USDA Announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

By: Ben Brown Assistant Professor of Professional Practice- Agricultural Risk Management, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics  & David Marrison, Associate Professor & Extension Educator in Coshocton County

On April 17, the preliminary details about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) were released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program aimed to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CFAP provides $19 billion in funds authorized through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).

The $19 billion program includes two major elements. The first element is for Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers. This program will provide $16 billion in direct support to farmers based on actual losses where prices and market supply chains have been impacted by COVID-19. The program will also assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.

It has been reported, although not confirmed by the USDA, that in the direct support program, $5.1 billion will be allocated to support cattle producers, $3.9 billion for row crop producers, $2.9 billion for dairy, $2.1 for specialty crops, $1.6 billion for hog producers and $500 million for other commodities.

The Chairman of the Senate Agricultural Appropriations sub-committee has indicated the direct assistance to producers will be one payment comprised of the sum of two parts. The first part is 85% of the losses incurred between January 1 and April 15, 2020 per commodity. The second part will be 30% of the loss in market prices due to COVID-19 between April and the next two quarters. Secretary Perdue has expressed that payments are intended to be made by end of May or early June. To qualify for a payment, a commodity must have declined in price by at least 5% between January and April 15, 2020. While there are several entities illustrating price declines including The Ohio State University, the price series USDA will use to determine eligibility is uncertain. Federal payment limits apply, set at $125,000 per commodity with an overall limit of $250,000 per individual or entity. USDA has indicated that CFAP may take into consideration other farm program benefits regarding payment limitations, which could limit CFAP payments in the case a producer is receiving payments in other federal safety net programs. The exact program limitations and qualifying support are unknown at the present time. The direct payment program will be administered by the Farm Service Agency.  More details will be forthcoming by the Farm Service Agency in the upcoming weeks. Access more information at:

The remaining $3 billion dollars of the CFAP allocation will be used for a USDA Purchase and Distribution program.  In this program, the USDA will partner with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. The USDA will purchase an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products, and $100 million per month in meat products. The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits to distribute. Monthly purchases totaling $300 million will continue until the funds are exhausted.

In addition to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the USDA will utilize other available funding sources to purchase and distribute food to those in need. This includes an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. The use of these funds will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis, and food bank needs.

Additionally, the FFCRA and CARES Act provided at least $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases. The use of these funds will be determined by food bank need and product availability.

For all the information on USDA’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic and resources available,  visit

American Red Cross looking for help

As you are well aware, with the current Coronavirus outbreak, we are in more need than ever for  new volunteers (in good health) to meet the current challenges that all of us are facing  (as several of our current local volunteers have some pre-existing health concerns and we are going to keep them safe at home) for the duration of COVID-19.

At this time, the American Red Cross could use help in promoting a couple of critical local county needs in a couple of Red Cross service areas which include

  1. New volunteers (4-6) to assist with local LOCAL DISASTER RESPONSE efforts.  Individuals can register and take the on-line training courses at home to learn how to respond to support victims of local disasters.   (protective equipment will be provided).
  2. Virtual “help from home” volunteers (2-4) (with good computer skills) that could be trained to assist with screening, dispatching and social media recruitment needs..
  3. Local blood drive volunteers to staff our welcome desk and health screener positions (protective equipment will be provided) to support the for on-going need for local blood donations.

American Red Cross – needs local volunteers to help during COVID-19,

The American Red Cross is looking for local volunteers throughout Ohio that would be willing to help with local disaster responses and to help at local blood drives (protective equipment will be provided).   In addition, we are also looking for ‘HELP FROM HOME” volunteers to help with volunteer support. All required training and resources will be
provided. For more info, send an email to or visit our volunteer website at …. To find out when and where you can donate blood – visit to find the closest donation site near you to schedule an appointment! Thanks in advance for your consideration..

