Cantwell Applauds Corrections to USDA COVID-19 Assistance Program That Will Help Washington State Growers

Changes to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program come after Cantwell-led letter raised concerns that the program disadvantaged specialty crops important to Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the announcement by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue of changes to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that will help Washington state growers. Specifically, the changes will make apple, potato and a number of others specialty crop growers eligible for direct financial assistance to mitigate their losses from COVID-19, and will make additional Washington crops, including mint and berries, eligible for the program. Today’s announcement from USDA comes after Cantwell and U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse (R, WA-04) let the entire Washington state delegation in sending a letter urging USDA to change its CFAP eligibility requirements to ensure specialty crop growers get the COVID-19 assistance they need.

“I’m glad USDA has listened to Washington state farmers and made some of Washington’s most valuable crops eligible for the coronavirus assistance they deserve,” Senator Cantwell said. “I will continue to fight to make sure all farmers, including those who grow specialty crops like apples, cherries, and potatoes, get the assistance they need to weather their COVID-19 losses.”

In Tuesday’s letter, the members expressed concern that the data being used to determine CFAP eligibility did not fully take into account the losses Washington growers have faced due to COVID-19. As of July 2, only 53 specialty crop applications in Washington state had received CFAP support, compared to 1,082 applications that received similar economic support from USDA’s Market Facilitation Program and would be eligible for CFAP if similar criteria to that program were used.

Agriculture is a major component of the Washington state economy, supporting 164,000 jobs and producing $10.6 billion in annual revenue from more than 39,000 farms of all sizes. Washington growers more than 300 commodities, many of them specialty crops. Washington ranks first in the United States in the production of apples, pears, hops, and sweet cherries and second for potatoes, grapes, and onions.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Recovery (CARES) Act to provide direct relief to farmers and ranchers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.