The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended the deadline for applying for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program funds, and added dozens of herbs and specialties as eligible crops.
Growers now have until Sept. 11 to apply for the money; the original deadline was Aug. 28.
The added specialty crops include: bananas, bok choy, star fruit, cherimoyas, dates, red dragon fruit, leeks, mesculin mix, microgreens, nectarines, pomegranates, tangelos, turnips and a number of fresh herbs. A full list of commodities, and what funds they are eligible for, are on the USDA’s CFAP webpage.
The USDA’s Farm Service Agency, which is overseeing the program, has paid out 80% of the approved payments, to ensure funding for other applicants. The FSA is now paying the remaining 20%, according to an Aug. 11 news release on the changes to the CFAP. New applicants will receive the 100%, although payment caps of $250,000 for each grower or $750,000 for corporations (with three eligible partners) are still in place.
Agriculture Sonny Perdue said President Trump “is standing with America’s farmers and ranchers” in the release.
“That is why he authorized this $16 billion of direct support in the CFAP program and today we are pleased to add additional commodities eligible to receive much needed assistance,” Perdue said in the release.
The changes come just days after Democrats on a House Agriculture subcommittee asked the USDA to ensure specialty crop growers, particularly young and socially disadvantaged growers, received funds.
Several dozen agricultural groups including a dozen representing fresh fruit and vegetable growers, recently sent a letter to Perdue, requesting the deadline extension and more outreach to encourage growers to apply, as well as remove payment caps.
One of those groups is the United Fresh Produce Association.
"CFAP has provided important relief to fresh produce growers across the country who produce a diverse range of produce that have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said in a news release about USDA's announcement on changes to the program. “We are grateful to USDA for expanding this program and look forward to continue working with them to support growers whose produce is not covered under this further expansion of covered specialty crops.”
According to the USDA, 1,740 comments were made through June 22 on what additional commodities should be included in the program.
“After reviewing over 1,700 responses, even more farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity for assistance to help keep operations afloat during these tough times,” according to the release.
As of Aug. 10, the program has paid out $305.6 million to specialty crop growers, and $7.04 billion to all producers included in the program’s coverage, according to the USDA’s CFAP Dashboard.