The agriculture sector is the largest in Northeast Arkansas and has been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some farmers in the region and around the state are about to get federal relief funds.
Arkansas farmers and ranchers have received more than $138.5 million under the first round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance program, or CFAP. The aid was in response to the 18,446 applications filed from Arkansas to the U.S. Department of Agriculture received through Sept. 20.
“Payments to livestock producers account for 69% of the approved first-round CFAP applications in Arkansas,” said Scott Stiles, extension economist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Non-specialty crops — which include corn, cotton, soybean and sorghum — accounted for nearly 27% of the total.”
During the first round, rice, soft red winter wheat and peanuts were excluded. They are now included in the second round of CFAP, the application period for which opened Sept. 21.
Livestock accounted for $95.5 million of the assistance doled through the program to farmers in Arkansas. About $92 million went to cattle farms, while $2.398 million went to hog farmers, according to a report authored by Stiles.
Throughout the early spring cattle and hog prices experienced volatile swings as supply chains broke down, and the restaurant sector profits crashed in the midst of shutdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19. That industry is projected to lose $240 billion in profits by the end of the year and it has impacted food production and prices.
Row crops are eligible for compensation through the program, too. Through Sept. 20, about $37.221 million had been doled for row crops. Cotton farmers received 52.5% ($19.551 million) of those given for crops, while corn farmers received 24.9% ($9.284 million). Soybean farmers received $8.367 million from the program.
The remaining portion of those first-round payments in Arkansas were divided among specialty crops, which received 2.6%, dairy receiving 0.7% and aquaculture-nursery-floriculture receiving 0.8%.
“Sweet potatoes and pecans account for 99%, or $3,524,323, of Arkansas’ specialty crop payments,” Stiles said. “Catfish accounts for 65%, or $753,330, of the aqua-nursery-flora category payments.”
In the second round of CFAP, USDA is making available another $14 billion to eligible farmers. Signup for the second round program runs through Dec. 11.