Vilsack breaks down new four-part pandemic assistance improvement plan

We are learning more about USDA’s new pandemic relief program. It frees up aid that was temporarily frozen and includes farmers and ranchers who previously did not qualify.

USDA has a new four-part plan to improve pandemic assistance for producers.

Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack says that the first part adds $1.1 billion dollars for cattle producers.

“We are obviously focused on carrying out the formula payments under CFAP 1, 2, and AA, rolling those into this more comprehensive effort. This is going to allow us to make payments to farmers who already received the benefit of these programs, rules have already been written, not much administrative work to be done here. So, we are in the position to make payments very soon in the month of April,” the Secretary explains.

USDA will also begin paying out $20 dollars per acre to eligible crops identified under CFAP 2, which could reach 560,000 additional producers.

Another $500 million dollars is also being added to existing programs, like specialty crop block grants, training and outreach programs, rural development loans, and research.

According to Vilsack, “The second bucket, we are taking resources that come from traditional USDA programs that are specifically designed for local and regional food systems and basically getting them out the door in an expedited way.”

Secretary Vilsack also announced $6 billion dollars for producers who were left out of the previous CFAP programs, including biofuels, specialty crops, and new farmers.

“We don’t have the rules necessarily written because these are people and groups and entities who have not received money yet or haven’t received sufficient resources from USDA,” he states. “So, we want to give them an opportunity to participate because they too have been impacted by COVID.”

The final phase of the plan looks to improve equitability for socially disadvantaged farmers, who were under-represented in the $38 billion dollars that has already been paid out.

He adds, “99 percent went to white farmers, 1 percent went to socially disadvantaged farmers, and if you want to carve it down to African American or black farmers it’s one-tenth of one percent... maybe we need to be sure we did everything we needed to do to make sure people had a chance to participate.”

He says that the agency will improve outreach and education to help reach those under-served farmers.