The U.S. Department of Agriculture has established a new effort to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions. The new initiative, USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers, will reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs, the department said. USDA is dedicating at least $6 billion toward the new programs.

The department also said it will develop rules for new programs that will put a greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesters, as well as provide support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuel, among others. Existing programs like the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will fall within the new initiative and, where statutory authority allows, will be refined to better address the needs of producers.

USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers was needed, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, after a review of previous COVID-19 assistance programs targeting farmers identified a number of gaps and disparities in how assistance was distributed as well as inadequate outreach to underserved producers and smaller and medium operations.

“The pandemic affected all of agriculture, but many farmers did not benefit from previous rounds of pandemic-related assistance. The Biden-Harris administration is committed to helping as many producers as possible, as equitably as possible,” said Vilsack. “Our new USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative will help get financial assistance to a broader set of producers, including to socially disadvantaged communities, small and medium- sized producers, and farmers and producers of less-traditional crops.”

The new payments will go out under the existing CFAP rules; however, future opportunities for USDA Pandemic Assistance will be reviewed for verified need and during the rulemaking process, USDA will look to make eligibility more consistent with the Farm Bill. Moving forward, USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers will utilize existing programs, such as the Local Agricultural Marketing Program, Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, and others to enhance educational and market opportunities for agricultural producers.

Full details and application process instructions for the new program are available at www.farmers.gov.

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