Aquaponic Growers Eligible for Coronavirus Assistance

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Multiple USDA representatives assured the Aquaponics Association that aquaponics operations producing qualified crops are eligible for financial support through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The Deadline to apply is August 28, 2020. Growers are also eligible for Small Business Administration Programs.

By Thomas Wheet and Brian Filipowich, originally published by the Aquaponics Association

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the American agricultural industry in unprecedented ways. Farmers have watched harvests spoil, been forced to destroy crops, and have euthanized livestock due to the shifts in consumer behavior. 

The USDA created the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to assist farms that have suffered economically due to the outbreak.

We reached out to the USDA to inquire about aquaponic growers’ eligibility for CFAP and received encouraging, yet somewhat inconclusive, responses. While aquaponics is not explicitly highlighted as an eligible growing method for CFAP, numerous USDA representatives assured our policy team that aquaponic operations producing qualified crops could receive financial support through the program. Because funding decisions will ultimately be conducted at the county level, both the Aquaponics Association and USDA personnel strongly encourage any aquaponics organization to reach out to its county’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to confirm that the organization meets all criteria required to receive support before completing the application process.

  • Deadline to apply: The USDA is accepting applications until August 28, 2020. Make sure to check with your FSA at your local USDA Service Center for any questions regarding the application process. 
  • Who can apply for CFAP: 
    • Producers of eligible commodities who have experienced a 5% or greater price decline due to COVID-19.
    • Individuals and/or legal entities that average an adjusted gross income of less than $900,000 in 2016, 2017, 2018. Make sure to check the CFAP website for additional eligibility guidelines. 
  • Eligible crops: Non-specialty crops, wool, dairy, livestock, and specialty crops are all eligible for CFAP. For a complete list, make sure to take a look at the CFAP website.

General Business Assistance Programs
In addition to agriculture-specific economic assistance, the Federal Government has augmented general economic relief programs so that they also apply to agricultural. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program offers $10,000 loan advances for businesses experiencing a temporary loss in revenue and have less than 500 employees. The loan advances do not need to be repaid.

The USDA website notes: “For the first time, agricultural enterprises are now eligible for the disaster assistance from EIDL. As a result of the unprecedented legislation, American farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural businesses will now have access to emergency working capital.” The website also specifically notes that “aquaculture” businesses are eligible. Eligibility for CFAP is unaffected by participation in the PPP or EIDL. 

Also from the SBA, the Payroll Protection Program offers guaranteed loans to support the payroll of businesses with less than 500 employees during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately the PPP deadline is June 30, 2020 (the day of this posting).

What is the Economic Effect of COVID on Aquaponics?

Surveys have indicated that COVID19 has hurt commercial aquaponic growers. See: 1) Survey Results; COVID’s Effect on U.S. Aquaponics; and 2) Commercial Growers Hit Hard by Coronavirus.

We must do more to support commercial aquaponic growers during the pandemic so that we don’t set back our most efficient, sustainable form of agriculture.

Are you a grower that receives, has applied, or plans to apply for economic assistance through these government programs? Please complete a quick survey to let us know your experience, and if you have any questions or comments on the process.

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