Drop payment limits, lawmakers tell Trump administration

Drop payment limits, lawmakers tell Trump administration

Drop payments limits to fresh produce growers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Democratic and Republic Congressional lawmakers told the Trump Administration on April 23.

Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and 26 other senators called on President Trump to eliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy, and specialty crop producers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), according to a news release.

Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and 125 other members of the House also sent a letter to President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for an elimination of the payment limit of $125,000 per commodity and $250,00 per individual or entity.

Money coming

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and. Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $23.5 billion to support farmers and ranchers, including $9.5 billion for livestock, dairy, and specialty crop producers; about $2.1 billion is targeted to fresh produce growers.

Feinstein and Moran said that CFAP payment limits may offer only minor help to many farms and ranches facing unprecedented losses due to the crisis.

“Agricultural economists have estimated over $13 billion in harm to the cattle industry and $5 billion to the pork industry due to the pandemic, with many billions more in injury to dairies, fruit, nut, and vegetable producers, and the horticulture and floriculture industry,” the letter said.  “As is true for many other small businesses across the country, this financial harm comes through no fault of these farmers and ranchers, nor is it the result of typical market forces. As such, these relief payments should aim to indemnify as much loss as possible without restrictive payment limitations.”

Western Growers president and CEO Dave Puglia thanked Feinstein and Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., for seeking to remove the payment limit.

“Simply put, $125,000 per commodity or $250,000 per farm is wholly inadequate to mitigate the massive economic damage that has been incurred by countless producers of fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, a total that is estimated at $5 billion and counting,” Puglia said in a statement.

Puglia said fresh produce growers have already made huge up-front investments in their crops. 

“With the virtual collapse of the foodservice sector, many fresh produce farmers have been forced to abandon their fields to cut their losses, which has tallied into the millions even for smaller and medium-sized farming operations,” he said in the statement. “While farmers have redirected a significant portion of their excess supply to food banks, the volume of production has outstripped the capacity of these non-profit organizations to handle the products. Furthermore, the added costs of harvesting and transporting the food makes additional donations economically unfeasible.

California Citrus Mutual president Casey Creamer said in a news release that payment limits should not apply during the coronavirus crisis. 

“Growers of crops with high production costs like citrus should be compensated for their actual losses and not be limited by an arbitrary cap,” Creamer said in the news release. “Roughly 80% of lemon growers who have suffered losses due to the foodservice decline would be adversely affected by the unnecessarily low payment limits.”

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