HANNIBAL | Area farmers have witnessed a strong season so far for commodities like corn and soybeans, and the negative impact dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic to agriculture markets is being tempered by The United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Jessica Claypole, public affairs/outreach specialist with USDA-Missouri Farm Service Agency, said CFAP provides support to farmers who experienced a 5% or greater price decline between January 15 and April 15 or increased marketing costs due to ongoing circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Applications began in March, and the deadline is Aug. 28 — Claypole said the list of commodities covered by the program has adapted based on input from farmers and members of the public, and the application process has been streamlined with an online worksheet option and a CFAP Call Line. As of July 27, Missouri farmers received CFAP funding in the areas of livestock for $177,503,826, dairy for $7,248,950, non-specialty crops for $68,958,757 and specialty crops for $150,682 — totaling $253,862,216. Marion County Farm Bureau President and Palmyra farmer Joe Kendrick said he was one of several area farmers who applied for the program.
CFAP covered grains like corn and soybeans and livestock like cattle and hogs on Kendrick's farm. The program supports farmers by subsidizing the market prices farmers have been receiving due to the pandemic, along with factors like stalled purchases by China set out in the first phase of trade agreements.
Kendrick said he used the online worksheet to complete the application with the USDA questions, which calculated the payment as he entered numbers like grain inventory between Jan. 15 and April 15, with sales subtracted. After completing the online worksheet, he sent the completed document and said a payment was in his account in less than a week.
“Just on my small operation, it was a nice boost in income,” Kendrick said. The application process for CFAP has been streamlined so farmers no longer need to provide an acreage report, and a USDA farm number may not be necessary. Commodities covered by the program also adapted, based on input from members of the public, producers and other stakeholders. Claypole said changes included additional commodities added to the program,including alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac (celery root), chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce – including Boston, green leaf, Lolla Rossa, oak leaf green, oak leaf red and red leaf – marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme and turnip top greens — and more could be added.
Additionally, seven commodities are now eligible for financial assistance through the CARES Act — apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines and taro — that were previously eligible for marketing adjustments. CFAP assistance comes from $9.5 billion in allocated funds from the CARES Act for financial assistance to offset low costs, along with $6.5 billion in funds to cover losses due to ongoing market disruptions through the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act.
“We know our farmers and ranchers are facing a tough time now, and we are making every effort to provide much needed support as quickly as possible. The disruption to markets and demand is significant and these payments will only cover a portion of the impacts on farmers and ranchers,” Claypole said. “This financial assistance gives American farmers and ranchers the ability to absorb some of their lost sales and increased marketing costs associated with the economic havoc caused by the global pandemic.”
Kendrick said grain like soybeans and corn were looking strong so far throughout Northeast Missouri — a marked contrast to the past two years marked by cold, damp planting seasons and periods of drought and flooding. This year, area farmers have seen strong yields of hay, clover has been abundant, and the weather has included timely rains when the soil needs it the most. The expected crop yields should offset losses from market prices that remain low.
“With the prices the way they are, we're going to need the extra bushels to make it all work out,” Kendrick said. “We're going to have a favorable crop. It's not going to be a failure, that's for sure.”
The CFAP Call Line number is 877-508-8364, and applications and information for producers are available online at https://farmers. gov/cfap or by contacting the local FSA office.