USDA freezes latest CFAP payments

By Jennifer Dorsett 

A notice posted this week on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) webpage says processing and payments under the program are temporarily suspended.

USDA said it is acting in accordance with the White House memo, Regulatory Freeze Pending Review.

The memo from Ronald Klain, assistant to the President and Chief of Staff, said “the President’s appointees or designees” need the opportunity to review any new or pending rules before they’re implemented.

A USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) document sent to state and county offices on Jan. 27 noted updated regulations were published in the Federal Register Jan. 19 to incorporate additional assistance for both CFAP 1 and CFAP 2.

In this notice, Acting Deputy Administrator of Farm Programs Bradley Karmen wrote, “some activities have been suspended during the transition between administrations. This routine action was taken to provide an opportunity for the incoming administration to understand and evaluate the features of CFAP, including recent statutory provisions included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.”

The CFAP update announcement on Jan. 15 said the program was expanded to include contract growers of broiler chickens and hogs and would increase payments for some other commodities.

Farmers and ranchers can continue to submit applications through Feb. 26 while the program is under regulatory review.

“The payment process may begin after the evaluation period,” his notification said. “Offices will be notified when and if the payments become available for certification and signature.”

A prolonged delay in these payments could be detrimental to those contract growers and other farmers and ranchers who became eligible for more aid under the new CFAP revisions, said Brant Wilbourn, Texas Farm Bureau associate director of Commodity and Regulatory Activities.

“The regulatory freeze is an action new administrations sometimes undertake as they sort through what happened at the end of the previous administration’s term,” Wilbourn said. “We will be following closely in hopes this issue is resolved quickly.”

Also temporarily frozen under the White House memo is the updated USDA final rule on domestic hemp production, Wilbourn added.

“Again, this is a routine action, and we expect there will not be significant changes to either of these programs,” he said. “But Texas Farm Bureau is aware of these issues and will be working to ensure any changes made do not cause additional harm to agriculture.”

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