Tester Statement on USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers Program that Will Open Up Billions for Montana Ag Producers

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that billions of dollars in coronavirus relief funding will be opened up to bring critical financial assistance to agricultural producers impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions:

“This announcement is welcome news to Montana farmers and ranchers who have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis. I’m happy to see that this money will be put to good use, giving more flexibility to producers and investing in Montana’s ag priorities. I’m proud to have worked to secure this funding, especially as the American Rescue Plan begins delivering critical support directly to Montana cities, towns, and counties. This infusion of resources will be a boon to our rural communities where agriculture—our state’s largest industry—will play an essential role in helping our economy bounce back from this crisis.”

The Pandemic Assistance for Producers program will benefit Montana producers in four parts:

Part 1: Investing $6 Billion to Expand Help & Assistance to More Producers

USDA will dedicate at least $6 billion to develop a number of new programs or modify existing proposals using coronavirus relief funding. Where rulemaking is required, it will commence this spring. These efforts will include assistance for programs including:

  • Costs for organic certification or to continue or add conservation activities
  • Timber harvesting and hauling; and,
  • Improving the resilience of the food supply chain, including assistance to meat and poultry operations to facilitate interstate shipment.

Part 2: Adding $500 Million of New Funding to Existing Programs

USDA expects to begin investing approximately $500 million in expedited assistance through several existing programs this spring, with most by April 30. This new assistance includes measures like:

  • $100 million in additional funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which enhances the competitiveness of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops;
  • $100 million in additional funding for the Local Agricultural Marketing Program, administered by the AMS and Rural Development, which supports the development, coordination and expansion of direct producer-to-consumer marketing, local and regional food markets, and enterprises and value-added agricultural products; and,
  • Approximately $80 million in additional payments to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton based on a formula set in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that USDA plans to deliver through the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills program.

Part 3: Carrying Out Formula Payments under CFAP 1, CFAP 2, CFAP AA

  • An increase in CFAP 1 payment rates for cattle. Cattle producers with approved CFAP 1 applications will automatically receive these payments beginning in April. Information on the additional payment rates for cattle can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Eligible producers do not need to submit new applications, since payments are based on previously approved CFAP 1 applications. USDA estimates additional payments of more than $1.1 billion to more than 410,000 producers, according to a mandated formula.
  • Additional CFAP assistance of $20 per acre for producers of eligible crops identified as CFAP 2 flat-rate or price-trigger crops beginning in April. This includes alfalfa, corn, cotton, hemp, peanuts, rice, sorghum, soybeans, sugar beets and wheat, among other crops. FSA will automatically issue payments to eligible price trigger and flat-rate crop producers based on the eligible acres included on their CFAP 2 applications. Eligible producers do not need to submit a new CFAP 2 application. For a list of all eligible row-crops, visit farmers.gov/cfap. USDA estimates additional payments of more than $4.5 billion to more than 560,000 producers, according to a mandated formula.
  • USDA will finalize routine decisions and minor formula adjustments on applications and begin processing payments for certain applications filed as part of the CFAP Additional Assistance program.

Part 4: Reopening CFAP 2 Sign-Up to Improve Access

USDA will re-open sign-up for of CFAP 2 for at least 60 days beginning on April 5, 2021.

  • FSA has committed at least $2.5 million to establish partnerships and direct outreach efforts intended to improve outreach for CFAP 2.