USDA on Tuesday extended the deadline for applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program until Sept. 11 and added more commodities to the eligibility list.

The changes are scheduled to be published in a Federal Register notice on Friday.

“President [Donald] Trump is standing with America’s farmers and ranchers to ensure they get through this pandemic and continue to produce enough food and fiber to feed America and the world. That is why he authorized this $16 billion of direct support in the CFAP program, and today we are pleased to add additional commodities eligible to receive much-needed assistance,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Tuesday in a news release.

The Agriculture Department has distributed $7 billion in Coronavirus Food Assistance Program funds — less than half the $16 billion set aside for the program — and accepted 521,853 applications, according to USDA data released Monday. The deadline for applications was set for Aug. 28, but 28 farm groups wrote the Trump administration asking to extend the deadline. The groups said that some farmers don’t know about the program or how to apply for it.

The American Farm Bureau Federation thanked USDA for responding to the letter from the farm groups. “COVID-19 has taken its toll on farmers across the country, regardless of what they grow or raise,” said Zippy Duvall, president of AFBF. “No one can tell when this pandemic will end, and extending the deadline and expanding eligibility will provide a lifeline at a time it’s needed most.”

Duvall was hit with the virus last month but has recovered. He said CFAP application timeframe needed to be extended because the pandemic affected a lot of farm families who are not familiar with USDA programs. “We’re working to ensure farmers who now qualify for aid are made aware that it is available to them, and we encourage the USDA to expand its outreach efforts to do the same,” Duvall said.

The list of new commodities includes liquid eggs, an industry hit hard by the closure of restaurants and other food-service establishments. Aid to the liquid egg industry has been a priority for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. All sheep and many aquaculture fish are included as well as nursery crops and flowers.

Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., noted in a news release that crawfish had been included and that he and Louisiana farm groups have been pushing hard for its inclusion.

“This is great news for the crawfish industry, which was hit hard by COVID-19 and is so important to the economy and the culture in Louisiana,” Abraham said.

USDA noted it had collected comments and supporting data for consideration of additional commodities through June 22 and said that, based on the data, the following additional commodities are now eligible for CFAP:

— Specialty crops: Aloe leaves, bananas, batatas, bok choy, carambola (star fruit), cherimoya, chervil (french parsley), citron, curry leaves, daikon, dates, dill, donqua (winter melon), dragon fruit (red pitaya), endive, escarole, filberts, frisee, horseradish, kohlrabi, kumquats, leeks, mamey sapote, maple sap (for maple syrup), mesculin mix, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, plantains, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, tangelos, turnips/celeriac, turmeric, upland/winter cress, water cress, yautia/malanga, and yuca/cassava.

— Non-specialty crops and livestock: Liquid eggs, frozen eggs and all sheep. Only lambs and yearlings (sheep less than 2 years old) were previously eligible.

— Aquaculture: Catfish, crawfish, largemouth bass and carp sold live as foodfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, salmon, sturgeon, tilapia, trout, ornamental/tropical fish, and recreational sportfish.

— Nursery crops and flowers: Nursery crops and cut flowers.

Other changes to CFAP include:

— Seven commodities — onions (green), pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts and watermelons — are now eligible for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act funding for sales losses. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for payments on marketing adjustments. The changes also correct payment rates for onions (green), pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts, and watermelons.

— Federal Register — Notification of funding availability; Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) https://s3.amazonaws.com/….

– USDA — Coronavirus Food Assistance Program data: https://nam03.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/….

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

Source: Jerry Hagstrom, DTN