Approach provides potato growers access to relief funding
To ensure that USDA’s implementation of the CARES Act reflects local production practices, the Idaho Congressional delegation wrote Secretary Perdue this week calling for the Department to utilize a method for direct payment eligibility supported by the potato industry.
“We sincerely appreciate the unanimous support of the delegation to empower local decision-making in direct payments. If accepted by USDA, this approach will efficiently provide potato growers with access to vital relief funding,” said Britt Raybould, NPC President.
In the letter, Sens. Risch and Crapo and Reps. Simpson and Fulcher note that family farms likely seeking assistance under this program have numerous complicated relationships with their customers who include processors, distributors, packinghouses, and others. “Often these relationships occur with minimal, abbreviated, or no documentation,” which could harm their eligibility should the Department create a prescriptive set of documentation requirements for the program.
For example, the Members write, “in the potato industry, many producers have agreements with processors that span over a year. Those producers have bought seed for this 2020 crop year, prepared their ground and planted their crop at a cost of thousands of dollars per acre. At the same time, the processors who maintain these contracts are notifying growers verbally that they will void those contracts at levels up to 100 percent of the planted acres due to the food service shutdown. These impacted growers now possess full knowledge that their crop, planted specifically and uniquely for that one customer, will not be paid for. However, the growers do not possess a written notice of termination or documentation that the injury took place prior to the April 15th deadline. Moreover, many of these terminations were held off as long as possible by processors in hopes that CARES Act implementation may allow the agreements to be upheld. While the agreement may been voided after April 15th, the injury occurred due to decisions and market conditions that existed prior.”
As a result of these complex relationships, the Members urged the Secretary to utilize a method for direct payment eligibility for the CARES Act’s implementation. Such a method has been used before in the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), under which individual producers self-certify their economic harm with the Farm Service Agency, and their claim is then validated or rejected by FSA County Committees.
The full letter can be found here.