USDA officials visit Kansas farmers; hear their concerns

Capitol Bureau

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNW) – Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) visited with Kansas farmers on Thursday to hear about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on agriculture.

USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Richard Fordyce traveled to Manhattan to speak with farmers and other Kansans in the agriculture industry. The pandemic has had a substantial impact on Kansas farmers, which in turn affects the rest of the Kansas population and beyond.

“Part of our responsibility is figuring out whether or not we have the right regulatory programs in place to be able to mitigate the cost or damage to the producers,” explained Ibach.

One of the programs offered by the USDA is the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The $16 billion program gives financial support to producers whose work was impacted by the coronavirus. While the program was created in April, not all producers were eligible for assistance. The USDA has continued to expand the program to more commodities, as recently as this week, and more money is being sent out.

Fordyce said most of the Kansans he spoke with were happy with the CFAP program. However, he said, he also heard some concerns; one of which was from producers who applied for and received their CFAP payment months ago and now need more help.

“There’s still an impact to a lot of commodities,” said Fordyce. “They’re still impacted by the effects of COVID-19.”

Officials say they hear those concerns loud and clear. The deadline to apply for the CFAP program has been extended to September 11, 2020 and, according to Ibach, a second relief program is being considered.

“We’re continuing to have the sign-up on the first CFAP program as we are designing and anticipating the announcement from a second CFAP program,” explained Ibach.

Both Ibach and Fordyce expressed their gratitude to the Kansas farmers who shared their input.

“It is critically important for us in Washington that are administering these programs that we get producers feedback and we understand how the programs are working,” said Fordyce. “A very worthwhile stop here to talk with producers and talk with some organizations.”

The USDA officials, joined by Congressman Roger Marshall, also toured the Kansas State University National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) construction site. The animal disease research facility is being constructed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and expected to open by 2023.

“[COVID] just underscores the importance of having a world-class facility,” said Ibach. “When NBAF is done there will be no other one in the world that will rival its expertise.

The need for accurate tracing and disease prevention in cattle was also a topic discussed by USDA officials and Kansas producers.

“Today’s consumers want to know where their food is coming from and the Kansas Livestock Association has initiated a traceability program for cattle, so if there was some sort of a problem, we could trace it back to its origin and, hopefully, prevent any future illnesses or problems,” explained Marshall.

For more information on the CFAP program, click here.

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