Josh Henik and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig

ISA Advocate member Josh Henik discusses COVID-19 relief assistance with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig during an event in Central City. (Photo: Bethany Baratta)

Farmers provide feedback on COVID-19 assistance to state, federal officials

October 15, 2020 | Bethany Baratta

In a visit yesterday with Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig and USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey, Iowa farmers showed their appreciation for the assistance provided under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

CFAP 1, announced earlier this year, provided financial assistance to ag producers to give them the ability to absorb sales losses and increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Oct. 11, Iowa crop, livestock and specialty growers have received $969.1 million in CFAP 1 funding, according to the USDA. The program is set to provide $16 billion in direct support to U.S. farmers and ranchers. CFAP 1 also allocated funding for the purchase and distribution of produce, dairy and other ag products.

The COVID-19 pandemic created losses of more than $4.7 billion for U.S. soybean farmers and crushers between January and June 2020, a study commissioned by the United Soybean Board and the National Oilseed Processors Association found.

President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the expansion of the program, CFAP 2, on Sept. 17. Applications for CFAP 2 are open through Dec. 11. USDA has approved more than 18,000 Iowa applications under CFAP 2, with payments to Iowa farmers totaling $448.5  million as of Oct. 13, according to the USDA.

Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Advocate member Josh Henik told the secretaries he appreciated the ease of completing the application for the program.

“CFAP 1 and CFAP 2 are programs that have been designed by farmers, for farmers and it’s been refreshing to see simplicity of farmer signup, especially in the chaotic year we’ve had,” said Henik, who farms near Mount Vernon.

Henik encouraged both Naig and Northey to expand the user-friendly qualities of the CFAP signups to other signups, like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and others where possible.

“We can’t make everything 100% simplistic, but making things user-friendly, customer-service oriented makes it easier for farmers to sign up for things like CRP, CSP and EQIP, which will allow us to make more headway into things like the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy,” Henik said.

Northey (pictured above) said Congress has talked about a third round of assistance but said more resources would be necessary to make that happen.

Much like the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments, which were provided to farmers caught in the middle of the trade impasse between the United States and China, the CFP1 and CFAP 2 payments are intended to be short-term solutions to market disruptions.

“I really do have the intention that these programs—MFP, CFAP 1 and CFAP 2—are bridges to get to a better premium,” Northey said. “This is not a new normal. We don’t intend to tap into CCC (Commodity Credit Corporation) every time somebody has a hurt somewhere, but these were huge.”

An application for CFAP 2 and a full list of eligible commodities can be found at this link.