WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created a new program to help farmers, ranchers, and consumers deal with the coronavirus crisis.
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will provide $19 billion in immediate relief to maintain the integrity of the food supply chain and ensure every American has access to the food they need.
“During this time of national crisis, President Trump and USDA are standing with our farmers, ranchers, and all citizens to make sure they are taken care of,” says U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue. “The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers. This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.”
CFAP has two major elements:
1. It will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.
2. USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. This will start with the purchase of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.
In addition, USDA has up to an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. Congress has also approved at least $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases.
Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and the Dairy Business Association issued a statement in response to the USDA’s announcement:
“As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our economy, millions of Americans cannot afford food, many for the first time in their lives, and our farmers who produce this food are struggling to survive financially. This federal assistance will be a bridge for both.”
“The dedication of our farmers to the well-being of America has never been more evident as our nation combats COVID-19. Day in and day out, they are tirelessly stepping up so that families have safe, wholesome and affordable food.”
“We thank the USDA for supporting us in this critical mission.”
Minnesota Republican Congressman Jim Hagedorn issued this statement:
“The agriculture relief package announced by President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is a much needed first step to help farmers and agri-businesses overcome the pause in our economy due to the coronavirus. I am pleased the Food Assistance Program includes direct food purchases and other solutions I have offered Secretary Perdue over the past several weeks.
“Prior to the coronavirus, southern Minnesota’s farmers and agri-businesses were increasingly optimistic. Passage of the USMCA trade deal, signing of the Phase One pact with China, and new agreements with Japan and other nations were opening up markets and creating demand. Dairy operations were profitable again and farmers were looking forward to our early spring and likely great growing season."
“I appreciate the administration’s intent to purchase $3 billion of meat, dairy and fresh produce for distribution to the American people via food banks and other organizations. This will help feed our neighbors and reduce the short-term excess food supply that is destroying agriculture markets."
“While specific details of the $14.5 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation payments are not yet available, I am hopeful our livestock farmers will be first in line for assistance."
“With restaurants closed and demand for fine cuts of meat dramatically lower, the livestock markets have fallen through the floor. Hog farmers are losing as much as $50 a head, while cattlemen are losing more than $300 per steer. Meanwhile, some packing plants are closed or operating under reduced capacity, which could lead to the destruction of livestock. Make no mistake, livestock operators are on the brink."
“Had Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats not stripped $20 billion in agriculture funding out of the CARES Act, the agriculture package would have been far more substantive. I don’t know what the speaker was thinking, but I do know how her actions have hurt our farmers."
“I support providing additional resources and will work with my House Agriculture Committee colleagues to gain more relief for farmers, who are facing losses through no fault of their own. I will also continue working directly with Secretary Perdue and USDA on my market-based Livestock Risk Protection Plan to mitigate pork and beef losses."
“Sustaining agriculture is critically important to our economy and rural way of life. It is also imperative to maintaining our food supply, which is a matter of national security.”