Lucas presses USDA to clarify federal funding disparities for cattle producers

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) joined 50 Republican colleagues in requesting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) immediately allow cattle producers that sold cattle after April 15 to be deemed eligible for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) payments for those sales.

“Congress has entrusted you with significant resources to support agricultural producers affected by COVID-19,” Rep. Lucas and the members wrote in a May 29 letter sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We are disappointed that the current rollout appears to significantly miss the mark for many impacted cattle producers, and we implore you to provide flexibility to address this shortcoming immediately.”

Rep. Lucas and the lawmakers, who represent the nation’s cattle-producing districts, also requested that USDA provide a detailed explanation and the methodology used in the selection of the date to differentiate between CFAP payments for sales and CFAP payments for inventory, according to their letter.

“The details included in the May 19 announcement of CFAP create significant disparities for many cattle producers, particularly those who sold their animals after April 15,” they wrote. “For producers who have marketed cattle since April 15, USDA’s choice of that particular date is potentially devastating to their operations.”

For instance, the spring sale of calves for some cow/calf and stocker producers is the only income from their cattle herd for the year, and any who sold after April 15 are immediately harmed by USDA’s program design, wrote the lawmakers.

Many small farmer-feeders are similarly harmed by USDA’s choice of an April 15 date for CFAP, according to their letter, which noted that the COVID-19 related closures at packing plants already has dramatically reduced U.S. cattle slaughter capacity and forced many small farmer-feeder operations to hold market-ready cattle for an extended time or sell those cattle at lower prices after the April 15 CFAP date as soon as slaughter capacity is available for those animals.

“Producers who sold at prices lowered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic should be eligible for USDA’s response in CFAP, regardless of if those sales were before or after an arbitrary April 15 date,” wrote Rep. Lucas and his colleagues.