OKLAHOMA CITY—U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) April 18, 2020. The program is intended to support America’s farmers and ranchers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The agriculture industry, already reeling from trade war fallout, has lost billions due to plummeting prices, sudden drops in demand and supply chain weaknesses.

“I am very disappointed in USDA’s CFAP relief plan,” said AFR/OFU Cooperative President Scott Blubaugh. “Agricultural producers across the nation are suffering through unprecedented market upheaval. Amid record losses and incredible market turmoil, USDA’s plan is an ineffective mess.

“Congress must provide additional funding to the agriculture sector immediately to avoid irreparable harm to America’s farmers and ranchers. If lawmakers fail to act now, our nation’s producers and our food system is in certain jeopardy.”

CFAP provides two forms of assistance—$3 billion in purchases of agriculture products, including meat, dairy and produce, to provide for those in need through food banks, community programs and faith-based organizations and $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers, funded through the $9.5 billion CARES Act emergency provisions and $6.5 billion in Credit Commodity Corporation (CCC) funding.

The $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers will include $9.6 billion for the livestock industry ($5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy, and $1.6 billion for hogs), $3.9 billion for row crop producers, $2.1 billion for specialty crops producers, and $500 million for other crops. The payment limit is $125,000 per commodity, $250,000 total per individual or entity.

“These amounts will be woefully inadequate for all commodities,” said Blubaugh. “Oklahoma agricultural producers were hopeful, but this program provides no real relief. Secretary Perdue has proven he’s out of touch with producers; I fear we will lose a lot of farmers and ranchers because of it.”

The $5.1 billion allocated to cattle producers is especially concerning. Following years of market volatility, they have spent the last few months fighting large meatpacking companies over possible market manipulation and other antitrust violations. There is an open USDA investigation addressing the concerns.

“Agricultural economists across the country have shown losses to be three times that of the CFAP payments to cattle producers,” said Blubaugh. “$5.1 billion may not even keep producers on their farms and ranches, much less prop up an entire industry. At best, this ‘relief’ will pay a little bank interest. It’s merely a Band-Aid on a much larger wound.”

According to USDA, producers will be compensated with a single direct payment determined using two calculations: 85 percent of actual price loss from Jan. 1 to April 15 and 30 percent of expected losses from April 15 through the next two quarters. USDA expects to begin CFAP sign-up in early May, with producers receiving payments by early June.

AFR/OFU Cooperative is a membership services organization established in 1905 as Oklahoma Farmers Union. AFR/OFU provides educational, legislative and cooperative programs across the state and serves as a watchdog for Oklahoma’s family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. The organization is actively supportive of the state’s agricultural industry and rural population with membership consisting of farmers actively involved in production agriculture and non-farmers adding their voice in support of AFR/OFU principles.

AFR members will have the opportunity to discuss key rural and agriculture issues during an informal dinner Aug. 7 at the Stillwater Community Center, 315 W. 8th Street. The event, which starts promptly at 6 p.m., is part of a series of eight sessions scheduled for Aug. 7-20 in various locations across Oklahoma.

“We want to use this informal, relaxed atmosphere to learn the critical issues on the minds of Oklahoma farmers and ranchers,” AFR President Terry Detrick, said.

The current agriculture economy, the farm bill, mid-term elections and international trade are among the issues expected to gain attention during the meetings.

“We’ll talk about all of these issues,” Detrick said, “and I am sure the weather will also be a frequent topic, as it is every time you get farmers and ranchers together.”

Detrick added, the issues discussed will lead to new and improved policies for the state’s oldest farm organization.

“The thoughts and ideas surfaced at these barbecues will be used by our members to formulate policies to be voted on at our annual convention in February,” Detrick said.  “These policies are important as they will guide our organization throughout the coming year.”

The meetings, two each day, will start promptly with the meal followed by discussions. There will also be staff introductions followed by brief comments. In addition to Stillwater, the schedule for the August meetings includes the following venues:

Tuesday, Aug. 7

  • Lunch in Muskogee at noon, Northeastern State University, Synar Room 147, 2400 W. Shawnee Street.

Thursday, Aug. 9

  • Lunch in Atoka at 12 p.m., Kiamichi Technology Center, 1301 W. Liberty Rd.
  • Dinner in Tecumseh, Crossing Hearts Ranch, 22214 Skagg City Rd.

Thursday, Aug. 16

  • Lunch in Watonga at 12 p.m., American Legion Post 125, 306 S. Noble Ave.
  • Dinner in Gate at 6 p.m., Gate Community Center, 210 West 4th.

Monday, Aug. 20

  • Lunch in Hobart at 12 p.m., Western Technology Center, 1000 S. Bailey Street.
  • Dinner in Duncan at 6 p.m., Red River Technology Center, 3300 W. Bois D’Arc.

 

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Bethany Andrews, bandrews@afrmic.com (405) 218-5531.

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The following statement can be attributed to Terry Detrick, President of AFR/OFU

“Farmers, ranchers and consumers need a strong farm bill that provides adequate protection and food security. Passage this week by the U.S. House of Representatives is a positive step forward towards providing certainty and security.  Low commodity prices and falling agricultural income make the farm bill more important than ever. We trust Congress will follow the process in a timely manner and pass a farm bill that benefits all Americans.

We look forward to working with the U.S. Senate to pass a farm bill that meets our needs, which include a robust crop insurance program, trade policies allowing market access and decreasing burdensome regulations.”