Coronavirus payouts for struggling farmers coming soon: Agriculture secretary

USDA Announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Coronavirus payouts for struggling farmers coming soon: Agriculture secretary

Contact: USDA Press

(Washington, D.C., April 17, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S.

Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.

President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

“During this time of national crisis, President Trump and USDA are standing with our farmers, ranchers, and all citizens to make sure they are taken care of,” Secretary Perdue said.

“The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers.

This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.”

Audio from Secretary Perdue’s Media Call.

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.

  1. Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: The program will provide $16 billion in direct support actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.
  2. USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

On top of these targeted programs USDA will utilize other available funding sources to purchase and distribute food to those in need.

  • USDA has up to an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. The use of these funds will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis, and food bank needs.
  • The FFCRA and CARES Act provided an at least $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases. The use of these funds will be determined by food bank need and product availability.

Further details regarding eligibility, rates, and other implementation will be released at a later date.

Additional Background:

USDA has taken action during the COVID-19 national emergency to make sure children and families are fed during a time of school closures and job losses, as well as increase flexibilities and extensions in USDA’s farm programs to ensure the U.S. food supply chain remains safe and secure.

Feeding Kids and Families

  • USDA expanded flexibilities and waivers in all 50 states and territories to ensure kids and families who need food can get it during this national emergency.
  • USDA is partnering with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver more than 1,000,000 meals a week to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19.
  • USDA authorized Pandemic EBT in Michigan and Rhode Island, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school.
  • USDA expanded an innovative SNAP online grocery purchase pilot program in Arizona and California, Florida and Idaho, and DC and North Carolina, in addition to Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Washington.

Whole of Government Response in Rural America

  • USDA released The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide (PDF, 349 KB), a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.
  • USDA opened a second application window (April 14, 2020 to July 13, 2020) for $72 million of funding under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.
  • USDA Rural Development lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees.
  • USDA will use the $100 million provided for the ReConnect Program in the CARES Act to invest in qualified 100 percent grant projects.

For all the information on USDA’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic and resources available, please visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.


USDA will send $14 billion in aid to farmers with COVID-19 losses

Coronavirus payouts for struggling farmers coming soon: Agriculture secretary

Jim Greif has been farming in Linn County for 63 years and despite the pandemic he is determined to get his crop in the ground again this year. Des Moines Register

The federal government will send up to $14 billion in aid to U.S. farmers and ranchers struggling with falling prices, lost markets and other supply chain disruptions tied to the global pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday.

“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement released Friday morning.

This is the second round of coronavirus assistance President Donald Trump's administration will send to U.S. farmers. Perdue announced the first $19 billion round in April as the coronavirus roiled the nation's food supply chain.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create significant market and trade disruptions, and this poses very real challenges for Iowa farmers,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig. “The agriculture economy will rebound, but it will take time.”

Trump announced the farm infusion Thursday at a rally in Wisconsin, which, along with Iowa, is a key battleground in the November election. The Environmental Protection Agency also said this week it will reject oil refinery waivers that critics say undermine the ethanol and biodiesel industries in Iowa and other rural states.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said farmers need coronavirus relief to keep pantries stocked. 

“Farmers and ranchers saw demand for their markets disappear during the initial shockwave of the pandemic,” Duvall said in a statement. “Even though concerns over food supplies have now subsided, the economic hardships are still taking their toll on farm families across the country.”

U.S. producers have dumped milk, smashed eggs and let lettuce and other produce rot in fields after the coronavirus outbreak shut down restaurants, hotels, schools and other food service venues.

Dozens of meatpacking plants in Iowa and the U.S. slowed or closed temporarily as 39,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19, including 3,639 workers in Iowa. Nine meatpacking plant workers in Iowa have died from the virus, among 184 workers nationally.

The slowdown pushed pork producers to destroy thousands of pigs, including an estimated 200,000 in Iowa.

Joe Henry, president of the Des Moines chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he's disappointed the Trump administration isn't doing more to help workers in meatpacking plants and on farms. 

“Subsidies will flow to the owners, but very little support will be provided to the people who actually do the work,” Henry said.

Patty Judge, co-founder of Focus on Rural America, said the president has created many of the problems farmers now face. 

“Donald Trump’s trade wars, ethanol waivers to oil companies and incompetent response to the pandemic are bankrupting farmers and crushing the rural economy,” said Judge, a Democrat who is a former Iowa lieutenant governor. “This aid is necessary because of bad policy choices from this administration.”

Large projected losses

Farm groups have projected large losses tied to the public health emergency: U.S. pork producers say hog farmers will lose $5 billion this year because of the coronavirus, and cattle producers say their losses will hit $13.6 billion.

“It’s been a tough year for agriculture, and there’s still a lot of uncertainty across the corn belt as we head into harvest,” said Kevin Ross, an Iowa farmer who's president of the National Corn Growers Association board.

