The $3 billion Farmers to Families initiative launched in mid-May to offer financial support to ag producers and food service distributors during the coronavirus pandemic. The program has distributed 78 million food boxes of meat, dairy and produce to food banks and non-profit organizations.
The Dairy Market Analyst reported USDA intended to scale back its purchases by as much as 60% in September, but those plans appear to have changed. With the second round of food box distributions concluded on Aug. 31, USDA announced an additional $1 billion in funding for the program.
USDA’s third round of food box distributions begins Sept. 1 and will wrap up by Oct. 31. This time around USDA will put more emphasis on seeking out combination boxes and requiring distributors to illustrate “how coverage will be provided to areas identified as Opportunity Zones … and address the ‘last mile’ delivery of product into the hands of the food insecure population.”
The Farmers to Families Food Box Program was conceived as a temporary solution to keep farms in business. The government purchases have been credited with keeping milk and cheese prices higher. The initiative creates a new market for farmers and ranchers by contracting with distributors to purchase the product. (In a stronger economy, farmers would sell their goods to restaurants and bulk purchasers.) The contracted distributors pack the product into boxes and deliver to communities in need.
On a final note, USDA extended the deadline to apply for direct aid through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to Sept. 11. USDA added about 60 classifications to its list of commodities eligible for CFAP payments, including bananas, horseradish, maple sap, pumpkins and 13 types of fish. Farmers and ranchers can apply for the CFAP here.