Sixty-one Wilkes County farmers have applied for financial aid so far through a federal program that addresses the coronavirus pandemic’s adverse impact on agriculture, said Julia Houck, executive director of the Wilkes office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The deadline for applications for payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is Aug. 28, said Houck. The application period started May 26.

Houck said there still is no public access to FSA offices due to the pandemic but farmers can call the Wilkes office at 336-838-3622, ext. 2, to apply. She said leave a recorded message if office personnel are busy helping someone else and a return call will be made. The office is in the Wilkes Agricultural Center in Wilkesboro.

Wilkes Cooperative Extension Director John Cothren, also with an office in the Wilkes Agricultural Center, is assisting farmers with their applications. His number is 336-651-7330.

Houck said most of the applications received from Wilkes farmers are for losses from reduced beef cattle prices. Although wholesale and retail beef prices are up due to demand at supermarkets, prices paid to cattle producers plummeted during the pandemic.

Most Wilkes cattlemen raise calves on grass until they reach around 500-600 pounds and sell them to stocker operations. Pasture and hay feeding continues until cattle are sold to feed lots at about 800 to 1,000 pounds. At about 1,300 pounds, they’re sold to companies like Tyson Foods Inc. with beef processing plants.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 (disease caused by the coronavirus) in beef processing plants and reduced restaurant sales during the pandemic reduced processing plant production and this decreased demand and prices for cattle from stock yards and at every prior level in the process of raising cattle.

Cattle, hog and sheep producers are eligible for CFAP payments if they had at least a 5% price drop due to the pandemic and face significant marketing costs due to unexpected surplus and disrupted markets between mid-January and mid-April 2020.

Livestock subject to an agreed upon price in the future through a forward contract, agreement, or similar binding document as of Jan. 15, 2020, are ineligible.

On their applications, producers must provide their total sales of livestock by species and class between Jan. 15 and April 15 of the animals they owned as of Jan. 15, including any of their offspring; and their highest number of eligible livestock, by species and class, between April 16 and May 14.

There is one payment per producer. The payment is calculated by multiplying the producer’s total number of livestock sold between Jan. 15 and April 15, by a payment rate of $214 per head, and multiplying the highest number of livestock in inventory between April 16 and May 14 by a payment rate of $33 per head. The payment rates are not added and are paid on different sets of cattle.

Dairy farmers

Dairy producers are eligible for a CFAP payment if their milk production occurred in January, February and/or March 2020. Any dumped milk production during those months qualifies for assistance. Milk is eligible even if already contracted to be sold.

A single payment is available for dairy producers based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of the calendar year 2020 multiplied by $4.71 per hundredweight.

The second part of the payment is based on a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter. An example is 1.014 multiplied by $1.47 per hundredweight.

Payments for corn, soybeans

Corn (grain and silage) and soybean producers are also eligible for CFAP payments.

The government estimated the price decline for grain farmers between mid-January and mid-April and determined that it would pay farmers for half of that decline. The payment is 67¢ per bushel for corn and 95¢ per bushel for soybeans.

A payment will be made based on 50% of a producer’s 2019 total production or the 2019 inventory as of Jan. 15, whichever is smaller, multiplied by the commodity’s applicable payment rates.

For corn silage, payments are determined by taking the number of tons of corn silage produced by 7.94 bushels per ton. This gives the number of bushels to enter on a CFAP application.

Apple growers

Producers of specialty crops, including apples, peaches and blueberries, are eligible for CFAP payments if they meet certain conditions. Depending on the specialty crop and loss type, payment rates range from 1 cent to $1.45 per pound.

Apples and blueberry producers are eligible if their fruit was shipped but spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, if they had shipments that didn’t leave the farm or if they had mature crops that were not harvested.

Peach producers are eligible if they had one of these two conditions or if they had crops suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April due to the pandemic.

About the payments

An FSA press release said the goal is for farmers to receive payments within seven to 10 days after applications are approved.

Payment limits apply but are unlike other FSA programs. A payment limitation of $250,000 is applied to the total amount of CFAP payments made for all eligible commodities. Also, entities structured as corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships may receive $250,000 per shareholder up to $750,000 for those who contribute at least 400 hours of active personal management or personal active labor.

Participation in other farm programs such as Agriculture Risk Coverage, Price Loss Coverage, Dairy Margin Coverage and Dairy Revenue Protection is complementary to CFAP and will not lower a recipient’s CFAP payments.

More information about the program is at https://www.farmers.gov/.

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