The global pandemic that has been impacting nearly every aspect of our lives for the past few months may finally be showing signs of slowing down, but for many farmers that isn’t enough. The economic strain and impact of this disease threatens to cripple, or outright close, many farms all across the country. During a time like this, farms are more essential than ever, and the USDA has come out with a grant program designed to provide some relief to farmers who have been forced to struggle through price declines and other losses due to COVID-19. Applications are now open for farmers to apply to receive this aid. While on the surface it might appear that hemp farmers are ineligible, that isn’t completely true. All hemp farmers who struggled just as much as other farmers during this time should be aware that they too can be eligible for this grant.
What is the Grant?
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP as it is called, was designed by the USDA to provide $19 billion in relief funds for farmers and the food supply chain. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue went on record stating, “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. 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.” Of $19 billion, $16 billion will go directly to supporting farmers who faced losses due to impacted supply chains and marketing costs caused by decreased demand for their products. The total payments a farmer may receive from this grant will vary, with the upper limit for any one person being $250,000, unless they are an LLC or corporate entity. In that case, the total amount possible goes up to $750,000 depending on the number of shareholders.
Who is Eligible?
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is designed to provide financial support to farmers who produce agricultural commodities, but it gets a little more specific than that. First, the program stipulates that the farmer must have suffered a five percent, or greater, price decline, or saw losses caused by disruptions in the supply chain because of COVID-19, resulting in market costs. The farmer, or company, applying must also have an average gross income of less than $900,000 for the tax years of 2016, 2017, and 2018, unless seventy-five percent of that gross income came directly from farming. If that’s the case, the $900,000 limit does not apply. Additionally, a list of eligible commodities was released, including: “Non-specialty crops: malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, and hard red spring wheat.” Also specifically listed are livestock, including cattle, hogs, and sheep, as well as wool, dairy products, and specialty crops. The specialty crops itemized include a large range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and mushrooms. Ineligible for CFAP funds are any commodity that did not suffer at least a five percent price decline between mid-January and mid-April 2020.
What About Hemp?
Looking at the list of approved commodities, hemp is noticeably missing. That doesn’t mean there’s no hope for hemp farmers to get an approved grant to help them recover losses, though. The USDA has stated that they will consider other commodities to be eligible for CFAP grant funds through the collection of information on these commodities. So, hemp farmers who believe that they have experienced a loss that meets or exceeds that five percent threshold between the given time frame of January and April of this year should contact the USDA with their information. To do so, comments must be submitted through one of two methods by June 22, 2020, at the latest.
The first method is to go through the Federal Rulemaking Portal at regulations.gov and search for Docket ID FSA-2020-004. That will provide instructions on how to submit comments through the Portal. The second way is through traditional mail, which should be sent to:
Director, SND, FSA
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW, Stop 0522
Washington, DC 20250-0522
More information can be found on the CFAP fact sheet as well.
Hemp may be the new kid on the block in terms of legality, but it is an important agricultural business. Hemp farmers, just like any others, have felt the repercussions of this terrible pandemic, and are just as deserving of aid. Blue Forest Farms is fighting to help hemp farmers in every way possible, and this is one opportunity where we can all join to together to make our voices heard. Together we can remind those in government that hemp, and hemp farmers, should not be forgotten. The love and sense of community in the hemp industry is unstoppable, so let’s use it to make sure we can all continue to grow and thrive even through this difficult time.