House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Reps. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), and Filemon Vela (D-Texas) wrote to Secretary Perdue this week expressing their concerns with USDA’s design and implementation of the program, noting the challenges faced by specialty crop producers in participating. Among the issues outlined in the letter, they write that “CFAP does not include commodities under contract, even though several of the most impacted crops are typically grown under contract, including potatoes and malting barley.” Additionally they note that USDA is using data that does not fully represent the farm gate value of specialty crops when determining eligibility for the CFAP payments.
NPC and the state potato organizations have been in frequent communication with USDA to advocate for changes that would make CFAP more valuable for potato growers. For example, potatoes are currently not eligible for Category 1 as USDA has determined that there was less than a five percent overall decline in potato prices from January 15 through April 15. NPC disagrees with this assessment and has been working to make potatoes eligible for Category 1. Additionally, we have been working to increase payments to potato growers through Categories 2 and 3, which list potato reimbursement levels below similar commodities, such as sweet potatoes.
Yesterday, during a tour of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, USDA Secretary Perdue met with industry as well as key Congressional leaders to hear their concerns about the program along with recommended improvements. During the meeting, Idaho growers and state representatives provided the Secretary with information on why potatoes should be eligible for Category 1 of the program and why payments in all three categories should be adjusted upward to match other similar commodities. The Secretary committed to studying the issues raised and responding with adjustments as warranted.
In an interview with the Spokesman Review, the Secretary indicated that potato growers with canceled contracts may be eligible for Category 1 payments. “There were a couple misinformations I think, about things that were already under contract were not eligible, that’s not really true,” said Perdue. “If their contracts were canceled, if they didn’t have a market for their shipping, they’ll be eligible. If they donated potatoes during that period of time, they’ll be eligible for indemnification there.”
Earlier today, USDA published technical corrections to the rules governing the CFAP program. For specialty crops, the amendments specify that crops that were harvested and shipped but that were subsequently spoiled or unpaid due to loss of marketing channels between January 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020, are eligible for payment under Category 2. The amendments also correct Category 3 to specify that it includes donated crops and remove the term “unpriced,” which does not apply to payments for specialty crops that did not leave the farm or were donated, or mature crops that remained unharvested between January 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020, due to loss of marketing channels.
NPC is currently reviewing the technical corrections and will provide feedback to USDA prior to the June 22 public comment period deadline.