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Beginning Tuesday, farmers and ranchers will be able to apply for financial assistance to replace losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Producers of agricultural commodities who have seen a 5 percent or greater price decline because of the pandemic and face additional marketing costs because of surpluses, lowered demand and shipping disruptions could qualify for direct support, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release.

Much of the support will come from two possible sources — $9.5 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability (CARES) Act or $6.5 billion from the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act (CCCCA). CARES will compensate farmers who had losses because of price declines from mid-January through mid-April. The act provides support for specialty crops that had shipped, but subsequently spoiled because of disruptions in marketing.

CCCCA compensates producers for losses that continue because of market disruptions.

Beginning May 26, the USDA will begin accepting applications from agricultural producers though the Farm Service Agency. Forms will be available at farmers.gov/cfap.

Non-specialty crop producers qualify for assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

Non-specialty crops eligible for payments include malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat and hard red spring wheat. Wool is also eligible. Producers will be paid based on inventory subject to price risk held as of Jan. 15.

Livestock eligible for CFAP include cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs.

For dairy, the total payment will be calculated based on a producer's certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020 multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based a national adjustment to each producer's production in the first quarter.

For eligible specialty crops, the total payment will be based on the volume of production sold between Jan. 15 and April 15; the volume of production shipped, but unpaid; and the number of acres for which harvested production did not leave the farm or mature product destroyed or not harvested during that same time period, and which have not and will not be sold. Specialty crops include, but are not limited to, almonds, beans, broccoli, sweet corn, lemons, iceberg lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries and tomatoes. A full list of eligible crops can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Additional crops may be deemed eligible at a later date.

To ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date as funds remain available.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

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