House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota sent a letter Friday urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to clarify how USDA determined the eligibility of different crops and livestock and poultry species for payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP. In the letter, the lawmakers contend that the data used by the Department to calculate CFAP payments was limited to only the earliest parts of the pandemic, missing the full extent of damage to different commodities.
“Some would argue that the full agricultural market impact of the closure of schools, restaurants, catering, and agricultural processing facilities due to the COVID-19 public health crisis were not fully realized during the CFAP covered period, with losses for many commodities extending well into the second and third quarters of this year,” wrote Peterson.
Additionally, Peterson took issue with the reasons certain commodities were denied payments.
“Hundreds of commodities were denied CFAP eligibility for ‘insufficient data’ and ‘lack of information,’ though it would seem that the well documented shut-down of school meals, restaurants, and food service demand would have impacted those food crops, and the loss of export, landscape, and retail markets for the non-food crops (e.g., pima cotton) and livestock/poultry,” he wrote. “And, producers of processed food commodities (e.g., raisins) and aquaculture seem to have been completely excluded from the program.”
“Without consistent public clarity on what data USDA deems sufficient for use or how USDA is analyzing this data, the program is at risk of public distrust and other commodities seeking future program eligibility are placed at a disadvantage,” added Peterson. “Given this and the continued market uncertainty during the ongoing national emergency, I trust USDA is working to assist producers this summer who have suffered significant market disruptions and been denied access to CFAP to date.”
The full letter is available here.