More than 14,000 of farmers sought aid through the $50 million Wisconsin Farm Support Program.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue received 14,543 applications between June 15 and June 29 for the one-time direct payments of between $1,000 and $3,500.

Payments were available for farmers who had a gross income between $35,000 and $5 million based on 2019 tax filings and will be made on a sliding scale based on gross income.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service’s 2017 Census of Agriculture, more than 23,000 farmers would have been eligible for the assistance.

“Looking at the numbers that have come in, the Department of Revenue will, No. 1, check for eligibility and then, No. 2, see how the sliding scale applies to those that are considered complete and eligible applications,” Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski said during a July 2 conference call with agricultural media. “That’s when we’ll know what the dollar amount is for everybody.”

Gov. Tony Evers introduced the $50 million Wisconsin Farm Support Program in May. The funding is part of the money allocated to Wisconsin through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Farm groups in April asked Evers for $50 million in aid after calculating the economic impact of the pandemic on ag sectors.

“Going back to the origins, the groups asked for $50 million and the governor made $50 million available,” Romanski said. “I think we need to give Revenue a little bit of time to figure out how many applications are complete and eligible, and that will help determine how those dollars get distributed.”

Romanski said the Department of Revenue expects to distribute the funds beginning in mid-July.

USDA food box program

Romanski talked to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator Bruce Summers June 26 in an effort to find answers to Wisconsin’s limited involvement in the USDA Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

The CFAP was created in order to purchase and distribute agricultural products to those in need. Through the program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service partnered with national, regional and local suppliers whose workforce was impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products.

Funding from the program has been distributed in two waves. Of the initial $1.2 billion allocated through the food box program, Wisconsin farmers saw only about $9 million come their way.

The AMS extended about $1.1 billion of those contracts in the second round of funding and about a dozen new vendors were selected to distribute boxes in the Southeast, Northeast and Northern Plains regions, Romanski said. The new contracts total about $200 million and did not include any new vendors in Wisconsin, he said.

Romanski said there is about $800 million for new contracts remaining in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, with an application period for a new funding possibility to be announced later in July.

Romanski said he was told USDA’s goal with that funding will be to have there be smaller contracts built on more local relationships and a less complicated application period.

He said DATCP offered to help connect some dots to get Wisconsin producers and distributed more involved in that round of funding.

“I offered that Wisconsin is uniquely positioned to build on the local partnerships, local relationships that we already have to deliver products,” Romanski said. “Thus far, Wisconsin has not been as engaged as we would hope.”