Thursday, March 25, 2021

USDA announces $12 billion agriculture aid program; aims to reach smaller producers overlooked in previous aid

The Agriculture Department has announced a program to distribute more than $12 billion to farmers from the relief-and-stimulus bill passed at the end of December. USDA said the Pandemic Assistance for Producers program is meant to "reach a broader set of producers" than previous pandemic aid has.

"Most of the nearly $24 billion in coronavirus aid during the Trump administration was funneled toward big farmers and major commodities. White farmers collected almost 97 percent of the cash in the first round, said the Environmental Working Group, based on a review of USDA data. Advocates for small farmers and producers who sell their crops and livestock locally also said they had been given short shrift," Chuck Abbott reports for the Food and Environment Reporting Network. "Along with dedicating at least $6 billion to new forms of coronavirus relief, USDA said it would put a greater emphasis on reaching out to small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, and timber harvesters, among others." Click here for an in-depth breakdown of how the money will be apportioned.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Laura Reiley of The Washington Post that 0.1% of overall pandemic relief for agriculture went to Black farmers. "Of the 3.4 million farmers in the United States today, only 45,000 — 1.3% — are Black," Reiley writes, introducing an interview. "Vilsack said the Biden administration would be focused on closing those inequalities. USDA will battle three systemic problems concurrently, he said: a broken farm system, food insecurity and a health-care crisis." 

"Where statutory authority allows, the old programs will be refined," Natalina Sents reports for Successful Farming. "CFAP 2 sign-up will be reopened for at least 60 days beginning April 5, 2021. The [Farm Service Agency] has committed at least $2.5 million to improve outreach for this program and will partner with organizations to ensure socially disadvantaged communities are informed and aware of the application process."

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