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Q: When will the USDA open the next round of pandemic relief assistance for producers?



A: Just as planting season gets into full swing, Farm Service Agencies across the country will open the application process for the third round of pandemic relief assistance starting April 5, 2021 for at least 60 days. The USDA announced it will distribute producer payments under existing CFAP rules from last year that Congress approved to address catastrophic hardship and disruptions to the food supply caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the USDA announced it will expand assistance for specialty crops and target pandemic assistance for farmers most in need, particularly small and medium sized producers. This third phase of pandemic relief funding will add an additional $500 million through existing programs, including the Local Agricultural Marketing Program; Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach; Specialty Crop Block Grant Program; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to support farm stress assistance programs. The USDA will dedicate $6 billion in unspent pandemic relief dollars and money Congress included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in December to provide additional assistance to producers who qualify for help with their operations, including dairy; euthanized livestock and poultry herds; specialty crops; beginning farmers; organic farms; biofuels; and, conservation practices. In addition, USDA will evaluate applications for assistance providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for food and farm workers, processors and distributors; improving the resilience of the food supply chain (many Iowans will recall consumers faced empty meat cases at local grocery stores last year due to supply chain disruptions); and improving food donations and distribution systems for perishable food to help reduce food waste and curb hunger.


Q: What do producers need to know about formula payments under existing CFAP laws?


A: In the December Consolidated Appropriations Act Congress ensured certainty by requiring the USDA to continue CFAP payments already approved under law. The USDA announced it will expedite those payments starting in April. That includes an increase in CFAP 1 payments for cattle producers with previously approved applications. The USDA estimates more than 410,000 cattle producers will receive additional payments from their approved applications. FSA will automatically issue payments for producers of eligible crops under CFAP 2 for alfalfa, corn, soybeans, hemp, sorghum, among other crops. For a list of eligible row-crop acres included in the CFAP 2 payments, go to farmers.gov/cfap


Q: What do producers need to know about formula payments under existing CFAP laws?


A: Economic fall-out from the pandemic hit transportation fuel providers especially hard, as hundreds of millions of Americans stopped flying, driving and commuting to and from work and school. Leisure and business travel effectively came to a complete halt, drying up demand at the pump. The decrease in fuel consumption forced more than 100 ethanol facilities last year to idle production or shut down entirely. Their closures and unprecedented challenges impacted farm income, particularly prices for corn and soybeans, and affected the vitality of the rural economy that’s closely linked to the health of the renewable fuel industry in communities across the Midwest. As longtime champions for renewable biofuels, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and I urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to unleash the money Congress approved in December to get immediate help to biofuel producers. We identified $13 billion in unspent funds that would provide a critical financial lifeline for ethanol producers and biodiesel plants. In fact, we introduced a bill last May to ensure biofuels producers weren’t left behind and secured language in the spending law Congress passed in December that specifies renewable fuel producers are eligible to receive pandemic relief money. In early March, I worked with Sen. Klobuchar in leading a letter to Secretary Vilsack to ensure biofuel producers received assistance. Keeping the renewable fuel industry afloat to come out stronger than ever in the economic recovery is important for jobs, farm income, the rural economy and the environment.

Author: Charles Grassley

Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.


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