By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
POCATELLO – Judging from the participation in a USDA webinar May 14, there is a lot of interest in the agency’s coronavirus ag relief program.
The program will provide a total of $16 billion in direct support payments to farmers and ranchers who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Demand to participate in the webinar was so high, it quickly filled up and USDA had to stop accepting more participants.
An Idaho Farm Bureau Federation employee who attempted to join the 11 a.m. webinar was met with a message saying that the limit of 10,000 participants had already been met.
Earlier in the day, people who had registered to participate in the webinar received an email message informing them that “the demand has been overwhelming and there is a chance that webinar will be at capacity when you attempt to join.”
Thousands of farmers, ranchers and others involved in the ag industry from across the country joined the webinar, which presented basic information to producers on how to start to prepare for the upcoming signup for the ag relief program.
The direct support payments to producers is included in a $19 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program announced by USDA on April 17.
The program initially included a payment limit cap of $125,000 per commodity, with an overall limit of $250,000 per farm.
But pressure from farm groups and members of Congress from throughout the nation caused USDA to announce May 8 that those limits would be increased.
What the new limits will be was not addressed during the webinar.
USDA officials directed producers to the website, www.farmers.gov/CFAP, for more details about the program.
“We are still finalizing the details of the program and will not provide any further details about the CFAP program outside of what is available at farmers.gov/CFAP,” a USDA email to webinar participants stated. ‘”That information and support will be available when the rule is final and published for public viewing in the Federal Register.”
The webinar was recorded and can be viewed at that website soon, according to USDA.
According to an Idaho Potato Commission email update on the issue, USDA plans to start sending the relief checks to producers by the end of May or early June.
During the webinar, Bill Beam, deputy administrator for farm programs for USDA’s Farm Service Agency, said producers should call their local FSA office to get started.
“We will walk you through applying for CFAP,” he said.
Some of the information FSA will need from producers includes their tax ID number, farm operation structure and direct deposit information, he said.
A list of necessary forms can be downloaded from the farmers.gov/CFAP website.
If the FSA has worked with a farmer or rancher in the past, then the chances are the agency already has that information, Beam said.
For those the agency has not worked with in the past, “Our staff will be there to walk you through the process,” he added.