potato image stock

Jul 9, 2020
USDA adds processing, seed potatoes to COVID aid program, bumps potatoes to Category 1

July 9, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an initial list of additional commodities that have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Also, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made other adjustments to the program based on comments received from agricultural producers and organizations and review of market data.

Producers will be able to submit applications that include these commodities on Monday, July 13, 2020. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting through Aug. 28, 2020, applications for CFAP, which helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

USDA expects additional eligible commodities to be announced in the coming weeks.

“During this time of national crisis, President Trump and USDA have stood with our farmers, ranchers, and all citizens to make sure they are taken care of,” said Secretary Perdue via a prepared statement. “When we announced this program earlier this year, we asked for public input and received a good response. After reviewing the comments received and analyzing our USDA Market News data, we are adding new commodities, as well as making updates to the program for existing eligible commodities. This is an example of government working for the people — we asked for input and we updated the program based on the comments we received.”

USDA collected comments and supporting data for consideration of additional commodities through June 22, 2020.

Changes to CFAP include:

  • Adding the following commodities: alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac (celery root), chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce — including Boston, green leaf, Lolla Rossa, oak leaf green, oak leaf red and red leaf – marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme and turnip top greens.
  • Expanding for seven currently eligible commodities — potatoes, apples, blueberries, garlic, raspberries, tangerines and taro — CARES Act funding for sales losses because USDA found these commodities had a 5 percent or greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for marketing adjustments.
  • Determining that peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for payment under the CARES Act sales loss category.
  • Correcting payment rates for potatoes, apples, artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, garlic, kiwifruit, mushrooms, papaya, peaches, raspberries, rhubarb, tangerines and taro.

The rule changes includes adding eligibility for seed and processing potatoes. In addition, potatoes are now eligible for Category 1 — the largest payment category. The USDA cited information from the potato industry, as well as during the commenting period, as the reason for the change.

The segments of the potato industry now recognized under the CFAP program are:

  • Fresh potatoes, russets
  • Fresh potatoes, other
  • Processing potatoes
  • Seed potatoes

Additional details can be found in the Federal Register in the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and Final Rule Correction.

Producers have several options for applying to the CFAP program:
  • Using an online portal, accessible at farmers.gov/cfap, allows producers with secure USDA login credentials — known as eAuthentication — to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center. New commodities will be available in the system on July 13, 2020.
  • Completing the application form using our CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator found at farmers.gov/cfap. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center. An updated version with the new commodities will be available on the website on July 13, 2020.
  • Downloading the AD-3114 application form from farmers.gov/cfap and manually completing the form to submit to the local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to an office drop box. In some limited cases, the office may be open for in-person business by appointment.

Visit farmers.gov/coronavirus/service-center-status to check the status of your local office.

USDA Service Centers can also work with producers to complete and securely transmit digitally signed applications through two commercially available tools: Box and OneSpan. Producers who are interested in digitally signing their applications should notify their local service centers when calling to discuss the CFAP application process. You can learn more about these solutions at farmers.gov/mydocs.

NPC reaction

The National Potato Council released the following statement July 9 after an announcement by USDA that it is issuing revised payment rates for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which previously prevented potato growers from receiving equitable access to relief funds:

“The potato industry appreciates the rapid work of USDA in considering these changes and making potatoes eligible for all three categories of payments. We believe the economic justification submitted by the industry strongly supports the meaningful inclusion of potatoes in this relief program, given the devastation faced by the industry due to the government-mandated foodservice shutdown,” said Britt Raybould, NPC President.

“Looking forward, we want to work with USDA to ensure that all injured potato growers have an equal opportunity to apply and seek relief. Our industry continues to believe that our recommendations of making all potatoes equally eligible and with a meaningful payment level of at least $0.04 per pound is a simple, balanced approach that ensures relief flows to growers who need support,” added Raybould.

“We appreciate USDA taking this additional step toward relief for our industry. NPC thanks individual state associations representing the potato industry, along with Members of Congress representing impacted states and districts, in providing data and support for increased relief. This was an excellent example of a collaborative team-approach that was demanded by a crisis of this magnitude,” said Kam Quarles, NPC Chief Executive Officer.

In USDA’s original rule published in the Federal Register on May 21, 2020, the department did not provide relief to potato growers in Category 1, provided $0.04/lb in Category 2, and $0.01/lb in Category 1. In the revised rule, which will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, the payment schedule will be as follows:

Potatoes fresh – other                

  • $0.01(Category 1)
  • $0.04 (Category 2)
  • $0.01 (Category 3)

Potatoes fresh – Russets             

  • $0.07 (Category 1)
  • $0.09 (Category 2)
  • $0.02 (Category 3)

Potatoes – processing                 

  • $0.02 (Category 1)
  • $0.03 (Category 2)
  • $0.01 Category 3)

Potatoes – seed                             

  • $0.02 (Category 1)
  • $0.04 (Category 2)
  • $0.01 (Category 3) 

On June 22, NPC and state potato organizations filed official comments responding to the USDA Notice of Funding Availability (Docket ID: FSA–2020–0004) for the CFAP as it related to adding commodities that were not initially identified by USDA in the CFAP rule and also modifying the payment rates for various categories. In the letter, the groups requested that USDA provide more equitable support for potato growers who are facing a 1.5 billion pound oversupply of fresh potatoes-for-processing and potato products, which are trapped in the supply chain with no likely customers. That letter can be found here: bit.ly/2AHF0uf

Getting Help from FSA

New customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap. For existing FSA customers, these documents are likely already on file.

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors may also be required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in office, by phone and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

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