USDA Offers Direct Assistance to Specialty Crop Growers Impacted by COVID-19

May 21, 2020

By: Jim Frankowiak

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as part of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Farm Assistance Program, is providing up to $2.1 billion in direct payments to specialty crop producers.  These payments will be based on losses where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will help producers facing additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year as a result of COVID-19.

Producers in the following categories may be eligible:

  • Sales with a price loss of 5 percent or more between January 15 and April 15 of this year.  Crops include almonds, artichokes, beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, sweet corn, cucumbers, eggplant, lemons, iceberg and Romaine lettuce, dry onions, peaches, pears, pecans. Bell and other types of peppers, rhubarb, spinach, squash, strawberries, and tomatoes.
  • Shipments that left the farm by April 15 and spoiled due to the absence of a market or for which no payment was received.   All specialty crops are eligible.
  • Shipments that did not leave the farm or mature crops that remained unharvested as of April 15.  All specialty crops are eligible.

Producers of all eligible commodities may apply for assistance through their local USDA Farm Service Agency Service Center, effective May 26.  Producers can locate their service center and find application forms, as well as additional information at farmers.gov/cfap.

In addition to these direct payments, the USDA has implemented the Farmers to Families Food Box Program which partners the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service with national, regional and local suppliers to purchase fresh produce, dairy and meat products and have suppliers package these products into family-sized boxes, then ship them to food banks, community, and faith-based organizations and other non-profits serving those in need.  More information about this program is available at www.usda.gov/farmers-to-families.

USDA will also make an additional $873.3 million in Section 32 purchases of specialty crops products for distribution to food banks.  Fund usage will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis, and food bank needs.  The current purchase solicitations may be accessed at www.ams.usda.gov/selling-food-to-usda.

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