WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - A federal program that’s supposed to help farmers coping with the coronavirus is failing small farmers in New York, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand charged Wednesday.
The program - the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP - was created as farmers suffered massive losses at the beginning of the pandemic.
Gillibrand cites an NBC News investigation of how the program has spent its money and concludes small farmers in New York have been short-changed.
“We’ve heard from apple farmers, we’ve heard from onion farmers, we’ve heard from grape growers. They’re all getting lower rates and disproportionately smaller amounts of money,” Gillibrand said Wednesday.
Citing the NBC investigation, she said “Nearly 7,000 farmers received less than $200. Some got less than $20. The lowest payout was just seven cents.”
Gillibrand called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allocate 50 percent of the program’s funds to small and medium-sized farms, and to calculate farm losses the same way, regardless of size.
In a statement to NBC, the Department of Agriculture defended how it has distributed the money, saying it “acted quickly to assist America’s farmers and ranchers — of all sizes and for all market outlets — as they faced the initial fallout of COVID-19.”
Gillibrand also made a pitch for legislation she supports, the “Relief For America’s Small Farmers Act,” which would - among other things - provide a one time, up-to $250,000 loan forgiveness for small farms.
It only has support from Democrats in the House and Senate.
“I don’t know why this bill isn’t bipartisan,” she said.
7 News reached out to the Department of Agriculture for comment. We’ll update this post when we hear back.