On Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced another $14 billion relief program for agricultural producers who are still facing the financial impacts of Covid-19. This time around, hemp farmers can apply for its benefits.
Enrollment will start Monday, Sept. 21, for the second round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which is designed to help compensate farmers for any losses related to the pandemic since mid-April. The deadline to signup for the relief program is Dec. 11.
In its cost-benefit analysis of the updated rules, USDA estimates that the program payments will total nearly $13.2 billion, with $5.7 billion going to producers of row crops (such as hemp farmers), $2.5 billion toward beef cattle, $2.2 billion to specialty commodities and $1.3 billion to dairy producers.
Under the first round of payments in May, commodities generally qualified for aid if their price had declined by at least 5%, mostly between January and April 15. It was then that nearly $19 billion became available for agriculture producers who met the minimum requirements.
However, hemp and several other crops were excluded from this relief funding.
Industry stakeholders contested that there is insufficient data concluding that hemp farmers did not experience a 5% drop in crop prices, being that the newly legal market is still so young. Hemp leaders said that they suffered just like other agriculture producers.
Now, the second round of CFAP will include the 5% decline in pricing along with two other methods to help determine eligibility. This time period will extend from April 15 throughout the rest of the year.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nation's farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted.”
In the second round of funding, hemp is now listed as eligible under a payment category for “flat-rate crops.”
“Crops that either do not meet the 5-percent price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre,” according to a recent notice from the USDA.
“These crops include alfalfa, extra long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.”
For the past two years since the 2018 Farm Bill federally legalized hemp, USDA has made efforts to establish regulations for the industry to thrive, and will continue to push for new developments that allow hemp to have an equal role throughout the farming industry.
“This is a very significant development for the industry,” said Jonathan Miller, general counsel at the U.S. Hemp Roundtable. “We just want to be sure that our farmers are treated fairly just like other farmers.”
For additional information and application forms about the coronavirus relief program for hemp farmers, simply go to: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be required. All other request forms, such as those related to gross income and payment information, can be downloaded on https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/apply.
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