Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced today that Maine farmers have been awarded a total of $25,159,777 to date to help offset the financial harm they have experienced due to COVID-19. The funding is provided through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), created through the CARES Act, which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers.
“The supply chain disruptions and restaurant closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have placed increasing financial pressure on Maine’s rural farming communities, from newly founded farms to operations that have been passed down from generation to generation,” said Senator Collins. “These direct payments, which I worked to include in the CARES Act, will help provide some relief. During this difficult time, I will continue to advocate for Maine farmers.”
In addition to facilitating the Farmers to Families Food Box program, CFAP is providing vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face significant additional marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.
Farmers will receive direct support from two funding sources: The first is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the CARES Act, which will compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January 2020 and mid-April 2020 and provides support for specialty crops. The second is the Commodity Credit Corporation, which will compensate producers for $6.5 billion in losses due to ongoing market disruptions.
To date, the funding has been allocated as follows:
More information about CFAP can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) resource page: Farmers.gov/cfap.
Following a push by Maine’s Congressional Delegation and Governor Janet Mills, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in August that maple syrup producers are now eligible for CFAP’s direct financial relief. In June, Senator Collins, along with and Senator King and Representatives Pingree and Golden, sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue (PDF) in support of maple syrup producers’ eligibility for direct relief from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). In addition to maple syrup producers, aquaculture farmers were also made eligible for CFAP payments after Sen. Collins and the delegation urged USDA to include them in the program. In April, Senator Collins and the delegation sent a letter to Sec. Perdue in support of aquaculture farmers’ eligibility for this direct relief.
In July, Senator Collins visited Van Buren, where 760 food boxes through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program were distributed to members of the community. The food boxes, which contained products from Maine farmers, were purchased through a $2.14 million contract recently awarded to Maine Farmers Exchange (MFX) to participate in the program.
Additionally, Senator Collins recently visited Native Maine Produce and Specialty Foods to meet with managers and employees and celebrate a $1.35 million contract the wholesale food distributor was recently awarded to distribute 45,000 food boxes, each holding 25 pounds of produce, to Maine food banks.
Senator Collins has helped to lead bipartisan efforts in Congress to direct more support to farmers. She co-signed a series of letters to the USDA, urging Secretary Sonny Perdue to prioritize assistance to Maine farmers, including those in the dairy, potato, and blueberry industries.
Senator Collins and Representative Pingree also wrote to USDA to emphasize the need to provide assistance directly to growers as well as support local producers and their supply chains, and she joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in leading a group of bipartisan Senators in urging the USDA to target COVID-19 relief provisions to reach local farmers.
In a letter to the USDA, Senator Collins elevated the concerns and questions raised by representatives of the potato industry, including the Maine Potato Board, who are facing an unprecedented crisis due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Furthermore, Senator Collins offered recommendations for the CFAP that would address the supply backlog and called for direct relief for potato growers.
In May, Senators Collins, King, and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the Farming Support to States Act, a bipartisan bill to provide states access to immediate, flexible funding to aid in responding to urgent and emerging issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in America’s agriculture economy and food supply chain.