Many Wisconsin farmers should soon be getting a check for $3,500 in the mail while others have an opportunity to apply for a new round of COVID-19 relief payments, according to state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Secretary-designee Randy Romanski.

Romanski said July 16 during a conference call with agriculture media that checks from the $50 million Wisconsin Farm Support Program administered by the the Wisconsin Department of Revenue were sent out July 14 and direct-deposit payments were made on July 15.

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.

“With the Farm Support Program, when Gov. Evers, set aside the $50 million for direct payments to farmers, one of his goals was the dollars get out to farmers and in their hands as quickly as possible,” Romanski said.

The Department of Revenue received 14,543 applications between June 15 and June 29 for the one-time direct payments from the $50 million Wisconsin Farm Support Program. Payments were available for farmers who had a gross income between $35,000 and $5 million based on 2019 tax filings.

The original plan was to offer payments of of between $1,000 and $3,500 on a sliding scale based on gross income. Instead, the number of eligible applicants, based on the Department of Revenue’s findings, resulted in $3,500 payments to everyone who received funding, Romanski said.

With the $3,500 payments going to an estimated 12,000 eligible farmers (out of the 14,543 applicants), the Farm Support Program used about $41 million of the $50 million allocated for the program.

Because not all the funding was used in the first round of the program, in August the Department of Revenue will be seeking a second round of applications to use the approximately $9 million remaining in the program, Romanski said.

The application window for the second round will be available from Aug. 10-24. Payments from that round are expected to be sent out in mid-September.

Eligibility for this round will include those with $10,000 in gross income and above, and farmers who received payments in the first round are not eligible.

Payments from this round will be smaller than they were in the first round, Romanski said. Payments will be administered on a sliding scale based on income, but the minimum and maximum payments on the sliding scale have yet to be determined, he said.

“We’re pleased that the the Department of Revenue has gotten the dollars out the door quickly, and we are also pleased that there will be another opportunity for farmers to sign up for and exhaust the funding the governor has made available,” Romanski said.

Food Security Initiative

Food banks and other eligible nonprofit organizations can apply for COVID-19 Food Security and Wisconsin Products grants until 5 p.m. on July 29.

On July 15, DATCP released a request for proposals for an estimated $10 million in grants to help food banks and other eligible nonprofits purchase Wisconsin food products for distribution to people experiencing food insecurity.

Among other materials, applications must include a letter documenting a commitment to provide a specific Wisconsin food product for purchase by the applicant. For the purposes of the COVID-19 Food Security and Wisconsin Product Grants, a “Wisconsin food product” is defined as at least 50% of the value of the product or service being attributable to Wisconsin ingredients, production, or processing activities.

Romanski said DATCP is encouraging food pantries and other organizations that might not be eligible to apply to work with food banks to make sure their needs are represented in the food banks’ proposals.

“This is meant to focus on partnerships,” Romanski said. “What we’ve found through COVID-19 is there is a wide array of food-security programs throughout the state and one of the goals has been to connect the dots between those groups ... and Wisconsin agencies and federal programs and connecting them to the funding that Gov. Evers had made available to strengthen those partnerships now and into the future.”

Applications are available at Grant funds will be awarded for costs that are related to COVID-19 and are incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30.

Evers in May announced the $15-million Food Security Initiative to combat hunger in Wisconsin. The funding for that also came through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

This is the second grant available under the Food Security Initiative. Payments are estimated to be issued beginning in mid-August.