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The Joe Biden administration has suspended payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program while it reviews all regulations passed under Donald Trump’s administration.

The announcement came shortly after the Trump administration expanded the program’s eligibility on Jan. 16 to include some pork and meat processors.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture posted an announcement of the suspension to its website: “In accordance with the White House memo, Regulatory Freeze Pending Review, USDA has suspended the processing and payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program - Additional Assistance and has halted implementation until further notice. FSA local offices will continue to accept applications during the evaluation period.”

“In the coming days, USDA and the Biden administration intend to take additional steps to bring relief and support to all parts of food and agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic, including by ensuring producers have access to the capital, risk management tools, disaster assistance, and other federal resources.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commented Jan. 28: “The pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on American agriculture, and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program has provided a lifeline for farmers and ranchers across the country. Many growers who previously did not qualify for assistance continue to suffer losses and need the help CFAP provides.

“We recognize the new administration’s desire to review important farmer and rancher assistance programs and we urge USDA to take into consideration our comments on how to improve such programs. We appreciate that CFAP applications will continue to be accepted, and we encourage the swift resumption of distribution of resources to the people who are working to keep America’s pantries stocked.”

There were two CFAP programs; applications for CFAP 2 closed on Dec. 11. According to the USDA, payments to farmers and food producers under CFAP 1 totaled more than $10.5 billion, with most ($4.3 billion) going to cattle producers, followed by dairy producers and corn growers at $1.7 billion each.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said she supported the pause and review. She said the program has unspent payments that were not making it to specific types of farm producers, including money that would help smaller processors and supply chain participants retool.

David Murray can be reached at journal@hpj.com.

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