Direct payments to Pa. farmers impacted by pandemic available through USDA program

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The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, provides direct payments to producers of agricultural commodities who have been impacted by COVID-19. CFAP 2 registration reopened on April 5.

Dale Hershey is the senior vice president and director of ag lending at Univest Bank and Trust Co. in Lancaster. He also serves as the treasurer of the Lancaster County Agriculture Council. Hershey says that overall, 2020 wasn’t a bad year for agriculture.

Comparing farmers’ 2020 and 2019 tax returns, Hershey says, “Farmers and ag had a pretty good year…and so the payments helped, they really did.”

CFAP payments are available to those producing commodities such as dairy, livestock, crops and more. All of the specific eligible commodities are listed here on the website.

Hershey says that produce farmers had a decent year in 2020 thanks to good weather conditions for the growing season coupled with consumers’ desire for fresh, local fruits and vegetables.

However, Hershey says, the dairy industry struggled toward the beginning of the pandemic. When restaurants and schools closed down, dairy manufacturers had to reorient from distributing dairy in large quantities to processing it in smaller portions for household use. Meat packaging companies were also affected when workers caught the coronavirus.

Agriculture is influenced by many factors. In addition to being influenced by a global pandemic, it’s impacted by weather conditions and economics both locally and globally, Hershey points out. The CFAP payments helped farmers who were affected economically by COVID-19, but they also provided a funding boost as the price of grain — used by livestock farmers to feed their animals — increased due to a poor growing season in South America, says Hershey.

Hershey says that the first round of CFAP payments was a “mixed bag” with some farmers signing up to receive the funds and others, who didn’t feel like they had been hurt by the pandemic, turning them down. He expects this latest round of CFAP payments will look similar.

Those interested in applying for CFAP funds can do so online or through the Farm Service Agency at their local USDA Service Center.

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