( Courtesy USDA )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved up to $14 billion more in direct payments to growers affected by price declines from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2.0 — CFAP2 — extends the original program that has paid out $647 million to specialty crop growers.

The application deadline for that program ended Sept. 11

The USDA is accepting CFAP 2 applications from Sept. 21 to Dec. 11.

There are more than 230 fruit, vegetable, horticulture and tree nut commodities eligible for CFAP2.

Payments will be based on revenue from 2019 crops, a change from the prior payment model.

Eligible sales include only sales of raw commodities grown by producer Adding value, such as through processing or packing, cannot be included in calculating payments, according to the USDA.

Farm Service Agency staff at USDA service centers will work with producers to file the applications, and grower can receive one-on-one help can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA representative.

“We want to thank Secretary Perdue and USDA for including fruit and vegetable producers in CFAP 2.0 and making changes to the current program that will allow for a more streamlined and efficient program for our members,” Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, said in a news release. “Since the inception of the CFAP program, we have had some very candid and direct conversations with USDA on how to improve access for our members and this new program hits the mark. We will now turn our attention to education and outreach to the fresh produce industry to ensure that all eligible growers will apply.”

Perdue will discuss the CFAP2 program at the United Fresh Washington Conference at noon Sept. 22, according to the release

“With all of the challenges COVID-19 has caused for Florida farmers, including up to $522 million in crop losses just through April, we’re pleased to see the USDA commit additional funds to supporting our growers through these uncertain times,” Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a news release.

CFAP2 web seminar

The USDA's Farm Service Agency, which oversees the CFAP program, will have a web seminar on the second round of payments.

The seminar is at 3  p.m. EST Sept. 24 and will cover expanded eligibility of commodities, new payment categories and the sales-based approach for specialty crops.

Registration is online.