USDA Adds New Eligible Commodities to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

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On July 9, USDA announced that new eligible commodities will be added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (“CFAP”), which was first opened on May 26. USDA will continue to accept applications for aid through August 28. More than 40 new commodities – mostly specialty crops – were added to the list of eligible commodities through the Notice of Funding Availability (“NOFA”) process as a result of public comments. These new commodities are now included in the corrected final rule. In addition, many trade organizations submitted data through the NOFA process to show that additional commodities met the 5-percent price decline threshold for the program, and USDA corrected the payment rates for several of these commodities, including apples – the top crop produced in Washington State.

Generally, in order to be eligible for a payment, a commodity must have suffered a 5-percent or greater price loss between mid-January and early-April, or have faced “additional significant marketing costs” due to surplus production or market disruptions related to COVID-19 (e.g., produce shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, cancelled orders resulted in shipments that did not leave the farm, or mature crops that remained unharvested). Apples were initially excluded from the program’s component dealing with price declines, but will now be awarded a payment rate of $0.05 per pound. Practically, for apple producers, this means that they do not have to show “additional significant marketing costs” to be eligible for CFAP aid. The complete list of new eligible commodities is set forth below:

Alfalfa Sprouts, Anise, Arugula, Basil, Bean Sprouts, Beets, Blackberries, Brussel Sprouts, Celeriac (celery root), Chives, Cilantro, Coconuts, Collard Greens, Dandelion Greens, Greens (others not listed separately), Guava, Kale Greens, Lettuce Boston, Lettuce Green Leaf, Lettuce Lolla Rossa, Lettuce Oak Leaf Green, Lettuce Oak Leaf Red, Lettuce Red Leaf, Marjoram, Mint, Mustard, Okra, Oregano, Parsnips, Passion Fruit, Peas Green, Pineapples, Pistachios, Radicchio, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Sorrel, Sugarcane (table), Swiss Chard, Thyme, and Turnip Tops Green.

Program Status and Funds Remaining

In a summary of the NOFA process published July 10, USDA says it received a total of 1,740 public comments, and that about half of those comments had been reviewed. Additional commodities that meet the eligibility requirements will be added at a later date. As of July 6, more than 365,000 applications for more than $5.3 billion of CFAP aid have been approved. USDA expects that one million additional applications will be submitted by the August 28 deadline, and with more producers now eligible for aid, the $16 billion of funding allocated to CFAP could run dry faster, putting pressure on the Congress and the President to provide more agricultural aid in a future stimulus package.

Wine Grapes to be Added?

One major commodity that has been so far excluded from the program is wine grapes. A bipartisan delegation of California senators and members of Congress this week sent a letter to USDA asking that wine grapes be added to the list of specialty crops eligible for aid. Although there are undoubtedly serious economic challenges confronting California’s 5,900 growers of wine grapes, significant rule changes could be required to add wine grapes to the program because the Fall harvest period for wine grapes is outside of the January through April window set forth in the final rule. We are continuing to track CFAP developments, and we can address questions regarding program eligibility.

Application Process

USDA will begin accepting applications for additional commodities on July 13, 2020. We encourage producers of any eligible commodities to contact their local Farm Service Agency (“FSA”) Office and submit applications in a timely manner. In the event that additional commodities are added to the program in the future, an application may be amended to include them.

Applicants can now download the CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator and forms at farmers.gov/CFAP. Producers with an eAuthentication account can now apply for CFAP online via USDA’s CFAP Application Portal. Producers interested in creating an eAuthentication account should visit farmers.gov/sign-in to learn more. We can assist producers of specialty crops, who do not typically work with the FSA, in preparing the application and the various supplemental forms required for the application, including CCC-901, CCC-941, CCC-942, AD-1026, AD-2047, and SF-3881.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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