Hay Equipment Checkpoints for Optimal Drying

– Jason Hartschuh, OSU Extension Crawford County, AgNR Educator (originally published in Progressive Forage)

Uneven roll wear can result in poor conditioning across the length of the rolls. Photo provided by Jason Hartschuh.

The primary purpose of our haymaking equipment is to dry hay to the optimum moisture for storage, then package densely. This winter, our shop has been a staging ground for improved hay drying.

The mower conditioner, both rakes and tedder have all been rotating through our shop to be sure they are ready to not only function properly but to make sure hay dries as fast as possible. It is amazing how little adjustments in the shop can save a couple of much-needed hours of drying time. Your operator’s manual will have the proper adjustments for your machine. Just as we always start with the mower for winter repairs, let’s start there on best maintenance practices to improve hay drying.

Mower checklist

Improved hay drying starts at the cutter bar. When the crop is cut ragged with lots of long plant material still attached, this material is often ripped loose by the rake and ends up creating wet spots in windrows. The primary winter service to prevent this is to make sure knives are sharp and not dragging on the cutter bar when spinning. This is also a good time to check all gear boxes and, on disc mower conditioners, that cutting modules are not worn to the point of becoming out of time. Changing cutting speed by slowing down can improve the machine’s ability to cut the entire crop and not leave long stems attached.

This is also the time to check the conditioning system for proper adjustment. Last spring, just before harvest, we checked our mower and found high roll wear that would result in uneven conditioning across the length of the rolls. The area between each cutting module, where more crop runs, had more wear than the center of each module, to the point we could not adjust roll clearance properly.

The rolls are currently missing as we replace them to improve drying. So how do you determine if your rolls need adjustment? First, you will need three pieces of aluminum foil, each 18 inches long. Next, find a 3/8-inch rod at least 18 inches long and roll the aluminum foil around it, creating three 3/8-inch diameter by 18-inch long roll-clearance gauge checkers.

Make sure the mower is lowered to the ground or locked up. Insert the home-made roll gauges into the rolls and turn over by hand until they fall out the back. Roll gauges should be put in the middle and about a foot from each end, or if you can feel wear, put the gauges in both the high and low spots. Once the roll gauges are through the machine, measure the crush points with a digital or dial caliper. The roll clearance for standard rolls should be 1/16 inches to a maximum of 3/32 inches. Measure all crush points on the aluminum foil roll and find the average. Watch for measurements that are out of range over the length of the 18-inch-long roller gauge.

Avoiding tire tracks

Driving over windrows with a tractor tire can greatly affect drying time. For self-propelled swathers, this is not a problem, but for many pull-type mowers, this is a major problem. A standard row crop tire driving on a 9-feet-wide swath slows the drying of 18% of the forage, which will be the limiting factor on when the hay is ready to bale. If soils are damp, not only does air not move through the area that was driven over, but the swath pressed against the ground is pulling moisture from the soil as well. The best solution is to have a tractor set wide enough to straddle your windrows. There are adaptors that will allow you to straddle up to 10 feet. The next best option is to ted windrows soon after mowing so that 18% of your crop does not stay wetter than the rest of the field for 24 hours.

Tedder leveling

Proper tedder maintenance is important so hay is spread evenly over the field, and all hay pressed against the ground is fluffed to allow for better air movement. Untedded hay will now be the drying time limiting factor. When it comes to winter tedder maintenance for drying, the best method is to unfold the tedder on level concrete and check it for levelness across the width of the machine. Many of us do not have level concrete, so another good option is to use a level plywood frame. Just like with the mower, be sure the tractor is off and only turn the machine over by hand when checking distances. When the machine is in the run position, all tines should be the same distance from the ground; 3/4 inches works well for adjustments.

