Large dairy barn with silo

Economic activity around the world has run into the brick wall of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Few sectors of the economy have been spared; agriculture is no different. 

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is off and running.

South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson was joined by USDA FSA administrator Richard Fordyce June 3 on a conference call to discuss how the CFAP program and other FSA programs are being handled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CFAP - which came as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act - is a collection of roughly $16 billion made available to producing farmers across the nation. While the CARES act made $23 billion available to all of agriculture, CFAP is a broad program that can offer relief to farmers of many categories including non-specialty crops such as corn, soybeans and sorghum, as well as dairy and cattle farmers.

While Fordyce and Johnson were both pleased that the FSA made its goal of getting money rolled out by the end of May, Fordyce said that this assistance is hopefully part one of at least two that helps farmers get back on their feet.

"This does not get folks whole," he said. "but it's our attempt at providing some relief on what's gone on directly related to COVID-19."

Fordyce said everyone at the USDA worked to make sure the program got relief where it was needed. Part of the benefit of the program, he explained, is that there is also relief money available to specialty producers including vegetable and fruit growers. As of June 3, there are 44 different specialty crops on the list.

The program limits payments to $250,000 per producer, even if they apply through different categories of assistance. For those part of corporations or LLCs, a different cap is set based on worked hours of primary employees.

For those interested in applying visit www.farmers.gov/cfap. Those who need help applying can get help through FSA county offices, but they're not open for in-person appointments just yet.

Fordyce and Johnson explained that while these programs do not cover everything and do have some drawbacks, no changes will be made for the foreseeable future.

"They want these programs to get set and then figure out ways to help," Johnson said.

Asked what other help they could give agriculture, Fordyce said many coronavirus related issues stem from not being in a position to sell more to consumers who are trying to stay home.

"We just need to get things rolling again," he said.

Reach Reporter Jager Robinson at 605-335-7300, email jager.robinson@lee.net or follow on Twitter @Jager_Robinson.