USDA Announces Expanded COVID-19 Aid for Producers

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Wednesday that it is opening new programs for assistance for farmers, ranchers, and producers who have been affected by COVID-19 pandemic-related disruptions to their markets. The aid, entitled “USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers,” reportedly will reach more producers than previous programs, specifically the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will be moved into the new initiative. 

The USDA said it will allocate $6 billion to fund the new programs and put “greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, (and) timber harvesters.” The new programs also are designed to bolster the food supply chain, help producers of renewable fuel, and aid other food producers. 

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in the press release that these alterations are meant to fix gaps in how aid was allocated and distributed previously, specifically increasing outreach to producers in small or medium sized businesses. 

“The pandemic affected all of agriculture, but many farmers did not benefit from previous rounds of pandemic-related assistance. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to helping as many producers as possible, as equitably as possible,” Vilsack said in the release. “Our new USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative will help get financial assistance to a broader set of producers, including to socially disadvantaged communities, small and medium sized producers, and farmers and producers of less traditional crops.”

In its announcement, the USDA said it will open signup for CFAP 2 for 60 days beginning April 5 and is working to improve outreach by partnering with organizations that are connected to disadvantaged communities. The announcement also said that CFAP 1 payments for cattle were increased and that an additional $20 per acre will be available for approved crops under CFAP 2. Payments for this aid will be sent under the current CFAP rules, but “future opportunities for USDA Pandemic Assistance” still need to be reviewed through the rulemaking process. The USDA said it plans to “make eligibility more consistent with the Farm Bill.” 

In addition to the $6 billion to expand assistance, the USDA said that an additional $500 million will be allocated to existing aid programs this spring. These programs were listed in the USDA’s announcement and will help farmers use existing programs to receive pandemic assistance.