House Democrats are raising concerns about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, saying it fails to recognize the premium value of organic crops and does not fully account for the farm value of some specialty crops.
Those are two of the concerns raised about the CFAP program in a June 9 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and other Democrats.
House Agriculture Subcommittee Chairs Jim Costa, D-Calif., Stacey Plaskett, D-Virgin Islands, and Filemon Vela, D-Texas, according to a news release.
The letter expressed concerns, including:
- CFAP does not include commodities under contract, although several of the most affected crops are typically grown under contract, including potatoes;
- CFAP does not differentiate prices for organic products;
- USDA used data not fully representative of some specialty crops’ farm-gate value to determine eligibility for CFAP and payment rates;
- CFAP payments do not distinguish for the higher value given to crops that are marketed directly through restaurants, farmers’ markets, and other alternative markets; and
- Staffing levels and the workload at Farm Service Agency county offices, could delay CFAP assistance.
According to the letter, it’s not clear how producers of products that are not sold in cash markets with publicly reported prices (including sales to retail, farmers’ markets and quick service and other restaurant formats) and suffered significant market losses will meet the price data requirements of the CFAP Notice of Funding Availability.
That includes cut flowers, nursery products, and potatoes, according to the letter.
Peterson said some producers could suffer further losses due to changes in consumer behavior in the months ahead.
“In addition to the concerns outlined (in the letter) we ask for your continued collaboration towards investing in long-term solutions to support resiliency in the food supply chain, instead of expensive short-term infusions of cash that do not address underlying long-term needs,” according to the letter.