Tester Calls on USDA to Expand Assistance to Wheat Producers Left Out of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Senators: “The average price of wheat is shaping up to be the worst in the last 13 years”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on agriculture production across the country, U.S. Senator Jon Tester and a bipartisan group of his colleagues are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide additional support for wheat farmers facing major losses.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Tester outlined the need to expand eligibility for assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to include COVID-19 losses for all classes of wheat.

“Whether it’s wheat farmers who wrapped up harvest in May, those in the field harvesting their crops now, or those looking ahead to harvest in the coming weeks…the economic impact of COVID-19 has been experienced and felt by all wheat farmers across the country,” wrote Tester and his colleagues. “…The average price for wheat in 2020 is shaping up to be the worst in the last 13 years.”

Authorized through the Coronavirus, Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, CFAP provides $16 billion in direct aid to farmers and ranchers, including $3.9 billion for non-specialty crops such as wheat. Eligible producers can receive direct aid for commodities that experienced at least a 5 percent price loss as related to COVID-19. CFAP currently provides assistance to some wheat producers impacted by the pandemic, including at-risk 2019 crop losses for hard red spring and durum wheat. However, these classes of wheat represent approximately 30 percent of 2019 wheat production, leaving a majority of wheat farmers without access to assistance through the program.

The deadline to apply for assistance through CFAP is September 11th, 2020. Eligible producers can do so by contacting their local FSA office.

As a small scale producer in rural Montana, Tester has been fighting tooth and nail to bring critical relief to farmers and ranchers across the Treasure State. Earlier this year, he laid out his three-plank Rancher Relief Plan that aims to provide certainty to Montana producers and give consumers more access to the products they buy at the supermarket. Additionally, Tester successfully expanded the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loan and Emergency Economic Injury Grant Programs to include ag businesses, farms, and ranches, and secured $1 billion in USDA loan guarantees through the CARES Act to help rural businesses meet working capital needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tester’s full letter is available HERE.