By: Patty Lovera, Policy Director


Congress passed the CARES Act in late March, which provides money that farms can access from two parts of the federal government, the USDA and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Small Business Administration

You can see more details about the SBA programs, called the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan here. Last week, Congress passed and the President signed a bill to extend the time frame for re-hiring employees to convert the PPP loan to a grant and change some other requirements for the program. When the SBA releases the details on the new changes to the program, we will update the website.


The USDA is now operating its two main programs created by the CARES Act – the Farmers to Families Food Box (contracts to ship boxes of food to food banks) and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) (direct payments to farmers for eligible commodities).

The USDA has released the details for its new program to buy farm commodities for distribution to food banks. The deadline for the first round of contracts was May 8th, but you can check out the USDA’s website for the deadline for the next round of contracts.

You can get more information about the CFAP direct payments program here, including information on how to submit a comment to USDA to ask for additional commodities to be added to the list of those eligible for payments (due June 22). The USDA is holding a series of webinars in early June for farmers, which might be useful if you are considering whether to apply to this program.

New Stimulus Bill

In addition to USDA putting the programs from the CARES Act into effect, Congress is expected to eventually pass some new legislation to deal with the ongoing economic impacts of the pandemic. The House passed a bill in mid-May called the HEROES Act, which would continue the approach from the CARES Act of providing funding for USDA to make payments to producers, as well as some additional funding for things like protective equipment. It is not clear yet when the Senate will start its process on developing a new bill, but it is clear that they will write their own proposal and not build off of the HEROES Act passed by the House.
OFA has been sharing specific ideas on the needs of organic farmers with members of Congress to make the case for programs that will work better for diversified organic farms, especially focusing on the Senate.

Share Your Stimulus Stories With Us (So we can make improvements)

One thing that helps us communicate with members of Congress as we try to influence the next pandemic response bill is stories about how the existing programs are working (or if they aren’t working.) Let us know if you have participated in either the USDA programs (food purchases or direct payments) or the Small Business Administration programs (Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan.) Good or bad, tell us how your experience with the programs has been so we can relay this information to the people designing the next round of response.


Even though there are lots of other things dominating the news, and the attention of lawmakers, we still need to remind our elected officials and the USDA that there is immediate work to do to ensure the integrity of the organic label. The USDA is past its deadline for a new proposed rule to prevent fraud in organic supply chains (the “Strengthening Organic Enforcement” rule required by the 2018 Farm Bill), but we are hopeful that proposal will be moving through the approval process soon and will be letting you know when the public comment period on this important issue opens up.

We need to remind Congress that USDA is perilously close to missing a deadline that Congress set, for finishing a long overdue rule to increase the standards for how livestock are transitioned into organic (the “Origin of Livestock” rule.)

Email Congress

Right now, the best way to reach your members of Congress is likely to be email, since many congressional offices have shifted their staffs to working remotely. You can find contact information for your Representative at www.house.gov (use the “Find Your Representative” box at the top right and then go to your member’s website and look for a Contact tab) and your two Senators at www.senate.gov (go to the “Senators” tab and then “Contact” to find the Senators from your state.)

What to Say

Tell you members of Congress that they need to make sure USDA finishes the final rule on Origin of Livestock (OOL.) This rule is desperately needed to close loopholes in the organic standards related to the transitioning of conventional dairy cows into organic dairy operations. Through the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations process, Congress mandated that USDA complete the OOL final rule by June 17, 2020. This deadline is fast approaching and we need Congress to make sure that USDA finishes this rule as soon as possible. Will your member call the NOP and ask them to meet the June 17 deadline?

Report Back

Email Patty@organicfarmerassociation.org if you received a positive response.