House Ag Chair Collin Peterson and several subcommittee chairs sent a letter to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighting concerns about the implementation of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
The letter talks about the continued loss in both value and demand for agricultural products related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, they say CFAP doesn’t include commodities under contract, even though several of the most-impacted crops are typically grown under contracts, such as potatoes and malting barley.
USDA chose to cover livestock sales between January 15th and April 15th when COVID-19-related livestock market declines didn’t start until February of this year. Some of the lowest market prices also persisted well beyond April 15th, effectively and arbitrarily picking winners and losers based solely on when livestock was sold without regard to actual market conditions. Another concern is the wool crop. Price differences between graded and ungraded wool has raised a flag with sheep producers as cooperatives and individual buyers are not purchasing wool right now do to lost sales with China. So for many the wool sits in sheds.
The House Ag Committee Chairs also say CFAP doesn’t recognize the cost premium of organic crops by differentiating organic prices for certified organic producers. USDA also used data not fully representative of the farmgate value of some specialty crops to determine their eligibility for CFAP and CFAP payment rates.
In addition to several other concerns, the Chairs point to lingering concerns over staffing levels and the existing workload at Farm Service Agency county offices, as well as what delays those factors may cause in distributing CFAP assistant.