The four most common reasons tedders are not level are bent arms, bent wheel carrier arms, improper tire pressure and replaced tines that are longer than the rest. Most of you are going to cringe as I suggest this, but when replacing tines, they need to be cut to match the length of all the worn tines on your machine. On some of these machines, this may mean the tines will need cut at different lengths; a few machines I know of have a 1/2-inch wear difference between the two tines based on operation angle. These machines have a shorter back tine in the pair compared to the front tine. As larger tedders age, we are seeing the wing pivots wear enough that wings are tipping more than the main frame, causing them to miss hay behind the tractor and add soil to the forage on the wings.

Rake positioning

The last line of defense in our hay-drying system is the rake. The rake’s ability to assist in the drying process is greatly affected by type, adjustments and maintenance. On the maintenance side, just like for tedders, it is important to make sure these machines are level, tines are similar length, spring suspension is not broken and adjustments are correct. Yes, on the leveling side, this means I am suggesting again that you cut tines off to match the worn ones. If you ever replace all tines on the rake, keep a good selection of the used tines as replacements for the future.

While many large producers have gone to rotary rakes, the most common rake in the country is still a parallel bar rake. Most of these have a basket angle adjustment. When this adjustment is in the up position, windrows are fluffier, improving drying, but over time this slot adjustment falls to the bottom or down position, making windrows tighter and slowing drying speed.

May your equipment work well and may you have a safe forage production season this year.

Freeze Potential in Ohio

Note: This article has been modified from an article originally published in VegNet Newsletter ( on April 6, 2020.

Now that we are well into spring and turning a corner toward May, warmer temperatures are hopefully on the horizon. As we have already experienced, April can be a fickle month, with both warm spring rains and lingering cold nights that bring frost and occasionally, a late-season snowfall. Cold April weather can delay the warmup of soils (see CFAES Ag Weather System Near-Surface Air and Soil Temperatures/Moisture) jeopardizing early planted corn and wreaking havoc on horticultural interests, especially following early season warmth where phenological conditions may be advanced for this time of year. Winter (December 2019 – February 2020) averaged 2-8°F above average compared to climatological normal (1981-2010; Fig. 1). This warmth continued throughout March as well, with temperatures 4-8°F (west to east) above average.

Frost and Freeze Potential

With many areas in Ohio experiencing hard freeze conditions (air temperatures ≤ 28°F) last week (see How cold is too cold (for winter wheat)?), how unusual is an event like this in Ohio? What are Ohio’s typical expectations regarding freeze conditions in April and May?

On average, locations throughout Ohio experience their last seasonal freeze (temperatures ≤32°F) from mid-April (southern Ohio) through mid-May (northeastern Ohio). Figure 1 shows the climatological date of a late last hard freeze, meaning that only 1 out of every 10 years does a hard freeze occur after this date. Across southern Ohio, a 28°F day occasionally occurs as late as April 20, with much later dates (as late as May 10th) across northeast Ohio.

Date of last frost

Figure 1: Climatological (1981-2010) dates for late last 28°F freeze, late defined at the 90th percentile. Figure courtesy of the Midwest Regional Climate Center (

Figure 2: Selected locations around Ohio for freeze potential analysis displayed in Fig. 3.

For a state analysis, we have selected 8 locations from around Ohio to compare typical last seasonal freeze conditions (Figure 2). Figure 3 shows the probability of experiencing a later freeze in spring than indicating by the line graphs. All locations show probability based on the most recent 30-year period (1990-2019) except for 7-Lancaster (1996-2019). For each location, five temperatures are displayed (20°F-purple, 24°F-blue, 28°F-green, 32°F-yellow, and 36°F-red). For the purposes of this article we will focus on 32°F and 28°F. The bottom (x-axis) shows the probability that each of these temperatures will occur after a given date (indicated by the left or y-axis).

For 1-Wauseon, we see that there is a 50% climatological probability of experiencing a 32°F temperature (yellow) after April 27, and this probability decreases to 20% by May 10. The colder, more damaging temperature of 28°F occurs 50% of the time after April 16, with only a 20% chance of seeing 28°F after April 27. For a southern location like 8-Marietta, these dates occur earlier in the season. Here, there is a 50% climatological probability of experiencing a 32°F temperature after April 18 with 28°F occurring 50% of the time after April 2.


