*This article was updated on July 23 to reflect information on eligible crops and payment rates. For the most up-to-date information on crop eligibility and crop payment rates, please review the information found on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) website.
USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for Specialty Crop Farmers
Calculating the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments for specialty crops can be relatively easy when using the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Services Agency (FSA) calculator, and when you know the basics of the program. Sign-up must be submitted in person (by appointment), by mail, e-mail, or facsimile to your county FSA office by August 28, 2020. We suggest you make your appointment with your FSA county office as soon as possible.
Specialty Crops Feel the Effect of Coronavirus
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted some specialty crops. Industry sources estimate that thousands of fruit and vegetable acres were not harvested because of the loss of the foodservice marketing channel. While some crops are meant for grocery stores, many farmers cater solely through the foodservice marketing chain. A survey performed early in the pandemic crisis indicated that COVID-19 was having an impact on 62% of specialty crop growers nationwide, with 24% of survey respondents stating that the impact was significant.1 Prices have dropped up to 69% for squash and 64% for tomatoes according to USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) data.2
CFAP Program Relief
Through the use of the FSA released CFAP calculator that can be downloaded at farmers.gov/cfap, knowing the eligible crops and some basic CFAP rules, an estimated CFAP payment can be determined. Table 1 below shows only a subset of the eligible crops for example purposes. A full and updated list of eligible crops and payment rates can be found on the USDA CFAP website.
Producers of eligible specialty crops may receive CFAP payments if they fall in one or more of three scenarios. A specialty crop producer may be able to receive payments based on each of the scenarios. Payments are calculated using payment rates from table 1 in the following columns:
- Scenario 1: CARES Act Payment Rate on sales losses (80% of price change): Column A
- Scenario 2: CARES Act Payment Rate on shipped but spoiled (30% of lost value): Column B
- Scenario 3: Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Payment Rate on crops not leaving the farm (5.875% of crop value): Column C
This scenario includes producers of crops that realized a 5% or greater reduction in sales price between the average price for the week of January 13-17, 2020 and the average price for the week of April 6-10, 2020.
- Payments for this scenario will be the grower’s sales volume during that time frame, multiplied by the pre-specified payment rate, as shown in column A of table 1.
- The payment rates in table 1 were calculated as 80% of the given crop’s mid-January to mid-April price change according to AMS data.
- For example, a grower that sold 100 pounds of tomatoes during that period, would get a $64 payment, calculated as 100 lbs. x $ 0.64.
This scenario includes producers with crops that were shipped from the farm by April 15 but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels, and no payment was received.
- The payment for this scenario will be the volume of shipped, spoiled crops multiplied by the pre-specified payment rate, as shown in column B of table 1.
- The payment rates in table 1 were determined assuming the field value of the crop is 60% of a mid-January sales value as determined by AMS data, multiplied by a 50% coverage level.
- In this example, a grower that shipped 100 pounds of tomatoes during that period, would get a $38 payment, calculated as 100 lbs. x $ 0.38.
This scenario includes producers with unpriced shipments that did not leave the farm, or with mature crops that remained unharvested by April 15 due to loss of marketing channel, and which have not been and will not be sold. If your crop has been in storage, check with your FSA office for eligibility for this category.
- Payments for this scenario are covered using CCC funds. Producers may submit a loss claim for compensation to assist with the purchase of materials and facilities required in connection with the production and marketing of agricultural commodities, and with the development of new and additional markets, marketing facilities, and uses for such commodities.
- Payments are calculated as the sum of the quantity of harvested acres for eligible crops that did not leave the farm and mature crops that remained unharvested, multiplied by a pre-specified payment rate per acre, as determined by AMS, as shown in column C of table 1.
- The payment rates in table 1 were calculated as the product of the average mid-January to mid-April price loss across all specialty crops (23.5%), a 25% coverage rate, and the mid-January price for the specific crop. In other words, the payment for this scenario may be up to 5.875% of the crop’s value estimated by AMS as of mid- January.
- For example, a farmer that could not harvest one-acre worth of tomatoes may receive a payment as high as $6,122.90.
Calculation versus Actual Payment
Payments are based on program eligibility and may vary due to changes in commodity data, producer eligibility, producer or member payment share, payment rates, factors, and payment limitation. Please look for the most current information at farmers.gov/cfap.
USDA FSA will make an initial payment of only 80% of your calculated payment, and the rest will be distributed once a payment is issued to all applicants. Any CCC funds that remain available will be distributed and may be prorated.
Supporting documentation may be requested to verify the amounts specified on the application. Specialty crop producers must provide acceptable records that substantiate the reported amounts, such as production records, copies of receipts, ledgers of income, income statements of deposit slips, register tapes, invoices for custom harvesting, measurements, truck scale tickets, or accounting records. Applications may also be spot-checked prior to payment.
To learn more about the yield estimates for different crops, download the FSA calculator from farmers.gov/cfap.4 This Microsoft Excel worksheet was made available by the FSA for producers to estimate the payment that they will receive.
An overview of the CFAP program can be found at Clemson University’s Land-Grant Press repository, authored by Stan Moore and Adam Kantrovich. A Spanish version of the article is also available, with translation and review provided by Florencia Colella of Michigan State University Extension.
Additional resources and information on assistance programs related to COVID-19 can be found at
- Clemson Cooperative Extension, Agribusiness Program Team Resources for COVID-19 website
- Michigan State University Extension, Farm Management Agribusiness Resources for Novel Coronavirus website
Table 1. CFAP payment types and values for specialty crops, not including payment limitations.
|Commodity||CARES Payment Rate on sales losses (80% of price change)||CARES Payment Rate on shipped but spoiled (30% of lost value)||CCC Payment Rate on crops not leaving the farm (5.875% of crop value)|
Source: Adapted from USDA AMS; USDA AMS data.
*Table 1 does not include all commodities that are eligible for a CFAP payment. This is just an example of some of the eligible crops. For the most up-to-date information on crop eligibility and crop payment rates, please review the information found on the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) website farmers.gov/cfap/specialty.
- Nickle A. How the coronavirus is affecting the produce industry. The Packer. 2020 March 13.
- Specialty Crops, Custom Reports. Washington (DC): US Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Services Market News. https://www.ams.usda.gov/market-news/fruits-vegetables.
- Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Cost Benefit Analysis. Washington (DC): US Department of Agriculture, Farmers.gov. https://www.farmers.gov/sites/default/files/documents/CFAP%20CBA%205%2015%202020.pdf.
- Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Washington (DC): US Department of Agriculture, Farmers.gov. https://www.farmers.gov/cfap.
Moore S, Kantrovich AJ. The Long-Awaited Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for Farmers. Clemson (SC): Clemson Cooperative Extension, Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension; 2020. LGP 1063. http://lgpress.clemson.edu/publication/the-long-awaited-coronavirus-food-assistance-program-cfap-for-farmers/.
Moore S, Kantrovich AJ, Colella Florencia. El tan esperado Programa de Asistencia Alimentaria frente al Coronavirus (CFAP) para Agricultores. Clemson (SC): Clemson Cooperative Extension, Land-Grant Press by Clemson Extension; 2020. LGP 1064. http://lgpress.clemson.edu/publication/el-tan-esperado-programa-de-asistencia-alimentaria-frente-al-coronavirus-cfap-para-agricultores/.