Domestic flower growers — among the hardest hit floral businesses during the pandemic — are now able to apply for and receive critical financial assistance through a government program that the Society of American Florists helped ensure included industry interests.
Martin Meskers, AAF, CEO of Oregon Flowers in Aurora, Oregon, recently received his check from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2, or CFAP 2, which provides financial assistance to absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. And he encourages other growers to apply.
Meskers, along with other growers, worked with SAF’s senior lobbyist Joe Bischoff and other SAF staff to advise the USDA on the economic impact of COVID-19 on the industry and suggest potential aid payment formulas. “We discussed what would be a good formula that would cover all the different type of growers in our industry with considerations for acreage, square footage of greenhouses, etc.,” said Meskers, a former SAF president and longtime association member.
Meskers believes the CFAP2 formula, which bases aid on a percentage of 2019 total sales, more accurately reflects losses and will be a “game changer” for some growers. “It will be a nice surprise for many floriculture growers when they fill out the application and start reading how the process works,” he said.
The funding approach for CFAP 2 differs significantly from CFAP 1. Payments for floriculture and nursery crops eligible for CFAP 2 will be equal to the amount of the producer’s eligible sales in calendar year 2019, multiplied by the payment rate for that range. (See payment table for rates). Growers who did not hit the payment cap in the first round of CFAP aid will most likely see larger payouts under this new approach. USDA will accept CFAP 2 applications through Dec. 11, 2020.
CFAP 1 and 2 mark the first time USDA has ever provided direct assistance to the floral industry, and Meskers credits SAF with leading the way on the advocacy work required to make the aid a reality. “If it wasn’t for SAF, we never would have gotten aid from the USDA — it would have never happened if SAF hadn’t started the process,” he said. “Look at what SAF did with helping members through COVID — without them, we’d all still be sitting here trying to do it on our own.”
He notes that unlike growers in other industries, floriculture growers aren’t accustomed to working through federal government aid programs. His tip? Growers should reach out to their local FSA office to get started. “They talk our language, and they’re willing to help,” he said.
To learn more about how to apply for CFAP2 aid, growers should mark their calendars to join SAF for a webinar on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. ET. Bischoff and growers who have gone through the application process will share strategies for navigating the program.
SAF will continue to advocate for grower needs on Capitol Hill and with the USDA. To learn more or apply for aid, go to farmers.gov/cfap.
Katie Butler is the senior vice president of the Society of American Florists.