The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on April 17 announced a Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to help agriculturists and consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The $19 billion program is intended to provide support to farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of the food supply chain and ensure every American has access to needed food.
The program 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 will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted. It 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.
USDA also will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many 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 USDA stated. “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 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.
USDA also announced farm loan flexibilities, deferrals and maturity extensions.
All the information on USDA’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic and available resources can be found here.
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