Specialty Crops and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program
As previously reported, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been awarded $9.5B in funding through Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act and another $6.5B from the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. USDA has created the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to administer the allocation of those funds to provide “direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19.” Although the CFAP was announced in April, the guidelines for qualifications were just recently released.
Throughout the process California Avocado Commission staff, as part of a specialty crop coalition led by Western Growers Association, were engaged with USDA and the administration for the inclusion of specialty crops in the program. Unfortunately, based on market shipping point and terminal market data, USDA determined that during the period of January 15,2020, and April 15, 2020, avocados did not suffer a price decline significant enough to merit inclusion in the first category described below.
Payments will be available for eligible specialty crops for which a producer has production not subject to an agreed-upon price through a forward contract, agreement, or similar binding document. Payment details for eligible specialty crops are as follows:
- Payments for crops that had a five percent-or-greater price decline in sales price between January 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020. Producers must maintain records, such as a bill of sale, documenting the price received for the crop.
- Payments for crop shipments that left the farm by April 15, 2020, and spoiled due to no market. Producers must obtain documentation, such as a letter from the buyer, explaining non-payment or other record validating non-payment. This applies to producers who have met contractual obligations in delivering the crop to the buyer, but have not been paid.
- Payments for crop shipments that did not leave the farm by April 15, 2020, (for example, were harvested but sitting in crates on the farm), or mature crops that were unharvested by that date (for example, were plowed under) due to lack of buyers, and which have not been and will not be sold.
Again, as previously stated, USDA, using its own aggregate data, has determined that avocado producers are not eligible under Category 1. However, avocado producers are eligible to apply under Category 2 or 3. The Commission realizes that the loss to the foodservice market affected pricing of small sizes and the overall impact will extend beyond April 15, 2020. We will look for opportunities to continue to make that point to USDA. According to senior staff with United Fresh Produce Association, if additional funding from Congress becomes available, they believe there may be an opportunity to broaden the time for documenting injury and eligibility to receive payments.
If you as a producer believe you may qualify for CFAP assistance under either Category 2 or 3, you are encouraged to contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) and begin the process. FSA staff at local USDA Service Centers will work with producers to file applications. USDA will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2020. More information on the CFAP along with your local FSA service center can be found here: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/specialty.