date, USDA has paid out $13.8 billion in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments in the second round (CFAP2) and $10.5 billion for CFAP1. 

USDA announced Sept. 16 it is providing additional time for livestock and poultry producers to apply for the Pandemic Livestock Indemnity Program. Producers who suffered losses during the pandemic due to insufficient access to processing may now apply for assistance for those losses and the cost of depopulation and disposal of the animals through Oct. 12, 2021, rather than the original deadline of Sept. 17, 2021. PLIP is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.

“Livestock and poultry producers were among the hardest hit by the pandemic,” says Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. “We want to ensure that all eligible producers have the opportunity to apply for this critical assistance. The Oct. 12 deadline also aligns with the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 deadline.” 

PLIP provides payments to producers for losses of livestock or poultry depopulated from March 1, 2020 through Dec. 26, 2020, due to insufficient processing access as a result of the pandemic. Payments are based on 80% of the fair market value of the livestock and poultry and for the cost of depopulation and disposal of the animal. Eligible livestock and poultry include swine, chickens and turkeys. 

PLIP payments are calculated by multiplying the number of head of eligible livestock or poultry by the payment rate per head, and then subtracting the amount of any payments the eligible livestock or poultry owner has received for disposal of the livestock or poultry under the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program or a state program. The payments will also be reduced by any Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 1 and 2) payments paid on the same inventory of swine that were depopulated. 

Eligible livestock and poultry producers can apply for PLIP through the Oct. 12, 2021 deadline by completing the FSA-620, Pandemic Livestock Indemnity Program application, and submitting it to any FSA county office. Additional documentation may be required. Visit farmers.gov/plip for more information on how to apply. 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, provided up to $1 billion for payments to contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry for revenue losses from Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 27, 2020. Contract producers of broilers, pullets, layers, chicken eggs, turkeys, hogs and pigs, ducks, geese, pheasants and quail may be eligible for the CFAP2 assistance.

Upcoming biofuel assistance

In a media call Sept. 9, Vilsack shares the department is also finalizing plans to provide $700 million to the biofuels industry as they didn’t receive any in the previous rounds. “We are utilizing some of the resources that had been provided under the American Rescue Plan COVID package to provide that additional help to producers,” he says.

USDA also plans to provide additional support for biofuels infrastructure to make sure higher blends are more readily available for consumers. The administration is also looking at expanding opportunities in the biofuels area, including enormous opportunities in the sustainable aviation area.

The Department also invested $464 million to build or improve renewable energy infrastructure, including $129 million through the Rural Energy for America Program and $335 million through the electric loan program.

As an example, in North Dakota, Red Trail Energy LLC will use a $25 million loan to build a carbon-capture processing and storage facility at an ethanol manufacturing facility. The project will provide a 40 to 50 percent reduction in the carbon intensity score of ethanol the company produces. It also will enable the company to distribute ethanol to low-carbon fuel standard markets.

Small producer grants

USDA also will soon be publishing requests for applications for new grant programs - the Pandemic Response and Safety Grant program and the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant program - to support agricultural stakeholders who haven’t yet received substantial federal financial assistance in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. These grant programs will provide assistance to small businesses in certain commodity areas, including small scale specialty crop producers and processors, shellfish, aquaculture and other select producers, meat and other processors, distributors, farmers markets, seafood facilities and processing vessels.

USDA released grant forecasts for these new programs to help potential applicants determine their eligibility and to prepare to apply for funding. Approximately $650 million in funding is available for the PRS grants and $50 million is available for SPRS. All of these new programs are funded by the Pandemic Assistance provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

“The funding associated with USDA Pandemic Assistance is meant to serve as a bridge from disruptions associated with the pandemic to longer-term investments to help build back a better food system,” says Vilsack. “Financial relief to these essential producers, distributors, processors and other small agricultural businesses is a critical to get our food system back on track.”

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