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Time Running Short for Farmers to Apply for COVID Aid

iStock/Wisconsin News Connection

Wisconsin farmers, who are struggling during the pandemic crisis, still have a chance to sign up for federal aid.

But they're urged to act quickly, and assistance groups say the latest round especially could help smaller producers.

Dec. 11 is the deadline for farmers to apply for help under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2.

Alejandra Hernandez, conservation policy associate for Wisconsin's Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, said unlike the first round of funding, the new relief package has an expanded list of eligible commodities.

She noted that can boost the chances of qualifying for those who aren't producing on a larger scale.

"We have a lot of small to mid-sized producers, and a lot of them are selling at farmer's markets, things like that," Hernandez observed.

She added many smaller producers, who relied heavily on demand from restaurants, have now shifted to direct marketing to stay afloat.

The aid provided under the program comes in the form of direct payments, allowing farmers to cover needed expenses. At the onset of the pandemic, agricultural groups in Wisconsin had projected losses of tens of millions of dollars due to COVID-19 for a variety of commodities.

Michael Dolan, owner of Seven Seeds Farm in Spring Green, raises organic and grass-fed beef, pork and chicken.

He said the new application process has been much more productive than the first, noting the local Farm Service Agency office helped with the paperwork and he received payment within two to four weeks.

"Right now, it's helping us with cash flow and to buy feed because we're having to hang onto these animals longer," Dolan explained.

He reported that's because slaughter facilities in Wisconsin are backed up, adding to his operation's dilemma.

Dolan encouraged any farmer nervous about qualifying to at least explore the process.

Meanwhile, the Michael Fields Institute is providing direct help with applying for aid. The group's website has a host of links, including a calculator to assess how much aid you could receive.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.
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