The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recently sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue highlighting the most critical areas for supporting through the stimulus funding. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has provided $9.5 billion in financial support for producers impacted by COVID-19 and another $14 billion for replenishing the Commodity Credit Corporation.
“I consistently hear from growers around the country the imperative need to get financial assistance into producers’ hands immediately. Timing is crucial,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in the letter. “We urge you to set the highest priority on getting these critical dollars into farmer’ and ranchers’ hands absolutely as soon as possible. This must be the Department’s #1 Priority.”
The letter notes that the dairy and livestock industries have been hit particularly hard and makes several suggestions as to how the stimulus funding can assist farmers and ranchers. AFBF proposes that USDA should begin purchasing dairy, beef, pork, and poultry products to be distributed in food and nutrition programs. Other suggestions include creating a voucher program through the Milk Donation program to facilitate better distribution for milk donations and utilize emergency assistance programs where appropriate.
The CARES Act earmarks funding support for specialty crops, which AFBF emphasizes should be assured to be dispersed “to all producers, regardless of the size, experiencing immediate impacts.” The letter also suggests that specialty crop producers will need direct payments who are dealing with income losses from restaurants and other retail outlets closing.
Other sectors of the farm economy were also referenced in the letter as needing assistance, including agri-tourism, nurseries, aquaculture, specialty livestock, and forage crops. AFBF also highlights a need for farmers and ranchers to be given guidance on what governmental assistance is available to them, the eligibility criteria, where it can be accessed, and how they can apply “as soon as realistically possible.”