WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Mike Simpson co-led a bipartisan letter signed by 126 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Representative Russ Fulcher. Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch joined the same effort in the U.S. Senate requesting the President to eliminate payment limits for specialty crop, livestock, and dairy producers before the final Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) details are announced.
On Friday, April 17, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the CFAP as part of its plan to implement funding provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CFAP includes $19 billion to support food producers across the country through direct payments and purchases. For many family agricultural operations, this support will mean they are able to stay in business and pass farms and ranches on to the next generation despite these challenging times.
Unfortunately, the direct payments included in the CFAP are contingent on payment limits that do not take into account the cost of agricultural labor for many commodities According to the CFAP summary released by USDA, producers will be eligible for no more than $125,000 per commodity, with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity. These payment limits would severely restrict the program’s effectiveness for many family-owned farms and ranches across the nation that have completely lost their markets due to the slowdown of the food service industry.
The members wrote, “…We are concerned about the $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per individual or entity payment limits as it relates to assistance for the livestock, dairy and specialty crop sectors. This limitation would severely restrict the program’s effectiveness for many family-owned farms and ranches across the nation. We strongly urge you to eliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers before the final CFAP program details are announced.”
“Idaho’s farmers and producers continue suffering from the unprecedented devastation led by the coronavirus pandemic. They have had to dump thousands of gallons of milk as well as thousands of pounds of onions and potatoes, just to name a few,” said Senator Mike Crapo. “While I applaud the USDA’s efforts to get much-needed financial support to our producers, I urge the Administration to consider the impacts that payment limitations will have on Idaho’s farmers and ranchers. I will continue to work with USDA and my colleagues in Congress to support the agricultural industry through this challenging time of COVID-19.”
“Idaho’s farmers and ranchers face unprecedented difficulties every single day the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and our food producers need relief that fits Idaho’s unique farming landscape. Our agricultural industry has completely different market factors than other parts of the country, and our family farms and ranches should not be penalized for adapting,” said Senator James Risch. “I’m glad to join my colleagues in asking the USDA for comprehensive assistance for the men and women who keep food on the dinner tables for families across America, and look forward to working with the administration to ensure Idaho’s producers get the support they need.”
“It isn’t a secret that food producers across the country have been hit especially hard by the unprecedented and necessary measures our country has taken to combat COVID-19. The slow down in the food service industry has decimated markets for crops that are already planted and have nowhere else to go. In Idaho, agriculture is 20 percent of our economy and limiting the amount of assistance we can provide farmers and ranchers simply won’t be enough to save their operations. These family run farms are the fabric of our communities in Idaho and I hope this letter helps the Administration and USDA better understand the impacts payment limitations will have on rural America,” said Congressman Mike Simpson. “I stand ready to work with my colleagues in Congress to provide USDA the resources they need to help the agriculture community without payment limitations.”
“Idaho’s farmers and ranchers have seen their markets disappear during the COVID-19 outbreak. Throughout Idaho, crops, milk, and meat are being dumped or going unused. To assist our farmers and ranchers, Congress passed the CARES Act to provide assistance to Idaho’s family farms, but limitations have been put on these assistance efforts,” said Congressman Russ Fulcher. “To try and highlight some of these issues, I joined many of my colleagues in Congress to lift these limitations so Idaho can benefit from this assistance.”
Idaho Agriculture groups support the Delegation’s efforts on their behalf:
“The Idaho Congressional delegation has been working nonstop since the CARES Act was signed into law just three weeks ago to help ensure that relief funds go to those producing the food that fuels the nation during the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. Relief for farmers should not pick winners and losers,” said Rick Naerebout, Chief Executive Officer Idaho Dairymen’s Association. “Idaho’s dairy families are grateful to Congressman Mike Simpson, Congressman Russ Fulcher, Senator Mike Crapo and Senator Jim Risch for their leadership in recognizing that all dairy producers are suffering substantial economic losses right now regardless of how many cows they milk."
“Idaho Potato Commission appreciates the strong support of the Idaho Congressional Delegation on this critical issue. The Payment Caps set by USDA reflect a failure to understand how capital intensive modern agriculture is,” said Patrick Kole IPC Vice President, Legal & Government Affairs. “Thankfully, our Idaho Delegation understands the grim reality our growers, ranchers and dairyman face and are willing to go to bat to correct the approach taken on this critical issue.”
“We are grateful to Congress and the Trump Administration for coming to the aid of farmers and ranchers across this nation who have suffered financially as a result of the virus outbreak. Now we need to make sure this aid gets to those farmers and ranchers, and that the intended benefit is not impeded by artificially low caps and limitations as currently proposed,” said Bryan Searle, President of Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. “We have heard from our members and industry leaders that the proposed payment limits don’t come close to providing producers with the financial relief they need to deal with the impacts of the coronavirus. We thank Congressman Simpson and Idaho’s Delegation for their leadership in ensuring that Idaho farmers and ranchers are adequately cared for during these distressing times.”
“During these uncertain times, we appreciate all that our representatives in Washington are doing to fight for our survival in agriculture,” said Randy Grant, President of the Idaho Sugarbeet Growers Association. “Thank you to the entire Idaho Delegation for engaging on our behalf. We are a resilient bunch and we will prevail.”
The full text of the letter can be found below and here.
Dear President Trump,
Thank you for your announcement of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). For many family agricultural operations, this support will mean they are able to stay in business and pass farms and ranches on to the next generation of producers in spite of these challenging times.
However, we are concerned about the $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per individual or entity payment limits as it relates to assistance for the livestock, dairy and specialty crop sectors. This limitation would severely restrict the program’s effectiveness for many family-owned farms and ranches across the nation. We strongly urge you to eliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers before the final CFAP program details are announced.
The COVID-19 crisis has caused unprecedented damage to the livestock, dairy and specialty crop industries. Agricultural economists have estimated over $13 billion in harm to the cattle industry and $5 billion to the pork industry due to the pandemic, with many billions more in injury to dairies, fruit, nut, and vegetable producers, and the horticulture and floriculture industry. As is true for many other small businesses across the country, this financial harm comes through no fault of these farmers and ranchers, nor is it the result of typical market forces. As such, these relief payments should aim to indemnify as much loss as possible without restrictive payment limitations.
While some farmers and ranchers produce multiple commodities, and therefore will be eligible for up to the $250,000 total payment limit per individual or entity, many cattle, pork and dairy operations are solely invested in livestock. This common business practice within the cattle, pork and dairy industries of being invested in a single commodity means this payment limit structure will be even more severe for these producers compared to other commodities. Fruit and vegetable producers by comparison can have very high costs of production—strawberry producers can invest $30,000 an acre for example—and thus payment limits of this level are too restrictive to meaningfully address the losses many producers are facing.
It is critical for USDA to provide a level of support that is responsive to the disaster situation producers are currently facing. As you know, Congress approved $14 billion in the CARES Act to partially replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation and we believe that a significant portion of these dollars should be used to ensure that needs are met, even if the payments must be paid in tranches.
We appreciate the support you and Secretary Perdue have provided farmers and ranchers, and we look forward to working with you make certain agricultural producers receive the level of assistance necessary in response to COVID-19.