USDA on Thursday expanded the agricultural commodities that can apply for aid under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
Farmers who grow apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines and taro can now apply for funds under the CARES Act because USDA determined they had losses of greater than a 5% price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of COVID-19. Farmers of those crops can apply for assistance with USDA starting July 13.
USDA also has corrected the payment rates for apples, artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, garlic, kiwifruit, mushrooms, papaya, peaches, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, tangerines and taro. Peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for payment under the CARES Act for lost sales, USDA stated.
USDA also added the following commodities to the program for farmers to apply for direct aid: alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac (celery root), chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce – including Boston, green leaf, Lolla Rossa, oak leaf green, oak leaf red and red leaf – marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme and turnip top greens.
As of July 6, USDA had paid out $5.36 billion under the CFAP to 365,262 producers. Cattle, dairy, corn, hogs and soybeans are the largest commodities for claims.
USDA is accepting applications for CFAP funds through Aug. 28.
More information can be found at https://www.farmers.gov/…
USDA Accepts Acres for CRP Grasslands
The Farm Service Agency announced Thursday it had accepted 1.2 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program during a signup period that ended May 15.
Landowners signing up for the CRP Grasslands program receive an annual rental payment and also can receive up to a 50% cost share for adding approved conservation practices. The CRP contract and run 10 to 15 years. The 2018 farm bill set aside at least 2 million acres for CRP Grasslands enrollment. USDA states that on Oct. 1, 2020, the program will have 2.1 million acres enrolled.
“This large and unprecedented enrollment is a reflection of the popularity and importance of CRP Grasslands,” said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “The program emphasizes support for grazing operations and plant and animal biodiversity while protecting land under the greatest threat of conversion or development.”
CRP Grasslands can be used for rangeland and pasture while also allowing common grazing practices such as haying, mowing or harvesting seed from the land. Timing on some activities can be restricted depending on primary nest seasons for birds.
Legislation on COVID-19 and Food Supply
At least two bills were filed in Congress on Thursday tied to changing some practices at USDA related to COVID-19.
Reps. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., introduced the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to slow down line speeds for cattle, pork and poultry slaughter. The bill would restrict the speeds in which packing plants can process meat.
USDA has come under criticism because the department continued approving waivers for speeding up line speeds at poultry plants as coronavirus outbreaks were hitting packing plants in April. A news release backing the legislation also points out the National Employment Law Project found the waivers led to increased injuries for worker and more work-safety violations.
The Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act would also require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a review of actions by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Labor in response to the pandemic to determine effectiveness of such actions in protecting animal, food and worker safety.
Another bill introduced comes from Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., the "American Farms, Food Banks and Families Act," that would focus on ensuring the food supply chain remains a national priority. The act would create a new position at USDA specifically focused on addressing issues with the domestic food supply chain. The "agriculture supply chain administrator" would identify regulatory or statutory barriers that could prevent or inhibit domestic growers from offering their product to the domestic market through food distribution entities; promoting the domestic supply chain; and connecting growers with surplus products with appropriate food distribution organizations, a news release states.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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