USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Farm Service Agency held a webinar on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program for farmers and ranchers. The webinar focused on the general application process and what documentation may be required to apply for the direct payments.
USDA first announced on April 17 that it was releasing a $16 billion direct-aid package to producers from funds provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The aid package is expected to provide $9.6 billion to livestock producers, $3.9 billion to commodity crop growers, $2.1 billion for fruit-and-vegetable growers and $500 million to farmers who grow other various niche products.
Payments were initially expected to be limited to $125,000 for each commodity with a $250,000 payment cap, but Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Brownfield radio last week that the payment limits have been adjusted after hearing from livestock groups regarding their financial losses.
Unfortunately, the Ag Department did not announce how the payments for the program will be determined, and they are still finalizing the details of the program. The rule was sent to OMB on May 5th and is still listed as pending review.
One of the FSA’s chief concerns is that they’ll hear from a lot of producers who they’ve never worked with before and may be unfamiliar with the process. So they held the webinar to provide some basic details of the program. Much of the 15-minute webinar was focused on forms that producers must fill out to be eligible for direct aid, especially if those farmers or livestock producers have never enrolled in aid programs through the Farm Service Agency.
So here’s what we know for now: When the application period opens, contact your county FSA office by phone as many staff members are still working from home at this time. FSA asks producers not to send any personal information to USDA without first initiating contact through a phone call.
FSA will likely have half a dozen forms to fill out, but producers will need to have the following information:
- Contact Information
- Personal, including your Tax Identification Number
- Farming operating structure
- Adjusted Gross Income to ensure eligibility
- Direct deposit to enable payment processing
While the application process has not yet started, FSA staff recommend gathering and understanding your operation’s recent sales and inventory for 2020. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed.
If you are new to working with the Farm Service Agency, they have county offices located at USDA Service Centers across the country. To find your office or for more information on the CFAP program, click here. The full 15-minute webinar can be viewed here.
USDA still does not have a sign-up date set for the new aid package, but FSA offices will start staff training for enrollment next week.