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Federal relief efforts | edited May 26

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue unveiled USDA’s first relief plan in response to the COVID-19 crisis on April 17. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) includes $16 billion in payments to farmers across many commodities and $3 billion in purchases of products to be redistributed into food aid programs. These funds were allocated by Congress under the CARES Act.

Starting on Tuesday, May 26, USDA opened up the period for farmers to sign-up for direct financial assistance. Sign-up must be done through a local Farm Service Agency office. Dairy farmers are eligible for price losses on their milk production, livestock sales and corn stored as feed.

Assistance for dairy:

  • Eligibility: To be eligible, dairy farms must have milk production in January, February, and/or March 2020. Milk disposed of during those months is also eligible for assistance. Milk covered under other risk management tools such as forward contracts, dairy margin coverage, dairy revenue protection and livestock gross margin will qualify for assistance.
  • Calculations: Financial assistance will be based a farmer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020. A single payment of about $6.20 per hundredweight will be made comprised of the following two calculations:
    • First quarter milk production multiplied by $4.71 per hundredweight.
    • First quarter milk production times a national adjustment factor of 1.014 and multiplied by $1.47 per hundredweight.

Supplemental instructions (updated) assembled by the Dairy Business Association and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.

Corn stored as feed: We have confirmation that corn silage will be eligible for assistance under the non-specialty crop section of the farmer payments. Farmers will need to certify their 2019 total production and inventory on hand on January 15. 2020. As the unit of measure for corn is in bushels, farms will need to multiply the number of silage tons on hand by 7.94 to determine the number of corn bushels eligible for payment. Farms should document how the number of tons were calculated should they be audited at a later date. .

Initial payments will be prorated, with 80 percent paid initially and the remainder at a later date if funds remain available to help the agency ensure all farms receive access to assistance.

Payments will be limited to $250,000 per person or legal entity. The cap applies to the total amount of payments with respect to all eligible commodities. If a legal entity has more than one member/partner, the entity may qualify for up to three times the $250,000 payment cap. Adjusted gross income limitations also apply.

More information including the application form, supporting documentation, and a new payment calculator are available on the USDA webpage, If a farm is already an existing FSA customer, most of the information is likely already on file at the local service center. FSA offices will only take phone appointments at this time, so do not send information without first contacting the office.

For food product purchase portion of CFAP, USDA launched the Farmers to Families Food Box program. On May 8, USDA awarded $1.2 billion in contracts to processors and producers to supply food aid channels. Dairy products accounted for $317 million of those purchases. USDA started making product purchases to meet the demands of the growing number of those enrolling in food assistance programs and using food aid distribution centers. Secretary Perdue emphasized that USDA has emphasized that purchases have been targeted toward products that have been significantly impacted by the closure of food service markets. These products are provided to food banks, community- and faith-based organizations and other non-profits.

USDA’s response largely reflects Edge’s requests. In mid-April, Edge sent USDA a letter to highlight our requests and to stress the urgency of providing that relief soon along with a letter sent earlier in April with other groups advocating for dairy product purchases and direct financial relief.

Small Business Administration (SBA) PPP & EIDL loans

Farms and related agriculture related businesses have the ability to successfully utilize the small business loan programs. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) currently remains open for farms and other businesses to apply through their financial institution. Portions of these loans are able to be forgiven and the application is now available for farms and businesses to start seeking loan forgiveness. The second SBA loan program, the Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program reopened on May 4 after farms were not originally eligible. In the EIDL program, farms and businesses may be eligible to receive up to a $10,000 nonrepayable, emergency loan advance as well as qualifying for a long-term small business loan.

Congressional Action

Congress is back at work on deciding if another federal legislative response is necessary. In mid-May, the House of Representatives passed the HEROEs Act, a $3 trillion relief bill, largely along party lines. This bill has already met resistance as other lawmakers first want to evaluate the effectiveness of the previous response bills before moving onto a new legislation package. Even though this legislation is not expected to become law, it may serve as a baseline for future negotiations which could be good news for agriculture. The major highlight for farmers in the bill is $16.5 billion for direct payments. This would be in addition to the payments being made available through the Agriculture Department’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Other specific dairy provisions include: updating Dairy Margin Coverage production history, incentivizing future DMC sign-up, a direct dairy donation program and a recourse loan program for dairy processors. The HEROES Act also includes many other provisions that apply to farms and agribusinesses, such as additional food assistance funding, small business loan funds and modifications, tax variations and additional worker protections.

Assistance for livestock: Dairy farmers may also claim assistance when they sell animals. Cull cattle sold in the eligible period will be treated as Slaughter Cattle: Mature Cattle and counted on a per head basis. Dairy calves sold will fall under one of two Feeder Cattle categories depending on if the animal was above or below 600 lbs. Heifers sold intended for milk production will not be eligible for an additional livestock payment. 

Additional resources

State health services:

 State Department of Agriculture


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