U.S. Representative Jim Baird (R-IN, 4th District) is encouraging Indiana agriculture producers and ranchers to apply for the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

“There are $19 billion total in this program,” Baird said. “Sixteen billion of it is to fund this CFAP program which goes to producers and ranchers, and there was $3 billion that was designated to get the food into food banks. Secretary of Agriculture (Sonny Perdue) was authorized to buy $100 million a month of dairy, $100 million a month of meat, and $100 million a month of vegetable produce and try to get those to food banks. That ends up not only for food banks, but for those schools where children are on a program to receive food. Those purchases can also fund that. The goal is to fund our young children while schools are closed as well as to feed anyone in need.

“We are blessed that our agricultural producers and ranchers produce the highest quality food anywhere in the world,” Baird continued. “Then you compliment that with retail and grocery stores and how they have worked during this … So, I compliment our supply people and our slaughter facilities in their ability to adapt. These programs are to help producers and help people in need to keep our food chain moving.”

The USDA has created a website, farmers.gov, where producers that have suffered losses due to the novel coronavirus pandemic may find more information and apply for the program. The USDA is accepting applications through Aug. 28.

“I would encourage any producer interested to go to that site,” Baird said. “They have a spreadsheet that you can see that lists all the commodities and livestock that are eligible. You can plug that into that spreadsheet on the website, and it will do the calculation for you.”

Baird spoke with Steven Brown, the state executive director of the FSA (Farm Service Agency), on Thursday morning.

“His group is administering the program,” Baird said. “He said that, nationwide, they have taken 126,000 applications and put out $172 million dollars with this program. In Indiana, they have only had 3,700 applications at this point. But, he anticipated, with the rain that has gone through (Wednesday) night, that there will be a significant increase the rest of the week. He did indicate that some of their offices may start opening up on a limited basis so producers can come in face-to-face, but they are still working with the idea of working by phone and taking appointments.”

Baird said that, in addition to farmers.gov, producers can call the nationwide call center at 877-508-8364.

“From my perspective as a congressman, it has been a privilege for me to bring the livestock producers, farmers and ranchers their concerns and sharing those with Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture,” Baird said. “It is encouraging to me to be able to be a part of that.”