The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new initiative that will distribute more than $12 billion to farmers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, March 24.
The USDA will dedicate at least $6 billion to the new USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers, and will also distribute aid that was put on hold or newly allocated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The department says the new initiative will reach a wider range of farmers than previous COVID-19 relief programs.
“The pandemic affected all of agriculture, but many farmers did not benefit from previous rounds of pandemic-related assistance,” said Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture.
The initiative will include existing programs, like the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, and new programs, which will emphasize small and socially disadvantaged farmers, specialty crop and organic farmers and timber harvesters, and will support the food supply chain and renewable fuel producers. The USDA expects to develop rules for new programs this spring.
CFAP 2 will reopen for at least 60 days, beginning April 5. The Farm Service Agency has dedicated at least $2.5 million to improve outreach for the program, particularly to socially disadvantaged communities.
Payments required by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was enacted in December, will go out under existing CFAP rules, but the USDA will look to update rules for future pandemic assistance.
The USDA estimates another $5.6 billion in payments will go out under existing program rules. Eligible farmers who have already applied do not need to sign up again.
The initiative also aims to use existing programs to offer better educational and market opportunities for farmers. It will add $500 million in funding to existing programs, like the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Local Agricultural Marketing Program.
The American Farm Bureau Federation welcomed the initiative in a March 24 statement and urged the USDA to act quickly to assist contract livestock and poultry growers who haven’t received aid yet.
The National Farmers Union thanked the USDA for reviewing its previous efforts and taking steps to bring aid for farmers who initially were excluded in a March 24 statement.
“This sensible approach will help reach farmers who have previously been excluded from relief programs and keep them in business,” said farmers union president Rob Larew.
The National Milk Producers Federation praised the USDA’s support for dairy farmers and for considering additional payments for dairy farmers who have been impacted by the pandemic in a March 24 statement.
For more details on the initiative, visit farmers.gov.