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Idaho Farm Bureau Federation: Revisions to farm relief program could help some potato growers

The recent revisions that USDA made to its coronavirus farm relief program are expected to provide some relief to potato farmers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Sean Ellis reports for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

But the changes to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program aren’t expected to provide much help to most Idaho wheat and barley farmers who have suffered financial losses due to the reaction to the coronavirus outbreak.

The federal CFAP program, which was announced April 17, will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID. The initial parameters of the program meant Idaho spud farmers, as well as most wheat and barley growers, would have received little if any of the funds.

But revisions to the program announced by USDA in July will result in some spud growers being eligible to receive financial assistance. Most Idaho wheat and barley growers, however, won’t receive much help from CFAP.

Potatoes, wheat and barley rank as the No. 1, 2 and 5 crops in Idaho in terms of farm-cash receipts. Idaho leads the nation in potato and barley production and ranked fifth last year in total wheat production.

Together, those three crops brought in an estimated $1.9 billion in farm-cash receipts last year in Idaho.

The revisions to the coronavirus farm relief program “will better address the needs of the Idaho potato industry,” Idaho Potato Commission officials stated in one of their regular email updates. The update said the “newly announced revisions to the CFAP program will better reflect the intricacies of the potato industry by categorizing potatoes based on their production purposes and widely varying markets.”

“While these revised payments cannot fully offset the severe market disruption caused by COVID-19, they will help more Idaho potato farmers gain eligibility for CFAP,” the IPC update states.

IPC Commissioner Randy Hardy, a potato farmer from Oakley, said the amount of assistance to spud farmers will vary depending on their situation. In general, he said, farmers who produce Russet potatoes for the fresh market will get more assistance than those who grow spuds for processors.

Hardy is a member of Sun Valley Potato Growers, a potato farmer cooperative. “Our growers (for Sun Valley) are pretty pleased with the CFAP revisions but I’ve heard from growers who aren’t,” he said. “We’re fortunate to get what we got and I hope it helps some guys.”

USDA revised its parameters for potatoes in the CFAP program after industry leaders sent the department information and documentation making the case for spuds to receive more assistance from the program.

Source: Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. Read the full release here

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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