USDA coronavirus relief to hemp farmers on hold – for now

Hemp farmers getting federal pandemic assistance will see those payments frozen because of the changed administration.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that payments under the latest round of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program are on hold “until further notice” — though interested farmers can continue applying through Feb. 26.

The latest round of coronavirus relief for farmers went live Jan. 15. Like the previous rounds, it was designed to provide additional direct assistance for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs.

The payments are on hold under a directive from the White House to pause Trump-era programs for review. USDA said that help is on the way but did not elaborate.

“In the coming days, USDA and the Biden Administration intend to take additional steps to bring relief and support to all parts of food and agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic, including by ensuring producers have access to the capital, risk management tools, disaster assistance, and other federal resources,” the note said.

Also last week, the department suspended past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency.

The USDA did not elaborate on when debt collections might resume, though it told farmers the extension “is expected to continue while the national COVID-19 disaster declaration is in place.”

It was not clear how many hemp producers would be affected by either suspension.

Biden’s nominee to lead the USDA, Iowan Tom Vilsack, was scheduled to appear Tuesday for a confirmation hearing in the Senate.