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Coronavirus funding aids agriculture

ND producers take their time to sign up for CFAP

Jill Schramm/MDN Bins stand on an area farm. Farmers who sold between Jan. 15 and April 15 may be eligible for federal financial assistance.

North Dakota farmers and ranchers weren’t rushing to sign up under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program in its first month of enrollment, but that is expected to change over the summer.

Brad Thykeson, executive director for the USDA North Dakota Farm Service Agency, said the program’s opening on May 26 came at a time when producers were planting, branding or moving cattle to pasture.

“Producers weren’t really knocking at our doors and, of course, we were also closed due to the coronavirus,” he said. “So our applications probably aren’t as high as our neighboring states, just because of the fact that I think producers were too busy tending to business out on the farm or the ranch.”

However, as of June 26, the program had paid out more than $70 million in North Dakota.

“The applications are going up every day,” Thykeson said. “The program runs until August 28 so producers still have good time to sign up and participate.”

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, provides financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5% or greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant market costs.

Eligible commodities include malting barley, canola, corn, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat and hard red spring wheat. Certain specialty crops also are eligible.

Livestock eligible for CFAP include cattle, hogs, lambs and yearling sheep.

Any dumped milk production during the months of January, February and March 2020 is eligible for assistance. Wool producers also may be eligible.

Thykeson said it is uncertain how much money will be requested in applications statewide or nationwide. Part of the uncertainty is because the program is open to all producers, regardless of whether they have participated in a federal program previously.

“It’s 80% funded right now, just because they want to be conservative to make sure there’s enough money to go around,” Thykeson said. As of late June, just over $4 billion of the $16 billion program had been paid out.

“So we are still a long way from the finish line to get those monies out,” Thykeson said. “There will still be a lot of activity coming in.”

To be included, livestock and crops have a window of sale between Jan. 15 and April 15. That has generated some objection because not all producers were able to take advantage of that window.

Government programs include timeframes to avoid abuse and to prevent the program from influencing the market place, Thykeson said. He said as April 15 passed, the government moved into the Commodity Credit Corp. funding so producers did receive some benefits after the window closed, although to a lesser degree.

Thykeson said the coronavirus funding isn’t likely to be extended retroactively beyond April 15, but producers may see additional funds added to the CCC to increase the amount of money paid to those who missed out on the earlier aid.

“We aren’t seeing any windfalls in any of our commodities, whether they’re cattle or whether they’re crops,” he said. “We are still in depressed marketing times so I think the producers are trying to figure out how to make something work and, of course, the government programs seem to be kind of our life support right now.”

Producers who are eligible for CFAP can make an appointment at their local county offices or enroll online. Since late June, producers have been able to fully complete an application online, including signature. They can do so by navigating to farmers.gov and clicking on CFAP.

Thykeson said the online signup is user friendly. It gives producers the ability to use a calculator to see how much they are entitled to claim. An Excel spreadsheet, which may require enabling the editing function, allows producers to input their data and get an estimate of their payments. Producers also can transfer data from the spreadsheet directly to the assistance application.

Once FSA staff become fully comfortable with the processing, Thykeson said, producers can expect a seven- to 10-day turnaround for payment.

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