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USDA COVID-19 Funds for Farmers Excludes Hemp, Tobacco

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released information earlier this week about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) which is meant to provide aid to farmers and ranchers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides direct relief to producers who are encountering additional marketing costs or product price declines. Hemp is among the products that the USDA specifies for which it will not provide aid.

Products that have not suffered at least a 5 percent drop in value between January and April 2020 are not eligible for aid through the program. The list of ineligible commodities according to the USDA notice includes “sheep more than two years old, eggs/layers, soft red winter wheat, hard red winter wheat, white wheat, rice, flax, rye, peanuts, feed barley, Extra Long Staple (ELS) cotton, alfalfa, forage crops, hemp, and tobacco.”

Eligible farmers will receive aid funded through the CARES Act, which provides $9.5 billion, or the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act, which provides $6.5 billion. Agricultural producers can apply for aid starting on May 26.

Marijuana Moment reported that the initial notice singled out hemp as a non-supported product that is ineligible for reevaluation. Hours later, the language was removed from the notice. They said the USDA initially made the decision to exclude hemp from receiving a reevaluation even if evidence showed the crop’s value had declined. With hemp now able to be reevaluated, tobacco is the only item ineligible for reevaluation.

“This development from USDA seems unusual given that the department has seemingly made a significant effort to demonstrate that it is supportive of the hemp industry and is actively working to ensure that the market has the resources it needs to expand since the crop’s federal legalization in 2018,” Marijuana Moment reported.

COVID-19 funds have also been in question for cannabis businesses in states where they are legal and have been deemed essential. Representatives proposed a bill that would make the funding available for businesses after they were not given the ability to apply for small business relief funding.

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