If the COVID-19 shutdown affected your farm, the Food Assistance Program can help. The federal project, approved by Congress in April, offers direct relief to farmers who were hit with price declines and additional marketing costs because of the virus.
According to the Association of Wheat Growers, that includes most wheat farms. As of May 26, an estimated 80 percent of U.S. wheat farmers said they had been hit in some way by the pandemic. The majority also worried about the months ahead and what they would do with this year’s crop. That’s where FAP comes in.
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In fact, there are several pandemic assistance programs farmers can take advantage of this year. But each one also has strict guidelines, and some can be confusing to navigate. Yes, there is paperwork to file, and you have to meet certain restrictions. Over the next few minutes, I’ll outline each program, when you need to apply, and what has to be included in the application. How does that work? Let’s take a look.
Feds Provide Food Assistance
As I mentioned above, FAP was set up to help farmers dealing with a price decline. Specifically, to qualify you must be able to prove your farm suffered a five percent or greater price decline or had losses due to market supply chain disruptions caused by the shutdown. This includes wheat farmers growing barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat and hard red spring wheat.
Pandemic assistance also applies to livestock farmers and those growing fruit and dairy, vegetables, nuts, and beans. Now if you meet those requirements so far, there are a couple extra hurdles. Your farm must have brought in less than $900,000 in annual adjusted gross income for 2016, 2017, and 2018. There is a loophole to that last rule. If 75 percent of the adjusted gross income comes from farming, the $900,000 limit doesn’t apply.
If you meet all these guidelines, then you can apply here for up to $250,000 per person or $750,000 as a corporation. The corporation’s amount is based on the number of shareholders. If there’s just one shareholder, you can get up to $250,000. With two, the limit is $500,000 and with three, you get the full $750,000.
If approved, farmers will get 80 percent of the money instantly. The remaining portion will be paid out at a later date, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, as more funds become available. FAP started accepting applications on May 26.
Disaster Loans and Mini-Grants
If you don’t want to wait for a FAP approval, there’s a smaller pandemic assistance option. Farmers across the country can file for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan for up to $10,000. Now this money is set up to help businesses like farms that are experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Even though it’s a loan, the amount will not have to be repaid as long as you use it on the farm.
To qualify for this, your farm has to be engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching, or raising livestock. Aquaculture farmers can also file for the loan. Because the loan is run through the Small Business Administration, any company applying must have no more than 500 employees. The loans have to be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, or other business expenses that can be linked to COVID-19.
Farmers can apply here for these pandemic assistance loans. But as mentioned, you will need documentation. You will have to prove each of your employees is on the payroll, and you will need IRS tax forms. These confirm your business identity and demonstrate how much you’ve lost financially as a result of the quarantine shutdown.
Pandemic assistance loans are available on a first-come, first-serve basis until the money runs out. Mini-grants of $500 are also available to farmers, if you fill out this application. As with the disaster loan, you can apply as long as there’s money in the fund.
Economic Flexibility on Your Farm
In a pandemic, it’s important to keep grain in prime condition to sell. Tri-State’s remote grain monitoring system is the best way to do that. It’s simple and easy to use. With this system, you’ll lower energy costs, preserve grain quality, and pick up on temperature trends before a problem arises. All three of these are crucial to a commercial farm’s survival.
The TSGC remote grain monitoring system also gives you the ability to view your grain’s condition from anywhere. You won’t have to take the time to visit your bins. Just pull up the app in your house and check the numbers from there. Remote systems save you money on energy, because you’ll have accurate data informing when to turn on and off your fans. Most importantly, grain monitoring systems are crucial to keeping your grain assets in premier condition until you’re ready to sell.
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