Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Dear NOFA-NJ Community, Below from our partners at NSAC a communication on the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) The situation: USDA is preparing to distribute $16 billion in direct aid to farmers and ranchers who have experienced financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications for the program, called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, will be open in early May – but the program as currently designed will leave out thousands of farmers. These are unprecedented times – now is the time to urge USDA to fix problems with the program so aid can get to all who need it. We do not yet have comprehensive details on the program, which is still in development, but we expect to see more as early as the end of this week, as the program rules are now under review at OMB, with imminent publication expected in the Federal Register. Our recommendations in the toolkit are based off of USDA’s initial announcement plus additional information we’ve gathered in DC.

The problem: USDA’s aid program may leave folks out. It isn’t set up to account for farmers who sell into local/regional markets, diversified farmers, or organic farmers, it doesn’t have a thorough outreach plan or reserved funding for underserved producers (including farmers of color), it doesn’t reflect realistic timelines for farmers’ losses or their increased expenses in addition to their losses, and it isn’t set up to focus aid on independent, family-scale producers who need help (instead of large corporate operations).

MPORTANT NOTE: there are many needs in our farm and food system right now amidst the crisis. This toolkit focuses on one in particular that we can influence this week: ensuring USDA aid specifically designated by Congress for farmers gets to farmers who need it. As always, it’s ok to be working on many issues and asks at the same time given the many needs in the field. 

Now is a key time to act – USDA is still finalizing the program, and we have an opportunity to reach them before the program rules are finalized. What we can do:

  • We can share stories that show who is missing from the program and at risk of being left out 
  • We can ask questions to highlight issues, concerns, and gaps in information
  • We can demand that USDA do better for farmers and ranchers and share solutions

How can we do this?

  • Farmers can share stories on social media – along with asks – and tag USDA! This helps raise issues directly to USDA before the rulemaking period opens – and helps make issues more visible to the press and public 
  • Farmers can call their county FSA offices to register concerns and ask questions – this gets concerns and questions flagged and raised internally at USDA
  • Farmer allies can encourage farmers to take action, amplify farmers’ stories, and publicly stand with farmers at risk of being left out of USDA aid – this increases visibility for the issues and inspires more folks to take action

What’s in the toolkit?

  • Sample language for farmers and farmer allies to use on social media
  • Sample questions producers can use when calling county FSA offices

As always, it’s important to customize an approach for your voice and community. Don’t feel bound to our language – make it yours for your outreach, and encourage farmers to do the same. This is a starting point and a guide to get you started. We just ask that you keep the hashtag – #dobetterUSDA – and the ask to tag USDA directly on social media.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

NSAC published a blog post today.

https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/usda-covid-aid-program-raises-more-questions-than-answers/

A challenge we have is that because little has been published about the program, there’s very little outcry yet. That will change soon. A distilled version of NSAC’s toolkit guidance will be online on our Take Action page shortly.

NEXT STEPS AND TIMELINE

When can we begin action? Today! Anytime this week is GREAT. We will begin public actions here at NSAC later today as soon as our blog post is up – a first wave now before the program details are released and a second wave after. Mobilizing now – even while we work to secure more details – helps us be ahead with mobilizing and messaging once more info is made public. I’ll reply to this post with the blog link as soon as we have it for your reference.

We expect to see more details from USDA about the CFAP program in the next week – so stay tuned for more details. Once we have them, we can convene to analyze the program language, identify more issues and questions, and continue organizing.