Besides latitudinal (north of south) position, what other factors can influence springtime minimum temperatures? Colder air is more dense than warmer air, meaning it wants to remain close to the ground and will flow over the terrain like a fluid to settle in areas of lower elevation. If your location is in a valley or low-lying area, the climatological dates will likely be shifted later to account for more freeze potential later in the spring. Water bodies are typically colder than the surrounding land areas in spring which may keep temperatures in the immediate vicinity a little colder. For 2020, water and soil temperatures are above average, so they are likely to have a moderating impact this year. Cloud cover and higher humidity in the spring will keep air temperatures warmer due to their absorption of terrestrial (from the surface) radiational effects. Finally, late season snowfall combined with clearing skies overnight can also cause the surface to cool rapidly and lead to damaging freeze potential as well. All of these factors should be considered when comparing your location to those selected in Fig. 3.

Figure 3: Probability of a later freeze in the spring for various locations (Fig. 2) around Ohio. Graphs generated by the Midwest Regional Climate Center (


Try our free video learning while staying at home

With the orders to stay at home now extending until May 1st and no sports to watch, this is the perfect time to learn more about subjects you are interested in.  The Agriculture an Natural Resources Extension at Ohio State has put together their own version of March Madness called Ag Madness. We are broadcasting and recording webinars 3 times a day on a wide variety of subjects.  Don’t worry that you have missed the opening sessions because they have been recorded and you have the option of viewing live or watching the recording at your convenience.  This Ohio State web page contains all the details with the links to click to watch any of the sessions you want. Ag Madness  Save this link in your favorites and you can go to it easily to find new topics.  Crops, livestock, horticulture, forestry, marketing, safety, farm management, food safety, stress management… something for everyone!

Covid-19 has changed our operations but we are still here to help (including safety precautions with this virus).

This is a reminder that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work for a while.  We are following the stay at home policies, social distancing and doing everything we can to slow the spread of this virus.  We want to keep our communities healthy.  The regulations and recommendations keep evolving so what is true today may change tomorrow.  OSU Extension is still working to provide information and assistance.  We are working from home offices and answering emails and phone calls.  Please leave a message if you call the office and it will be returned in a timely manner.  Click here for current scientific information on the virus: http://fact sheets on Coronavirus (COVID-19)  Topics covered include food safety, specialty crop farms, produce auctions, u-pick farms, home and community, consumers, foodservice, grocery stores, and food banks.

Job opportunity with the Licking County Farm Service Agency

Licking County Farm Service Agency office located in Newark has an opening for a full-time County Program Technician position.  Duties include performing office activities related to administering Farm Bill programs and explaining those programs to producers in the county.  Successful applicant must be reliable, have professional attitude and enjoy working with the public.  Agricultural background and computer knowledge are a plus.  Apply online and view the job description FSACO-10779696-20-OH-008-KW at For questions about the process call (740) 670-5340.  The deadline to apply is April 8, 2020.  FSA is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Get Ready for Spring Planting Now

Authors: Mark Sulc, Jason Hartschuh, and Rory Lewandowski

The weather outlook for our spring planting season is not encouraging, as it is expected to be wetter than normal again, although hopefully not as bad as 2019. The purpose of this article is to stimulate our planning and preparation now so we will be ready to take full advantage of what are expected to be very short and few windows of opportunity to be in the fields this spring. In this article, we focus on planting forage crops, but the process and many of the ideas will pertain to other spring field work activities.

Begin your planning by mentally walking through what you will do the day you plant. It might even help jog your thoughts to physically “walk through” those activities. List every single activity needed to get the whole job done. Then ask the question, “Which of these activities can I do today, or what can I do now that will make that activity go smoothly and efficiently on planting day?” Then start doing everything that is possible to do ahead of time, so that no time is wasted on the day you can get in the field. Below are some examples.

