North Dakota Farmers Union is hopeful the new Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will provide critical relief to family farmers and ranchers. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the program, which will provide $19 billion to support agricultural producers. Of that amount, $5.1 billion is earmarked for the beef industry.

“There’s no doubt that funding is badly needed on the ground, especially for cattle producers who have felt the sharp blow of market disruptions,” said NDFU President Mark Watne. “Financial support is helpful and needed, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem in the beef industry. The Department of Justice needs to investigate price fixing by meatpackers and strictly enforce antitrust laws.”

NDFU will be watching closely to make sure the program gives cow/calf producers their fair share and prevents payments from going to meatpackers, Watne said.

Watne said the bulk of the new program’s funding ($16 billion) will be in direct payments to farmers and ranchers, while $3 billion will be used to purchase produce, meat and dairy products to distribute to food banks. The direct payment portion includes $3.9 billion for row crop farmers and $2.1 billion for specialty crop farmers.

“The pandemic has made our oversupply of crops even worse and it’s reflected in lower crop prices,” said Watne. “This assistance will bring a small measure of certainty to farmers as they begin spring planting.”

As NDFU eagerly awaits further details on CFAP’s structure, Watne said the organization will continue to support proposals that address underlying market challenges.