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Biden regulatory freeze halts USDA pandemic payments

Applications will be accepted until February 26 for the latest tranche of coronavirus relief.

As part of a government-wide regulatory freeze, the Biden administration has suspended payments while it reviews the $3 billion in pandemic aid to agricultural producers that was announced in the final week of the Trump administration, said the USDA on Thursday. The assistance amounted to nearly a quarter of the money allocated for agriculture in the $900 billion coronavirus bill enacted in late December.

“We’ve essentially paused implementation until the review is complete,” said USDA spokesman Matt Herrick. “Applications can continue to come in even while the program is on pause. This is a big, big program, and we need to get it right.”

Applications will be accepted until Feb. 26 for the latest tranche of coronavirus relief. It includes $1.98 billion for contract growers of hogs, poultry, and eggs; up to $810 million in “top up” payments to hog farmers; and $210 million for producers of turf grass sod, pullets, and animal by-products.

“In the coming days, the 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,” said a notice on the web page for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – Additional Assistance.

“Many growers who previously did not qualify for assistance continue to suffer losses and need the help CFAP provides,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation. “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.”

More than $23 billion was paid to farmers and ranchers under two versions of CFAP during the Trump administration.

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