News International Concerns Grow U.S. Specialty Crop Producers Underrepresented in Pandemic Payouts

Concerns Grow U.S. Specialty Crop Producers Underrepresented in Pandemic Payouts

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Less than two per cent, or $24 million, of payouts from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) has been given to specialty crop producers, a June 16 news release from the National Potato Council (NPC) says.

The USDA has paid out more than $1.4 billion overall for the program, with $676 million going to livestock producers, $368 million to non-specialty crop growers and $337 million to dairy producers.

“With only a two percent payout and the heavily impacted specialty crop sector making up 50 per cent of the farm gate value of U.S. agriculture, clearly there’s a problem in how fruits and vegetables are accessing this program,” Kam Quarles, NPC CEO, says in the release.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), and Filemon Vela (D-Texas) have written to Secretary Perdue expressing their concerns with the USDA’s design and implementation of the program, noting the challenges faced by specialty crop producers in participating, the release says.

Among the issues outlined in the letter, they write “CFAP does not include commodities under contract, even though several of the most impacted crops are typically grown under contract, including potatoes and malting barley.” Additionally they note the USDA is using data which does not fully represent the farm gate value of specialty crops when determining eligibility for the CFAP payments.

NPC and the state potato organizations have been in frequent communication with the USDA to advocate for changes which would make CFAP more valuable for potato growers.

On Monday, the USDA published technical corrections to the rules governing the CFAP program. The NPC is currently reviewing the technical corrections and will provide feedback to USDA prior to the June 22 public comment period deadline, the release notes.