American Farmland Trust (AFT) has established the Farmer Relief Fund as a way to help producers who are struggling with the conditions created by COVID-19. Initially launched on March 24, the effort has already garnered significant support from donors and substantial interest from farmers and ranchers who need assistance.
“Farmers and ranchers all across the country have seen their primary sources of income disappear during a really important time in our planting cycle,” Kara Heckert, California Regional Director for AFT. “So, we created the Farmer Relief Fund with 100 percent of the donations going directly to the farmer, and eligible farmers and ranchers will be awarded cash grants up to $1,000 to help them get through this challenging transition.”
Applications for the funding support can be found on the AFT website and are available in Spanish and English. The initial round of funding will be open for applications until April 23, with grants scheduled to begin distribution on May 1. Heckert noted that most of the applicants thus far have 2019 revenues between $10,000 and $250,000, with anticipated losses of more than $20,000 due to COVID-19. “That gives you an idea that we’re really working with smaller, medium-sized farmers and ranchers that are really on the frontline of this,” said Heckert.
AFT has been working with community partners and other major donors to identify opportunities that can help to support the fundraising process. There is considerable interest in the program with applications already having come in from more than 2,000 farmers and ranchers across the country. If fundraising efforts are successful, there is potential for another round of grant support after the initial phase. “AFT does hope to provide grants for everyone in need and we hope if we receive enough donations, we may be able to support producers with larger grants,” Heckert noted.