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Ask the Expert: Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. What does it mean for Specialty Crop Producers?

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In this Ask the Expert, Charles Stephens, Associate Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program, for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) answers a few questions on how the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) can assist specialty crop growers.

What is the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)?

CFAP provides direct payments to producers to offset price declines and additional marketing costs due to the pandemic. CFAP is not a loan program and there is no cost to apply.

The application period for CFAP ends on Friday, September 11, 2020. If you are a specialty crop grower who has been impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but you thought you weren’t eligible to receive support from the CFAP program, I encourage you to take another look. On August 11, 2020, USDA declared an additional 40-plus specialty crops, nursery crops and cut flowers are now eligible for this program.

How can it help specialty crop producers?

For eligible producers, the CFAP payments can help offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Who is eligible for CFAP payments?

You are eligible to apply for CFAP payments if you are an individual grower or a legal entity who shares in the risk of producing a crop and you are either entitled to a share in the crop available for marketing or you would have shared had the crop been marketed. If you are an urban farmer or a farmer with a Community Supported Agriculture operation, you also are eligible for CFAP payments if you meet the requirements of an eligible producer. Producers growing crops for processing also are eligible; however, processors are not.

If you are an eligible producer, you can receive CFAP payments if you experienced at least one of the following between January 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020, as a result of the pandemic:

  • You had crops that suffered a five percent-or-greater price decline.

  • You shipped produce, but it subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel.

  • You had shipments that did not leave the farm or mature crops that remained unharvested.  

What specialty crops are eligible for the payments?

Over 130 specialty crops are eligible for this program. This includes crops grown for fresh markets, and crops grown for processing. USDA announced on August 11, 2020, that nursery crops and cut flowers are also eligible for CFAP assistance. Nursery crops means decorative or non-decorative plants grown in a container or controlled environment for commercial sale. Cut flowers includes cut flowers and cut greenery from annual and perennial flowering plants grown in a container or controlled environment for commercial sale.

Visit farmers.gov/cfap for updated information on eligible specialty cropsnursery crops and cut flowers.

​ ​ Charles Stephens, Associate Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program, for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service ​Charles Stephens, Associate Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program, for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service [Click and drag to move] ​
Charles Stephens, Associate Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program, for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service

How will specialty crop producers be paid?

The total CFAP payment to producers for eligible specialty crops will be based on the following conditions between January 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020:

  • The volume of production sold.

  • The volume of production shipped, but unpaid.

  • The number of acres for which harvested production did not leave the farm or mature product was destroyed or not harvested during that same time period, and which have not and will not be sold.

How can specialty crop farmers apply for CFAP payments?

You must apply for a CFAP payment through your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) at your local USDA Service Center. You can find the phone number and the location of your local USDA Service Center and view its operating status at farmers.gov/coronavirus/service-center-status. If you are a new customer to USDA, your local FSA staff will work with you to apply for the program.

You can download the CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator and forms at farmers.gov/cfap/apply. Producers with an eAuthentication account can apply for CFAP via the CFAP Application Portal.

USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are conducting business in person by appointment only. Remember to check your local Service Center’s operation status and please call ahead to schedule an appointment.

Carl Purvis is the Deputy Public Affairs Director for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Carl can be reached at Carl.E.Purvis@usda.gov.

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