On April 13, the USDA announced more than $330 million is available to help farmers and organizations in the food supply chain recover from financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative launched in March and includes provisions for specialty crops, U.S. textile mills that use U.S. grown cotton and the dairy sector.
According to the USDA, these funds are intended to help develop new markets for U.S. ag products, expand the specialty crop sector, and incentivize low-income consumers to buy fruits and vegetables.
“I would like to thank [Agriculture] Secretary [Tom] Vilsack and his team at USDA for continuing to roll out the assistance that the Agriculture Committees provided in the FY21 Consolidated Appropriations Act,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott said. “These crucial investments will assist the ag sector in recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly bolstering our state agriculture departments’ support for specialty crop producers as well as our cotton mills and dairy processors.”
The USDA re-opened the sign-up period for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP2) beginning April 5 for at least 60 days. The USDA also committed to developing new programs or modifications to existing ones that assist producers who had to euthanize livestock or poultry, those who produce biofuels, offsetting costs for organic certification, timber harvesting and hauling, personal protective equipment and other protection measures for farm workers, improving the food supply chain and reducing food waste.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is distributing $169.9 million through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to fund innovative projects designed to support the specialty crop food sector and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products. Funding includes:
* $72.9 million available as part of the annual farm bill funding for the program;
* An additional $97 million in emergency funds for applications provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
Grant project funding awarded as part of pandemic assistance can also go to organizations to assist farmworkers (e.g., for PPE and vaccination costs), projects to fund farmers, food businesses, and other relevant entities to respond to risks and supply chain disruption.
The SCBGP funds are allocated to U.S. states and territories based on a formula that considers both specialty crop acreage and production value. Interested applicants should apply to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. A list of state contacts is available on the USDA website.
Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. ET June 11. For more information about grant eligibility, visit the SCBGP website.
The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will invest $75 million as directed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. Active Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grantees may request funding to allow them to address critical food and nutrition security needs of low-income communities, enhance the resilience of food and healthcare systems impacted by the pandemic, and maximize funds reaching participants in communities in need. The GusNIP COVID Relief and Response grants program (GusCRR) helps low-income communities improve the affordability and consumption of fruits and vegetables by vulnerable participants in communities in need. GusCRR grants will expand the work started last year to provide pandemic relief and respond to community needs in an impactful, timely, and authentic way. NIFA will reach out directly to GusCRR eligible applicants with additional details and a copy of the Request for Applications (RFA).
Eligibility to receive a GusCRR grant is limited to organizations with a current active GusNIP nutrition grant, GusNIP produce prescription grant, or FINI grant that began prior to Dec. 27, 2020. An eligible organization may submit only one GusCRR nutrition incentive grant application and one produce prescription application.
The USDA encourages applications from smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers, veteran producers, and/or underserved communities. For grants intending to serve these audiences, applicants should engage and involve those beneficiaries when developing projects and applications.
The USDA launched the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative in March with $6.5 billion in funding to address shortfalls and disparities in how assistance was distributed in previous COVID-19 assistance packages, with a specific focus on strengthening outreach to underserved producers and communities and small and medium farms.
Pandemic Assistance for Cotton Users
The USDA will provide approximately $80 million in additional payments to U.S. textile mills impacted by the pandemic that use upland and extra-long staple cotton. Under this one-time payment program, known as the Pandemic Assistance for Cotton Users (PACU) program, USDA will pay $.06 per pound to domestic users based on a 3-year monthly average during 2017 through 2019, covering 10 months in 2020. The program and payment formula were established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
Consumption information previously submitted to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service by domestic cotton users as participants of the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills (EAATM) and Special Competitive Provisions for Extra Long Staple Cotton (ELS) will be used in determining payment. USDA will send payment certifications for payment issuance to EAATM and ELS program participants. At press time, USDA expected to begin payments to domestic cotton users this spring.
Businesses that used U.S. cotton between Jan. 1, 2017, through Dec. 31, 2019, but did not participate in EAATM or ELS programs and have documentation to support their claim according to the provisions of the Act, should contact AMS’s Warehouse and Commodity Management Division.
Dairy Donation Program
USDA will soon implement the $400 million Dairy Donation Program (DDP) established by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. This program will facilitate the donation of dairy products to nonprofit organizations that distribute food to persons in need and prevent/minimize food waste.
USDA provided advance notice of the minimum requirements the program will include to encourage the dairy industry to process and donate surplus milk supplies as it moves through the spring surplus milk production season while USDA finalizes the program. Retroactive reimbursements of donations made since Dec. 27, 2020, when the statute was signed, will be made provided the minimum requirements are met: 1) a donation/distribution plan must be submitted and approved by USDA; 2) the reimbursement will be at least equivalent to the minimum classified value of milk used to make the donated product on the date of manufacturing; 3) records related to donating and receiving products must be maintained and available for review or audit; 4) eligibility is open to dairy farmer cooperatives and processors subject to a federal milk marketing order and that donate dairy products to any private or public nonprofit food distribution entity.