The U.S. Department of Agriculture widened its net of who is eligible for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments, which now includes all sheep producers as well as liquid and frozen egg producers and additional specialty crops, aquaculture and nursery crops and flowers. In the announcement issued Tuesday, USDA also said it would extend the CFAP signup deadline to Sept. 11.
To ensure the availability of funding, producers with approved applications initially received 80% of their payments. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) said it will automatically issue the remaining 20% of the calculated payment to eligible producers. Going forward, producers who apply for CFAP will receive 100% of their total payment, not to exceed the payment limit, when their applications are approved.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security (CARES) Act allowed for an estimated $16 billion to be distributed to farmers as warranted by USDA -- with funds split between the CARES Act authorization and the remaining Commodity Credit Corp. (CCC) funds. To date, in its latest reporting issued Aug. 10, USDA noted that it has issued a total of $7.03 billion in payments to 521,853 applicants. Nearly half of those funds have been distributed to livestock producers, and corn and soybean producers make up another one-fourth of recipients.
Last week, many agricultural groups had sought an extension of the CFAP signup deadline and additional inclusions for affected commodities after those receiving funds so far represented only 24% of farms nationwide.
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of the groups that signed the letter to the agency, said, “We thank USDA for responding quickly to our letter and addressing the needs of America’s farmers and ranchers as they fight to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has taken its toll on farmers across the country, regardless of what they grow or raise. No one can tell when this pandemic will end, and extending the deadline and expanding eligibility will provide a lifeline at a time it’s needed most."
In recent days, members of Congress had also sought additional inclusions for sheep. Only lambs and yearlings (sheep under two years old) were previously eligible. In addition, egg producers had actively spoken out about how certain segments of their industry saw a greater impact due to the foodservice shutdowns.
CFAP payments for liquid and frozen eggs will be equal to the sum of the results of the following two calculations:
- First-quarter production multiplied by the CARES Act payment rate, and
- First-quarter production multiplied by the CCC payment rate.
First-quarter production is defined as production during January, February and March 2020. The CARES Act payment would amount to 5 cents/lb., and the CCC rate would be 2 cents/lb.
Ken Klippen, president of the National Association of Egg Farmers, said of the news, “We are very pleased to see liquid eggs included in CFAP. This is the life preserver that many liquid eggs farmers needed.”
United Egg Producers president and chief executive officer Chad Gregory added, "America’s egg farmers are deeply appreciative of the continued support of USDA. From trade support to redirecting eggs from restaurants into retail, and from purchases of eggs to financial relief for some farms in need, USDA has been a valued partner to our industry, and we are grateful."
The sheep payment rate allows for $33 per head under the CARES Act and $7 per head under the CCC for all sheep under two years old and all other sheep at a rate of $24 per head under CARES and $7 per head under the CCC allocation.
“In mid-March, when the global pandemic hit domestic foodservice and retail, the American Lamb industry saw a tremendous hit to our markets at the peak Easter season, when we were looking forward to strong demand. Our initial estimates were that the immediate cost to our sector exceeded $125 million, with long-term impacts over $350 million,” American Sheep Industry Assn. (ASI) senior policy and information director Chase Adams said.
“We were very pleased that the USDA covered lambs under two years of age and wool when the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program was first announced, and we have continued to work with them since to include cull and replacement ewes. With market data provided by ASI, we were able to show significant losses to those older ewes, and we greatly appreciate USDA’s consideration of that data and inclusion of this class of sheep in their announcement of expanded eligibility. America’s sheep producers have been hit hard by this pandemic, and this assistance will help our producers weather this storm,” he added.
Remaining payments coming
In response to comments and data received by the public, USDA announced on July 9 that it would make more than 40 additional specialty crop commodities eligible for the program. Nearly 60 additional commodities were announced on Aug. 11, including additions to specialty crops and livestock, along with the inclusion of nursery crops and cut flowers, aquaculture and certain types of eggs. Besides these newly eligible commodities, USDA also expanded funding categories for several commodities and adjusted payment rates for others.
Applications for commodities announced on Aug. 11 will be accepted beginning the week of Aug. 17. If a producer submitted a CFAP application for a previously ineligible commodity and the application was disapproved, the producer must submit a new CFAP application. If the producer submitted an application and was paid for CFAP but also has crops that are now considered eligible or are now eligible for CARES Act funding for sales losses, the producer should NOT submit a new application but should instead contact the local FSA office to amend the application.
For producers who have already applied for CFAP and whose commodities have experienced payment rate increases, FSA will automatically calculate the increase and issue a payment.
Applying for CFAP
“Many hard-working farm families have not gone through federal programs before and need help navigating their way through the process," Duvall noted. "We’re working to ensure farmers who now qualify for aid are made aware that it is available to them, and we encourage the USDA to expand its outreach efforts to do the same.”
Producers, especially those who have not worked with FSA previously, are recommended to call (877) 508-8364 to begin the application process. An FSA staff member can help producers start their application during the phone call.
- Download the AD-3114 application form and manually complete the form to submit to their local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to their local office or office drop box, and
- Complete the application form using the CFAP Application Generator & Payment Calculator. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center.
If producers have login credentials known as eAuthentication, they can use the online CFAP Application Portal to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center.
All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap. For existing FSA customers, these documents are likely already on file.