New Report Helps Agricultural Producers Navigate Federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

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Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

On May 19, 2020, USDA released details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). CFAP’s $19 billion package contains two primary components. First, USDA will partner with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat and provide those commodities to those in need. The bulk of the program is designed to provide $16 billion in direct support to farmers and ranchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible commodities for direct support include livestock (cattle, hogs, and sheep), dairy, wool, several grain crops, specialty fruit crops (including blueberries, and watermelons), specialty vegetable crops, nuts, and others (such as beans and mushrooms).

For our local cattlemen, there will be assistance paid for those who sold calves between January 15 and April 15. And even if you did not sell any cattle during those dates, assistance funds are still available for cattle owned during those dates.

Signup will be from May 26 to August 28, 2020. Once signup begins, eligible producers should call their county Farm Service Agency (FSA) office to schedule an appointment. The local FSA office serving Angelina County can be reached by calling (936) 564-5891.

To help affected producers navigate this new program, Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M University co-directors Dr. Bart Fischer and Dr. Joe Outlaw, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economists Dr. David Andersons and Dr. Justin Benavidez authored a timely report.

Overview of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is available at https://www.afpc.tamu.edu/research/publications/files/699/RR-20-02.pdf.

The report provides an excellent overview of the program, provides clarification on payment rates and eligible commodities, payment limits, income tests, and payment reductions. It also provides payment calculations and examples by commodity.

The report’s lead author, Dr. Bart Fischer, notes that while CFAP provides a significant amount of aid, there are a number of losses not covered. A previous AFPC report estimated Texas agricultural losses alone could exceed $8 billion. That report can be read at https://afpc.tamu.edu/research/publications/files/698/RR-20-01.pdf.

Dr. Fischer identified one area of concern not addressed by CFAP that could affect several local beef producers. While cattle producers, in particular, are the biggest recipients of assistance from CFAP, the estimated support for cattle is still significantly less than half of the damages estimated by industry.

While animals in inventory from April 16 to May 14, will be eligible for a CFAP payment, there likely will be calls to provide additional assistance to producers who had to depopulate animals in response to COVID-19. Also, those producing poultry on contract and paid by pounds produced may accrue significant additional losses.

Looking ahead, cattle producers need to follow updates to the CFAP closely. As Congress
continues to debate the next steps, these and other issues will be at the forefront.

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