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Trump, Perdue announce 19-billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through USDA

President Trump has announced a 19-billion-dollar Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for the agriculture sector.  Trump says, “The program will include direct payments to farmers as well as mass purchases of dairy, meat, and agricultural produce to get that food to the people in need.”

Secretary Sonny Perdue spoke at the White House Friday afternoon and outlined what’s in the USDA administered aid package for farmers, ranchers, and consumers. Perdue says, “The program is really divided into two parts. One is a direct payment, sixteen-billion dollars in direct payments to farmers, ranchers, and producers who experienced unprecedented losses during this pandemic.”

Perdue says USDA will use six-and-a-half billion in existing Commodity Credit Corporation funds along with nineteen-point-five billion of COVID money rather than wait for the replenishment of CCC funds in July. 

Perdue says USDA will also be buying three-billion dollars’ worth of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to be distributed soon through food bank networks as well as community and faith-based networks. “USDA will do everything in our power to implement this program as quickly and as efficiently as possible to help our farmers, ranchers, producers, and consumers during this great time of need.”

USDA says $16 billion will go to direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers.  

Nine-point-six billion is set aside for the livestock industry, with five-point-one billion to cattle producers, two-point-nine billion to the dairy industry, one-point-six billion to pork, three-point nine billion to row crop producers, two-point-one billion to specialty crops, and five hundred million for other crops. USDA says producers will receive a single payment based on both 85% of price losses between January first and April 15th, and 30% of expected losses from April 15th through the next two quarters with a limit of $125,000 per commodity and an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity.

USDA says the three-billion in food purchases will procure 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. Distributors and wholesalers will then provide pre-approved boxes of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits.  The program also expands waivers for EBT purchases under the SNAP program in all 50 states, helps certain food products like dairy and eggs reach retail settings easier, and gives deferrals, maturity extensions, and other loan flexibilities for USDA programs.

The Administration’s plan is drawing praise from ag groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Dairy Business Association.

National Milk Producers President Jim Mulhern says the plan should provide important relief to some producers, and NMPF looks forward to learning more of its details to fully understand its scope and implementation. The Dairy Business Association issued a statement saying 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. DBA says this federal assistance will be a bridge for both. FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative President John Rettler urges USDA to distribute these much-needed funds to dairy farmers as quickly as possible, saying time is of the essence as dairy farmers contemplate how to weather this storm of COVID-19.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says the coronavirus pandemic forced the closing of restaurants, schools and college cafeterias, causing commodity prices to fall off a cliff and serious disruptions to food supply chains. He says this sixteen- billion in aid will help keep food on Americans’ tables by providing a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Marty Smith pointed to an estimated eight billion in cow-calf producer losses, two-point-five billion in stocker and backgrounder losses, and three billion in feedlot losses, saying the USDA funds represent a start to stabilizing the industry, but there is much more work to be done to protect cattle producers.

The biofuels industry sees the assistance plan as a missed opportunity. Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper says they appreciate that USDA’s new program provides needed assistance to the nation’s farmers and ranchers, but it is unfortunate and disappointing that the 350,000 workers supported by America’s ethanol industry were left behind. Cooper says USDA missed a crucial opportunity to lend a helping hand to an industry that is suffering the worst economic crisis in its history.

Excerpt from President Trump’s press conference 4-17-20

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