On Tuesday the U.S. Department of Agriculture released long-awaited details about its $16 billion direct payment program for farmers and ranchers struggling economically amid the pandemic. Farmers and ranchers can start applying for aid Tuesday, May 26; USDA says checks will begin going out as soon as a week later.

"USDA maintained the payment limit of $250,000 per farmer, but the initial $125,000-per-commodity cap was lifted following bipartisan backlash from Congress. Corporations and other entities can get up to $750,000 based on the number of shareholders who spend at least 400 hours on farm labor or management," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's Morning Agriculture. "Because of high demand for aid and a limited pot of money (which Secretary Sonny Perdue, lawmakers and industry groups virtually all agree is too little), the department will send producers 80 percent of their payment and distribute the rest later if the funds haven’t been depleted."

Some crops and livestock aren't eligible for aid because their prices didn't drop by at least 5% since January, including some kinds of wheat, rice and peanuts, older sheep and egg-laying hens, and more. "But the department left the door open to 'reconsider' if those producers can demonstrate their market damage, except for two crops: hemp and tobacco," McCrimmon reports.