USDA freezes $2.3B supplemental Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, announced at a news conference on Jan. 26, that Biden Administration would freeze payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) in order to review the new rules put in place on Jan. 15.

USDA announced Jan. 27 that $2.3 billion in supplemental Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments will be temporarily frozen.

“In accordance with the White House memo, Regulatory Freeze Pending Review, USDA has suspended the processing and payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – Additional Assistance and has halted implementation until further notice. FSA local offices will continue to accept applications during the evaluation period,” said a notice on the USDA CFAP page.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, told the Farm Journal that she supports the Biden Administration’s move to freeze payments under CFAP in order to review the rules put in place in the waning days of the Trump Administration.

Stabenow pointed to assistance that was never dispersed to address supply chain issues, as well as support for smaller processors and producers.

According to the release, the USDA and the Biden Administration will take a look at additional steps needed to bring relief and support to all parts of food and agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic, including by ensuring producers have access to the capital, risk management tools, disaster assistance, and other federal resources.

While he recognizes the Biden administration's desire to review important farmer and rancher assistance programs, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says CFAP has helped to boost those in the ag industry.

“The pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on American agriculture, and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program has provided a lifeline for farmers and ranchers across the country. Many growers who previously did not qualify for assistance continue to suffer losses and need the help CFAP provides," Duvall said. "We urge the USDA to take into consideration our comments on how to improve such assistance programs."

The memo released by the USDA noted that the Trump administration had announced the expanded eligibility for the CFAP 1 and 2 programs on Jan. 15, just days before Biden was to be sworn in, noting that the program expansion targeted mostly contract pork and poultry producers and others previously excluded from the relief payments.

As outlined in the notice, USDA will continue to take applications for the CFAP program, though no checks will be cut while the program is reviewed.

"We appreciate that CFAP applications will continue to be accepted, and we encourage the swift resumption of distribution of resources to the people who are working to keep America’s pantries stocked,” Duvall added.