Farmers & Rural Communities

This page will be updated as more information becomes available

Congress has passed several rounds of financial assistance and relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including most recently the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed into law on March 11, 2021.  

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides needed relief to our farmers, including:

  • $4 billion to address major pandemic-related disruptions throughout the food supply chain; invest in new infrastructure for farmers, food processors, and farmers markets to build resiliency; monitor COVID-19 in animals; support small meat and poultry processors; protect food and farm workers on the job; and increase food donations.
  • More than $5 billion in debt relief and assistance for farmers of color who have faced widespread and longstanding discrimination and have seen disproportionate impacts from the pandemic.

Resources for Wisconsin Farmers and Rural Communities

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Assistance to Agricultural Producers from USDA

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Farm Loan Assistance

Unemployment Insurance: Expanded Eligibility 


Resources for Wisconsin Farmers and Rural Communities

  • For information on direct payments to farmers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), please visit: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap 
    • U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Farm Service Agency is currently accepting new or modified CFAP applications. Wisconsinites seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer general assistance.
    • SBA's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is now accessible for sole-proprietor farmers who didn’t turn a profit in 2019. Click here to learn more.
      • The SBA began accepting new PPP applications from participating lenders on January 11, 2021. Per the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, SBA is authorized to guarantee loans under the PPP through March 31, 2021.
      • This program provides cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans would be forgiven, which would help workers remain employed, as well as help affected small businesses and our economy snap-back quicker after the crisis. PPP has a host of attractive features, such as forgiveness of up to 8 weeks of payroll based on employee retention and salary levels, no SBA fees, and at least six months of deferral with maximum deferrals of up to a year. 
      • Per the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, PPP expenses are now tax deductible.
  • For a comprehensive COVID-19 federal resource guide courtesy of USDA, please click here
  • USDA’s Farm Service Agency is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibility for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. For more information, please visit: https://www.farmers.gov/coronavirus

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Assistance to Agricultural Producers from USDA

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides $4 billion to the USDA to provide additional relief for agricultural producers.  Of the $4 billion, $3.6 billion of the new funds will be used:

  • To purchase food and agricultural commodities and seafood, including for distribution to individuals in need in partnership with nonprofit organizations and restaurants;
  • To make grants and loans to small or midsized food producers or distributors, seafood processors, farmers markets, and producer; and
  • To make payments for certain crop losses.

USDA will use $300 million to conduct animal surveillance related to COVID-19.  $100 million is provided to reduce the amount of overtime inspection costs for federally inspected small and very small meat, poultry, and egg processors.

The $4 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is in addition to the $13 billion provided by the December 2020 COVID relief law, which included:

  • $9.7 billion for assistance to farmers and ranchers, including specialty crops, and floriculture; and
  • $1.5 billion to purchase food, agricultural products, and seafood for individuals in need.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 starts to address the needs of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by providing $1 billion to the USDA, which will be used for:

  • Outreach, mediation, financial training, and cooperative development for socially disadvantaged groups;
  • A commission to address racial inequity at the USDA; and
  • Research, education, and extension/outreach at universities that serve socially disadvantaged groups.


The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Farm Loan Assistance

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 gives the USDA authority to provide farm loan assistance by making payments of up to 120% of outstanding agricultural loans as of January 1, 2021, to help farmers and ranchers from socially disadvantaged groups.

Details on these new programs have yet to be determined, but this webpage will be updated as the USDA implements this authority.  Please also check the USDA’s website on COVID relief for updates.  In addition, the USDA’s Farm Service Administration (FSA) is expected to continue playing a central role in providing service to agricultural producers.  Local FSA agents and offices can be found here.


Unemployment Insurance: Expanded Eligibility

Besides direct assistance to farmers and agricultural businesses, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 extended the eligibility for unemployment benefits and the additional amounts Wisconsinites can receive.  This includes independent contractors, part-time workers, and others not normally eligible for unemployment benefits.  Please click here for additional information. 

If your job has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, you can apply for unemployment benefits in Wisconsin here


Additional Information and Resources

For general information and resources about coronavirus for Wisconsinites, please click here.

For more information about the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021please click here.

For information about the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for farmers and rural communities, please click here


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