USDA is continuing its rollout of aid to segments of the agriculture industry impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Today, June 15, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced additional aid to agricultural producers and businesses as part of the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Since January, USDA has allocated $11 billion to producers and food and ag business.

This new round of funds will focus on a number of gaps and disparities in previous rounds of aid, according to Vilsack. As part of the Pandemic Assistance initiative announced in March, USDA pledged to continue Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments and to provide aid to producers and businesses left behind.

“USDA is honoring its commitment to get financial assistance to producers and critical agricultural businesses, especially those left out or underserved by previous COVID aid,” Vilsack said in a news release. “These investments through USDA Pandemic Assistance will help our food, agriculture and forestry sectors get back on track and plan for the future.”

The following programming is planned for implementation within 60 days:

  • Support for dairy farmers and processors:

  • $400 million: The new Dairy Donation Program to address food insecurity and mitigate food waste and loss

  • Additional pandemic payments targeted to dairy farmers that have demonstrated losses that have not been covered by previous pandemic assistance

  • Approximately $580 million: Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage for small and medium farms

  • Assistance for poultry and livestock producers left out of previous rounds of pandemic assistance:

  • Contract growers of poultry

  • Livestock and poultry producers forced to euthanize animals during the pandemic (March 1, 2020 through December 26, 2020)

  • $700 million: Pandemic Response and Safety Grants for PPE and other protective measures to help specialty crop growers, meat packers and processors, seafood industry workers, among others

  • Up to $20 million: Additional organic cost share assistance, including for producers who are transitioning to organic

  • $700 million: Biofuels producer

  • $200 million: Small, family-owned timber harvesting and hauling businesses

USDA announced the aid Tuesday amid reports the administration is considering ways to give relief to oil refiners on requirements they mix ethanol and other biofuels with fuel, a step fought by groups representing Midwestern farmers, according to Farm Journal Washington Correspondent Jim Wiesemeyer. Vilsack declined to comment on the reports, citing the Environmental Protection Agency’s jurisdiction over the program.

The aid comes from funding earmarked for agricultural producers in the $1.9 trillion Biden Covid-19 relief package Congress passed in March. 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, according to USDA. Through USDA’s Build Back Better initiative, USDA has already announced $5 billion in a mix of loans, grants and financing.

Since USDA rolled out the Pandemic Assistance initiative in March, the Department has announced approximately $6.8 billion in assistance to producers and agriculture entities through the following programs:

  • $6.295 billion: Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments to farmers, ranchers and producers (March 24th)

  • $35 million: Value Added Producer Grants (March 5th)

  • $169.9 million: Specialty Crop Block Grants (April 13th)

  • $75 million: Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (April 13th)

  • $37.5 million: Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (April 13th)

  • $80 million: Payments to Domestic Users of Cotton (April 13th)

  • $92.2 million: Local Agriculture Market Program (May 5th)

  • Approximately $20 Million: Pandemic Cover Crop Program (June 1st)

Thirteen congressional members from New England are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to intervene on behalf of farmers left in the lurch by Danone SA, the French food giant that owns the Horizon Organic brand.

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