Current rules do not provide meaningful relief for potato growers
After extensive conversations with the industry to better understand the real-world impact of the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, NPC and 13 state grower organizations issued a letter to Secretary Perdue calling on USDA to address several deficiencies in the CFAP rules that prevent the program from having a meaningful impact for the nation’s potato growers.
As the letter points out, the industry appreciates the recent USDA announcement of a $50 million surplus commodity purchase for potatoes under Section 32 authority and its efforts to provide direct payments to struggling family farms. Unfortunately, the CFAP does not meet the goal for our industry of a meaningful direct payment program.
The groups raise several concerns about the eligibility categories and payment rates, including:
- Why potatoes are ineligible for Category 1 payments when it is clear that several potato producing states had growers who suffered a significant price loss during the specified January-April time period;
- Why USDA only considered fresh (retail) market data for potatoes to determine a five percent price loss rather than the processed (food service) side of the industry that operates largely on a contract basis;
- Why similar crops, particularly sweet potatoes, have significantly higher payment rates when market prices are comparable; and
- Why unusable product left on the farm is treated differently than shipped product.
Given these examples, the industry requests USDA to take the following urgent actions to provide relief to our family farmers:
- Make potatoes eligible for Category 1 payments at a meaningful level, subject to requirements of verifying economic losses in a manner consistent with the seed, fresh and the contract nature of the processing sides of the potato industry; and
- Raise the payments for potatoes in Category 1, Category 2, and Category 3 to levels that are consistent with the payment levels of other commodities and no less than $.04 per lb.
The full letter can be found here.