Agricultural producers can now apply for the United States Department of Agriculture Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which provides direct payments to offset impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. The application and a payment calculator are now available online, and the Farm Service Agency staff members are available via phone, fax and online tools to help producers complete applications. The agency set up a call center in order to simplify how they serve new customers across the nation.
    Applications will be accepted through Aug. 28. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion for vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.
    The program is structured to ensure the availability of funding for all eligible producers who apply.  
    In order to do this, producers will receive 80% of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date nationwide, as funds remain available.
    Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms from https://www.farmers.gov/cfap. Also, on that webpage, producers can find a payment calculator to help identify sales and inventory records needed to apply and calculate potential payments.
    Additionally, producers in search of one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee. This is a good first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

Applying for assistance
    Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Those who use the online calculator tool will be able to print off a pre-filled CFAP application, sign and submit to your local FSA office either electronically or via hand delivery. Contact your local office to determine the preferred method. Find contact information for your local office at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.
    Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested after the application is filed. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed.

Additional commodities
    USDA is also establishing a process for the public to identify additional commodities for potential inclusion in CFAP. Specifically, USDA is looking for data on agricultural commodities, that are not currently eligible for CFAP, that the public believes to have either:
    – Suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    – Shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel.
    – Not left the farm or remained unharvested as mature crops.
    USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All service center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other agency are required to call the service center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at https://www.farmers.gov/coronavirus.
    This column was contributed to by Shannon Olson, county operations trainee. Farm Service Agency is an Equal Opportunity Lender. Complaints about discrimination should be sent to: Secretary of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250. Visit the Farm Service Agency Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov/ for necessary application forms and updates on USDA programs.