The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is moving forward with the implementation of the Pandemic Assistance for Producers program. USDA has made more than $330 million available to food supply chain members still addressing financial hardships related to COVID-19. The funding announcement will assist the specialty crop industry, increase fresh produce consumption in low-income communities, and expand markets for U.S. ag products.
“We launched USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers to respond in a broader, fairer way to the pandemic’s impact across food and agriculture, and we are following through on our promise,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release. “The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in wide-ranging impacts that were felt throughout the agricultural sector. The Biden-Harris Administration is focused on ensuring that the entire agricultural sector successfully rebuilds following the pandemic, and the funding we’re announcing today will reach a broader set of producers and businesses than previous COVID-19 aid programs.”
Nearly $170 million is being directed toward the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Funding priorities include projects expansion of the specialty crop food sector and developing additional market opportunities for agricultural products. More than half of the funding available is designed for pandemic assistance and projects to protect the food supply chain. Applications for the program are due by June 11.
USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is also investing $75 million to address the nutrition needs of low-income consumers. Funding is being made available to active Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grantees. Requests can be made for initiatives to address food and nutrition security in areas of need and help bolster food and healthcare systems.
USDA’s announcement also includes assistance for cotton users. The Pandemic Assistance for Cotton Users program is providing payments to industry members beginning in the coming weeks. Approximately $80 million in payments will be made available through the program.