Specialty crop producers get a boost from CFAP expansion

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More farmers can benefit from the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program now that 42 additional specialty crops qualify for payments.

The expansion of CFAP-eligible specialty crops comes nearly two months after USDA unveiled initial program details and commodity eligibility on May 19. Qualified specialty crops include blackberries, green peas and a variety of herbs, greens and lettuces.

“Many specialty growers were left out of the program and have much less exposure to USDA’s Farm Service Agency because they aren’t regular recipients of payments from federal programs compared to dairy and row crop producers,” said Ben Rowe, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation national affairs coordinator.

“This eligibility expansion from USDA has added direct assistance to specialty crop producers who were left to deal with financial pressures unassisted.”

The expanded list of qualifying specialty crops can be found through USDA’s July 9 announcement, and an up-to-date list of commodities eligible for CFAP payments can be found on the program’s website.

Apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines and taro will be eligible for expanded payments after USDA determined the commodities suffered a 5% or greater price decrease due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Artichokes, asparagus, cantaloupes, cucumbers, kiwifruit, mushrooms and papaya also received payment corrections to reflect new market data. Peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for CFAP payments after the update.

Recent USDA data indicated that $4.85 billion of the $16 billion allotted through CFAP has been paid to farmers through the end of June. Just 2% of those payments, or $113 million, had been paid to specialty crop producers since the application process opened May 26.

USDA anticipates additional commodities will be added in the coming weeks.

“While these adjustments have assisted producers of eligible crops in managing the volatility that has occurred because of COVID-19, other categories, including aquaculture, horticulture and nursery, have still not been addressed in any kind of COVID-19 assistance,” Rowe said.

“These categories of producers are very common in Virginia and make up a significant portion of our diverse agriculture industry. Without their inclusion in future programs, we are going to see a great deal of continued stress in these industries.”

Producers have until Aug. 28 to submit CFAP applications through their local FSA office. Application information can be found at farmers.gov/cfap/apply.


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