After reviewing more than 1,700 comments from farmers across the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week announced several changes to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Aug. 11 that additional commodities will be covered by CFAP, the deadline to apply for the program will be extended from Aug. 28 to Sept. 11, and producers with approved applications will receive the remainder of their payment.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program was announced in mid-April, when Perdue said the program would provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

CFAP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. To be eligible for payments, producers of eligible agricultural commodities must have suffered a 5% or greater price decline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and face substantial marketing costs for inventories.

As of Aug. 10, FSA had made $7 billion in CFAP payments to 522,000 producers across the country. So far, about $3 billion of the payments have gone to farmers raising cattle. Dairy farmers have received about $1.3 billion, corn growers $1.25 billion, hog farmers $442 million, and soybeans growers $356 million.

The top five states for farmers receiving assistance are Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin. More than 46,000 farmers in Iowa had applied for and received nearly $714 million, with nearly half going to livestock farmers.

In Wisconsin, FSA had already approved about 16,000 applications and disbursed nearly $400 million, Sandy Chalmers, Wisconsin executive director of the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, said Aug. 11 during the Dairy Signal webinar hosted by the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.

“It’s pretty amazing in a COVID environment how quickly that assistance has gone out,” Chalmers said.

Wisconsin leads the nation in dairy payments with $262 million on 5,700 applications, and Chalmers said FSA is working with dairy producers to get more applications completed. She said she would like to see the number of Wisconsin dairy producers applying for the program get to 6,000.

“We’re seeing meaningful, and I would say significant, assistance going out to dairy producers in this program,” Chalmers said. “Dairy is the beating heart of this state. Our employees are committed not only to dairy but the future of agriculture in our state.”

Wisconsin farmers have also received $65 million for livestock, $63 million on non-specialty crops and $3.2 million for specialty crops through Aug. 10, Chalmers said.

CFAP provides direct relief to producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19.

To be eligible for payments, a person or legal entity must have an average adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 for tax years 2016, 2017, and 2018. However, if 75% of their adjusted gross income comes from farming, ranching, or forestry, the AGI limit of $900,000 does not apply, according to the USDA.

As the program was created, farmers and ranchers would receive direct support drawn from two possible funding sources. The first source of funding is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January and mid-April and provides support for specialty crops for product that had been shipped from the farm between the same time period but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels.

The second funding source that was planned and that Chalmers said was likely to be implemented would use the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to compensate producers for $6.5 billion in losses due to on-going market disruptions.

“I would look forward to a second round of CFAP, looking at what’s going on in Washington,” Chalmers said.

At the outset of the program, payments have been going out at 80% of the amount for which a farmer would be eligible. This decision was made to guarantee funding would be available to provide some payment to all eligible producers. Chalmers said through the new rules, FSA will be making the remaining 20% of payments to existing applicants early this week.

“One of the questions we’ve been getting from the producers is ‘What about the remaining 20%, when are we going to see that? Will we se it?” Chalmers said. “USDA wanted to make sure everybody got a payment, and there was a limited pot of money.

“I know that there’s a lot of stress out there, and this additional assistance will be very welcome.”

Applications for CFAP based on the expanded list of commodities announced on Aug. 11 will be accepted beginning the week of Aug. 17.

Applications for CFAP are being accepted through Sept. 11. More information about the program and the additional commodities the new rules cover can be found at www.farmers.gov/cfap.