U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

According to a release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the program will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments in order to offer relief to farmers and ranchers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need,” said the release.

“America’s farming community is facing an unprecedented situation as our nation tackles the coronavirus,” Perdue said. “President (Donald) Trump has authorized USDA to ensure our patriotic farmers, ranchers, and producers are supported, and we are moving quickly to open applications to get payments out the door and into the pockets of farmers.

“These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers. America’s farmers are resilient and will get through this challenge just like they always do with faith, hard work and determination.”

Those who have suffered losses in the following areas may apply for assistance:

• Non-specialty crops and wool, such as malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, hard red spring wheat and wool;

• Livestock, like cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs;

• Dairy; and

• Specialty crops, such as almonds, beans, broccoli, sweet corn, lemons, iceberg lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries and tomatoes.

Visit https://farmers.gov/cfap for a full list of eligible crops. Additional crops may be added to the list later. Producers can apply for assistance beginning May 26 through their local FSA office, according to the release. Application forms can be found on the website.

The Limestone County FSA office can be found at 1795 U.S. 72 East, Athens. Applications are due by Aug. 28 and may require supporting documentation.

Visit https://farmers.gov/coronavirus for more information on farming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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