In addition to the pandemic, thousands of Iowa farmers were hit by hurricane-force derecho winds last month and have struggled with an ongoing, widespread drought.

“We’re doing all we can to get back on solid ground, but we can’t do it alone, which is why today’s announcement is a positive and welcome step forward,” said Ross, who farms in western Iowa near Minden, in a statement.

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Justin Reiter poses in a cattle barn at his home on April 21, 2020 in Bernard, Iowa. Reiter's cattle farm has been passed down for over 175 years, and is now seeing losses of about $300 per head of cattle due to economic effects of the coronavirus.  (Photo: Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register)

Iowa State University has estimated farmers in the state will lose nearly $7 billion this year as the coronavirus ripples through the economy.

Chad Hart, an ISU economist who contributed to the study, said Friday that prices for some farm goods have recovered since the report was published, and the state's losses have been lessened since the university's initial assessment.

The challenge for USDA is getting the aid to farmers who need it most, said Hart, who pointed out that not all assistance available in the first coronavirus aid package has been spent.

“There are reasons to, not necessarily question whether the assistance is needed, but to question how well it's been targeted to those who are in need,” Hart said Friday.

Big farm debate

Some groups have criticized the program for aiding mostly big farmers, since it provided assistance to growers who had grain in storage in January. Many small farmers sell grain before or right after harvest.

The National Farmers Union said growers need additional assistance, but added that USDA needs to ensure that payments are commensurate with demonstrated need.

“The first round of funding, though greatly appreciated, was not without its flaws,” Rob Larew, president of the farmers' union, said in a statement. “Not only did it favor large farms over smaller ones, it also sent millions of dollars to foreign-owned operations and excluded some farmers entirely. With congressional oversight, we ask that USDA rectify these issues.”

The group pointed to an NBC report that showed foreign companies that own farms in Texas, South Dakota and Wisconsin received about $3.6 million in U.S. coronavirus payments.

Iowa has been the largest recipient nationally of the first round of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program — called CFAP — receiving about $960 million of the nearly $10 billion distributed so far, according to USDA data.

Of the initial $19 billion, the USDA said it would provide $16 billion in direct assistance to farmers and spend $3 billion buying surplus fruit, vegetables, beef, pork, milk, cheese and other products to donate to food banks across the country.

More: Gov. Kim Reynolds says paying for state salaries with federal coronavirus relief funds is clearly permitted

In Iowa, the largest payments have gone to corn producers, $349.2 million; cattle producers, $290.1 million; hog producers, $179.5 million; soybean growers, $85.4 million; and milk producers, $52.5 million, USDA data through Sunday show.

Iowa is a national leader in producing corn, soybeans, pork, beef, eggs and milk.

Nationally, cattle producers have received $4.2 billion; milk and corn producers, both at $1.7 billion; hog producers, $597.3 million; soybean growers, $499.1 million; and cotton producers, $257.8 million, the data show.

Many types of farmers eligible

The second round again sets out to provide assistance to a wide range of growers, including for corn, soybean and other row crops; beef, pork and lamb; specialty produce such as endive and avocados; and plant nursery and cut flower producers.

The USDA said the payments would be provided price triggers, flat rates or sales. For example, major crops such as corn and soybeans that have seen at least a 5% price decline would receive a minimum of $15 for every acre planted this year.

Or if it's higher, farmers can use a formula crop insurance yield guarantees.

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Justin Reiter poses in a cattle barn at his home on April 21, 2020 in Bernard, Iowa. Reiter's cattle farm has been passed down for over 175 years, and is now seeing losses of about $300 per head of cattle due to economic effects of the coronavirus.  (Photo: Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register)

“We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations’ farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted,” Perdue said in the statement.

More: Can Iowa farmers survive without ethanol? Can Trump survive without Iowa farmers?

Hart said the payments should help Iowa farmers slammed by the derecho and drought, since they can get assistance  acres planted and not production.

Still, he said, farmers may need targeted disaster assistance, a plea that Iowa's elected leaders have made to Perdue and others.

Government payments to farmers have been growing. This month, USDA estimated that government payments would make up 36% of the estimated $102.7 billion in farm income this year. Corn, soybean, wheat and cotton receipts all are expected to be lower this year, the USDA reported.

The USDA said the money for the second ag package would come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — or CARES — and the Commodity Credit Corporation, an independent agency with authority to borrow $30 billion that's being tapped to provide aid to farmers hit by coronavirus and trade disruptions.

The coronavirus assistance comes on top of $28 billion the Trump administration provided in 2018 and 2019 to offset losses because of U.S. trade wars with China, Mexico, Canada and other nations, some of which continue.

Congressional leaders are looking at a continuing resolution that would replenish the credit corporation’s funds.

Farmers can sign up for the new round of coronavirus assistance beginning Monday. The window closes Dec. 11.

Payments are capped at $250,000 per farmer or ag entity, a limit that several groups and lawmakers have complained can be easily skirted, resulting in payments that exceed $1 million.

Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at or 515-284-8457. 

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