The program should include aquaculture and horticulture products, Florida’s ag commissioner said
By Diego Flammini
More commodities need to be eligible for coronavirus-relief payments from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Florida’s ag commissioner says.
In an Aug. 4 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nicole Fried requested an expansion of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to include horticulture and aquaculture products.
In July, although the USDA expanded the list of commodities eligible for CFAP payments, aquaculture and horticulture remained ineligible.
“As the CFAP enrollment deadline is fast approaching on August 28, I write today to once again call for the inclusion of aquaculture and horticulture commodities under CFAP, and to request that the enrollment deadline be extended for producers of additional commodities that have yet to have their eligibility announced,” Fried wrote.
USDA has been in contact with the industries about available assistance.
"USDA has conducted targeted outreach to specialty crop producers, including fruit and vegetable growers, to ensure producers are knowledgeable of the program and are clear on how to apply," a spokesperson told Farms.com in an emailed statement.
Both industries are worth billions of dollars to the U.S. economy.
In 2018, aquaculture was worth $1.5 billion, the 2017 Census of Agriculture said.
And in 2014, the U.S. horticulture sector sold $13.8 billion of products, with California and Florida leading the way with $2.8 and $1.7 billion in sales, respectively.
The USDA started to collect data for its 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties in December 2019 and will release the results in December 2020.
Congress is working on further coronavirus-relief packages that would include ag.
In May, the House of Representatives passed its HEROES Act, which would include $16.5 billion for direct payments to farmers.
In July, the Senate introduced its HEALS Act, which would earmark $20 billion for USDA spending.