The Agriculture Department is making dozens of additional fruits, vegetables and herbs eligible for payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and expanding benefits for some other commodities. 

The expansion of CFAP is the result of USDA’s process to determine which commodities suffered economic damage as a result of the market reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. The first wave of commodities included a handful of familiar facets of the row crop, specialty crop, and livestock and dairy sectors. Now, USDA is expanding the list of qualifying commodities “based on comments received from agricultural producers and organizations and review of market data.” 

“When we announced this program earlier this year, we asked for public input and received a good response. After reviewing the comments received and analyzing our USDA Market News data, we are adding new commodities, as well as making updates to the program for existing eligible commodities,” Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “This is an example of government working for the people – we asked for input and we updated the program based on the comments we received.”

According to a USDA release, the following commodities have been added to the program: alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac (celery root), chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce – including Boston, green leaf, Lolla Rossa, oak leaf green, oak leaf red and red leaf – marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme and turnip top greens.

USDA  expanded the program's benefits for seven other commodities – apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines, and taro – after determining those crops had a 5% or greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April. Those commodities had been eligible for payments only if crops were spoiled, were unpaid for, or were left unharvested because of the pandemic. 

“Many apple growers are hanging on by their fingernails, so USDA’s decision is great news and not a moment too soon,” said the U.S. Apple Association's president and CEO, Jim Bair. “Growers usually take the risks of weather and markets in stride, but the impact of COVID-19 pushed many right to the edge. We thank and congratulate USDA for this welcome news.”

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USDA also adjusted payment rates for apples, artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, garlic, kiwifruit, mushrooms, papaya, peaches, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, tangerines and taro and determined peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for CARES Act sales loss payments.

USDA declined an appeal from the National Association of Wheat Growers to expand the types of wheat that are eligible for payments. Hard red winter, soft red winter and white wheat are not eligible for CFAP, while durum and hard red spring wheat are. "NAWG is disappointed but we continue to work with USDA on this issue and to ensure that all classes of wheat is included in any aid for the 2020 crop losses," said NAWG CEO Chandler Goule.

Originally announced in May, CFAP aims to distribute $16 billion in direct payments to producers of eligible commodities hit by coronavirus-fueled price losses. Another $3 billion is earmarked for the department's Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which is distributing food boxes to needy families through food banks. According to USDA, $5.3 billion in payments had been distributed as of Monday.

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