April 26, 2020

April D.C. Update

Washington Roundup – April 2020

By: Lowell Randel

NIFA Announces COVID-19 Related Funding Opportunities

On April 22nd, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced that it is investing in research on the impact of COVID-19 on American agriculture. Through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, NIFA will invest up to $9 million for research in the following areas: : health and security of livestock; food and food processing; well-being of farm workforce, food service providers, and rural Americans; and economic security. Applications are due June 4, 2020.

NIFA is using an expedited solicitation, evaluation, and grant-making process to quickly deploy funding on COVID-19 agricultural research. NIFA has stated that it will be funding projects designed to swiftly fill knowledge and information gaps; strengthen and support critical cross-cutting issues to protect the food and agriculture supply chain, livestock health and security, the safety of our foods; as well as research projects that focus on the well-being of farm, food service providers, and rural Americans.

In response to the current Pandemic, NIFA also set a deadline of May 21, 2020, for COVID-19 research proposals from all other areas in the wide-ranging AFRI request for applications (RFA). NIFA also re-opened its Small Business Innovation Research RFA to search for COVID-19 solutions from small businesses.


ASAS Joins Coalition Partners in Requesting Additional Research Funds to Respond to Pandemic

ASAS has joined with university, scientific society and other partners to request that Congress provide federal investments in agricultural research in future coronavirus relief packages.  The request calls for $380 million to support NIFA programs, including $300 million of job-saving support for capacity and competitive research and $80 for the Cooperative Extension System.

The coalition is asking that Congress provide at least $300 million of job-saving supplemental funding for 1) ramp-down and ramp-up costs to close and restart research activities; 2) salaries, benefits, and other costs associated with retaining research, technical, and work-study personnel; 3) research specific to COVID-19; and 4) core facilities supporting NIFA research. Supplemental funding would support capacity and competitive grant activities for up to 12 months for existing grantees and institutions managing programs in the Research and Education, Integrated Activities, and Farm Bill Mandatory Accounts. 

The coalition is also requesting $80 million for the Cooperative Extension System to meet the direct needs of the public related to the spread of, and recovery from, COVID-19. The funding would be allocated through Smith Lever and 1890s Institution Extension capacity programs, as well as through an ongoing contract for the NIFA New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE). This supplemental funding would enable CES educators and agents to: collaborate with emergency responders; develop innovative educational materials; assist business owners with loans and supply chain options; connect families to information on telemedicine, food, financial health and methods of socialization; support farmers and businesses; provide seniors with support; and work with clientele to be successful during the upcoming recovery period. 

It is anticipated that Congress will take action on the next major relief package when it returns to Washington in early May.  ASAS will continue working with partners to communicate the critical role of agricultural research and extension in helping the nation respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.


USDA Announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

On April 17th, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the establishment of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new program is intended to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.  Through the program, $19 billion will be invested to provide critical support to farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of the food supply chain, and help deliver food to those in need.

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.

Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.

USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. Procurement will begin with an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.  The Agricultural Marketing Service released the solicitation details for the Farmers to Families Food Box program on April 24th.