Last July, the USDA announced that more than 40 specialty crops previously excluded from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), will become qualified. Finally, on August 11, the USDA released a complete list of more than 40 specialty farm commodities and has given advice that the department’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is currently accepting applications up to September 11, 2020.
Specialty crop farmers whose CFAP applications were denied, have to file new applications. Crop producers who qualified to receive CFAP financial assistance based on qualified conditions , but seeking to acquire funding for specialty crops that have become eligible, do not have to file a new application. They only need to get in touch with their local FSA and request for the amendment of their application.
A complete list is available at the USDA’s FSA website, to which some examples of the specialty crops added include but are not limited to: alfalfa sprouts, almonds, artichokes, anise, apples, cilantro, collards, coriander, garlic, grapefruit, eggplant, guava, greens, dandelion, leeks, lemon, leeks, lettuce, onions and more.
Whereas before, the USDA approved CFAP applications for specialty crops only if the need for relief is due to the following:
The specialty crops had suffered a 5% or more decline in price, from mid-January to mid-April, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although applications based on this reason will still be considered, specialty crop producers may be requested to present bills of sale as proofs in support of such claims.
Specialty crop producers who suffered losses due to spoiled shipment after the pandemic had closed down their marketing channel. However, producers may be requested to submit documentation as proof of non-payment or obtain from the intended buyer a written explanation for the non-payment.
Specialty crop that were already for shipments but failed to leave the farms, or remained unharvested and unsold for lack of marketing channel, as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns. However, the USDA said may request supporting documentations when assessing substantial claims on a cases-by-case basis.
What are Specialty Crops?
The oversight in granting direct payment was mainly due to the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 of the Farm Bill. to which the legal definition of specialty crops refers to “Fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, horticulture, floriculture, and nursery crops.
To be considered as specialty crops, the produce must have been cultivated, managed and used by individuals for purposes of producing food supplements, non-lab medicines and for aesthetic gratification or enhancement. When used as ingredients of processed products, the special substance must constitute more than 50% of the specialty crop in terms of weight without its added water content.
Part of the oversight was that majority of the specially crops are currently being cultivated, managed and sold by young Americans who became first generation farmers, as well as farmers of color. As a result, many were automatically excluded by the CFAP system.
Nonetheless, the matter was brought to the attention of the USDA by The National Young Farmers Coalition, which estimated that about three-quarters of the their members had also experienced lost sales after the COVID-19 measures resulted to closures of restaurants, specialty shops and farmers markets.