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Not All Farm Foods Covered by Federal COVID-19 Payment Plan

In addition to direct payments, the federal government is helping farmers during the pandemic by buying unused product and helping to distribute to those in need. (Adobe Stock)
In addition to direct payments, the federal government is helping farmers during the pandemic by buying unused product and helping to distribute to those in need. (Adobe Stock)
June 2, 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Farmers can start applying for emergency aid approved by Congress in response to COVID-19. But federal agriculture officials aren't ready to cover all commodities just yet.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program includes $19 billion in funding, most of which will cover payments to farmers who can show their bottom line has been adversely affected by the increasingly volatile market.

Anna Johnson, policy manager at the Center for Rural Affairs, said she anticipates many producers in Iowa will qualify.

"There was some really wild fluctuations, particularly in the cattle market this year," Johnson said. "So this is providing some support there."

Most agriculture products are covered. However, Johnson noted US Department of Agriculture officials still are gathering data on certain commodities - including poultry - to determine if they should eventually be included.

Comments are being accepted on that issue through June 22.

There are two key guidelines the agency is following in approving the aid: a drop of at least 5% in prices between mid-January and mid-April, or losses due to supply-chain issues caused by COVID-19.

Johnson said there is some concern that the scope of the program might not work for all producers.

"Some folks who sell to local markets might not find that the provisions of the program really, really fit them," she said.

She said they'll keep monitoring to see how the program's reach will benefit these producers.

The application period runs through August 28. Farmers can reach out to their local USDA office, though in-person visits are restricted because of the pandemic. Applications can be found online and submitted to local offices.

Disclosure: Center for Rural Affairs contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Environment, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Rural/Farming. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA