A $16 billion program that will offer direct payments to producers is not yet ready for signup, but the Department of Agriculture is urging producers to begin several steps of the application process ahead of time.

In a webinar for producers Thursday, the Farm Service Agency's deputy administrator for farm programs, Bill Beam, highlighted several forms producers will have to complete to receive payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The forms, also listed online, detail things like contact information, banking details, and income specifics.

“If we’ve worked with you in the past, chances are we already have that information,” Beam said. “If you like, if you haven’t been in your office for a while, it may be worth it to check to make sure everything’s up to date.”

Under the CARES Act, the legislation to curb the economic impact of the coronavirus, USDA will distribute $16 billion to producers affected by the virus. Another $3 billion will go toward purchases of commodities for distribution by food banks and faith-based programs through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. USDA announced $1.2 billion in contracts for that program last week.

The webinar, which lasted about 15 minutes, did not provide new details about how payments will be calculated, when signup is expected to begin, or when payments can be anticipated. USDA also hasn't disclosed the payment limits for individual producers. 

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“The program is open to producers of crops, livestock, dairy, and specialty crops regardless of size and market outlet if they suffered an eligible loss as authorized under the CARES Act,” said Sonia Jimenez, deputy administrator for specialty crops at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. “More specific details, however, on eligible crops will be available after the rule is published” in the Federal Register.

As of Thursday, the rule was still under interagency review at the White House Office of Management and Budget. In April, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he hoped to have checks to producers by the end of May.

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