While the USDA has yet to release the full details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, SAF has confirmed that floriculture growers will be eligible to apply.
Historically, food-related crops have received ad hoc support from USDA in times such as natural disasters or, more recently, during the US-China “trade war.” However, the USDA has never provided direct aid to floriculture on a national basis in the past.
But with the widespread and measurable impact from COVID-19 on floriculture growers, SAF worked to change that. For more than a month, SAF led advocacy efforts both with USDA and on the Hill to gain support for the idea that floriculture should receive federal aid during this unprecedented time. SAF coordinated a floral industry coalition and launched grassroots communications to members of Congress advocating that floral industry growers should receive assistance through the $9.5 billion Congress allocated to the USDA in the Coronavirus Stimulus Package to support specialty crops, livestock, dairy and producers supplying to local markets.
“It is a big victory for SAF and the industry that growers in floriculture are eligible for this aid, particularly considering the title of the program is focused on food agriculture products,” said Joe Bischoff, SAF’s senior lobbyist. “SAF worked hard to make sure floriculture was included given the severe impact of COVID-19 on our growers, and we are breaking new ground given that the USDA has never provided direct assistance like this to our industry before.”
USDA is expected to release additional details about the program, including application requirements and deadlines, in the next week. But what is already clear is that the allocated funds will run out quickly and won’t be nearly enough to meet the need.
“While SAF appreciates the fact that Congress allocated money to agricultural aid and USDA included floriculture, more money is badly needed in order to soften the financial blow being felt across all agricultural sectors right now,” said Bischoff. “SAF will continue to work with USDA and Congress to find additional ways to help growers through this crisis.”
Katie Butler is the senior vice president of the Society of American Florists.