USDA has announced the availability of more than $330 million to help agricultural producers and organizations in the food supply chain recover from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, which launched in March 2021, and includes $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and $75 million for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, formerly known as Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI)] grantees. The funds will aid in developing new markets for U.S. agricultural products, expand the specialty crop food sector, and incentivize the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers.
USDA also informed dairy producers and processors about ongoing plans for the Dairy Donation Program (DDP) as established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. This program will facilitate the donation of dairy products to nonprofit organizations that distribute food to people in need and prevent and minimize food waste.
USDA launched the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative in March with $6.5 billion in available funding to address shortfalls and disparities in how assistance was distributed in previous COVID-19 assistance packages, with a specific focus on strengthening outreach to underserved producers and communities and small and medium agricultural operations.
“We launched USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers to respond in a broader, fairer way to the pandemic’s impact across food and agriculture, and we are following through on our promise,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in wide-ranging impacts that were felt throughout the agricultural sector. The Biden-Harris Administration is focused on ensuring that the entire agricultural sector successfully rebuilds following the pandemic, and the funding we’re announcing today will reach a broader set of producers and businesses than previous COVID-19 aid programs.”