  1. Make sure your fuel supply is full and fill the tanks of all tractors that will be used. Service all tractors.
  2. Get any needed fertilizer on hand or order it to be spread as soon as the field is fit (hopefully you pulled a soil sample last fall, and if not, do it now and send to the lab).
  3. Calibrate the fertilizer spreader.
  4. Buy the seed (including any companion crops you will use) and have it on the farm, if not done so already. Also buy inoculant if seed is not pre-inoculated.
  5. Service all tillage equipment that will be used and have it ready to go, including having it hooked up to the tractor if possible.
  6. Get the drill/planter out and service it so it is ready to go. Arrange for equipment you will rent or borrow.
  7. Calibrate the drill to the desired seeding rate using the seed that will be planted and then don’t touch the drill settings. Watch this video about calibrating drills:
  8. Check seeding depth and adjust to the first crop you will be planting. Seeding depth will have to be fine-tuned to field conditions on the day of planting. If this is the first time using this planter or planter/tractor combination check for machine levelness.
  9. If contracting the planting, get agreements and expectations in place now.
  10. Finally list the field work tasks that you need to do this spring when the weather and soils are fit, then prioritize them. Think through the tough choices you might have to make between competing activities. Think through contingency plans if each specific activity cannot be completed in a timely manner, or if it can’t get done at all this spring because of wet weather.

This last #10 item is the hardest. When the windows are opportunity are shorter than the list of work that can be accomplished, tough choices will have to be made.

For example, how do you prioritize planting forages versus manure spreading in the spring? It will likely depend on the specific situation.  If the manure is stored in a lagoon, then when the lagoon is full, the manure must be pumped out and spread on the field rather than planting forages, so the forage planting might have to wait. But planting forages too late in the spring brings a lot of risk to stand establishment and low yields (maybe only one cutting). It that case it might be better to plant a summer annual for a couple cuttings, then kill it and plant the perennial forages in August. But if the manure is dry pack, perhaps it is better to take those first days of field work to plant the perennial forage and spread the manure later. Thinking through these choices and establishing a game plan will help you be more efficient and not waste time in indecision or making a less than optimal choice for the situation.

We surely all hope for a better spring than in 2019, but climatologists are forecasting another challenging planting season. So prepare as much as possible now so you can make good decisions when the time comes. You don’t want to waste hours of potential field planting doing stuff you can do today. Try to be completely ready, as if you will be planting tomorrow morning…which we hope will be true one day very soon!

Challenging Conditions Remain into April

Temperatures and Rainfall: Temperatures will start the first 7 days of April 1-3 degrees F above normal. Rainfall will start April below normal about half of normal. That is some good news  as the end of March (as forecast) was very wet. However, most indications are for the remainder of April after the first week, temperatures will be near normal and rainfall slightly above normal. This will put pressure on early spring planting in April. Evaporation and evapotransporation will be held in check by closer to normal temperatures as we go through April. The May outlook calls for warmer than normal and a little wetter than normal but not as wet as last year.

Soil Moisture and Temperatures: Soil temperatures has come out of winter above normal due to heavy saturation and the mild winter. However, soil moisture remains in the top 1-10% wettest on record so it is wet. With excess moisture to get rid of in the soils, expect soil temperatures to trend quickly from above normal to near normal.

Freeze and Frost: The normal time for the last hard freeze typically ranges from about April 10-20 form south to north. Frost is not uncommon into very early May. All indications remain that about a normal last frost and freeze can be expected this spring.

Summary: Most indications have not changed from the outlooks this winter. The spring planting season overall looks a bit warmer and wetter than average but not quite as wet as 2019. Therefore, expect challenging conditions at least through April if not May.

The latest NOAA climate information can be found at:

The lastest river and soil information can be found at:

The latest Water Resources Outlooks can be found at: