By Carol Vaughn —
David Hickman, fifth-generation operator of Dublin Farms in Horntown, was among farmers who spoke during a televised event Tuesday at the White House to announce a relief program for farmers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which will give up to $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers impacted by the pandemic.
Additionally, the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with distributors impacted by the closing of restaurants and other food service businesses during the pandemic to purchase $3 billion in produce, dairy, and meat. The food will be distributed to needy Americans, according to a press release.
Dublin Farm potatoes will be among the produce distributed to food banks under the federal program.
“This program is going to help tremendously with the movement of potatoes this summer,” Hickman said, noting the farm has six distributors who are customers participating in the food box program.
“So our potatoes will be in some of these food boxes,” he said, adding the farm has submitted bids for five-pound bags of yellow and white potatoes to go directly to food banks.
“It’s certainly going to impact the Virginia potato business,” Hickman said.
President Donald Trump asked Hickman several questions about the farm and the differences between Idaho and Eastern Shore potato production during an exchange.
“(it’s) just interesting to me — what do I know about potatoes, right?” Trump said.
Hickman told Trump potatoes have been planted on his family’s farm since 1887, “which is sort of unusual in the country.”
“We appreciate what you are doing for us,” Hickman told the president.
Hickman invited Trump to “come by” the farm.
“I might. Be careful, I might. I’ll be there. We’re going after Virginia; with your crazy governor, we’re going after Virginia. They want to take your Second Amendment away, you know that, right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes,” Trump said.
“You know, the farmers were targeted by China, when we started negotiating tough with China,” Trump said earlier in the event, touting the $12 billion given to American farmers that first year.
“The next year…I took $16 billion out of the tariffs…we gave it to the farmers, and this year the same thing,” he said.
“America’s farming community is facing an unprecedented situation as our nation tackles the coronavirus. President Trump has authorized USDA to ensure our patriotic farmers, ranchers, and producers are supported and we are moving quickly to open applications to get payments out the door and into the pockets of farmers,” Perdue said in the release.
“These payments will help keep farmers afloat while market demand returns as our nation reopens and recovers. America’s farmers are resilient and will get through this challenge just like they always do with faith, hard work, and determination,” he said.
Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau president, said during the event, “The farmers across America are very appreciative, Mr. President, of what you have done. You stood behind us during the trade war; you stood behind us during all the difficulties we went through; and now, with the pandemic, you stood behind us again.”
Duvall said the pandemic “has made us realize one thing. We live in a land of plenty, but there’s a food chain that is just as important to us as the military is. We have to be able to feed our own people; we can’t afford to be fed by other countries.”
The USDA, through the Farm Service Agency, will accept applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses beginning May 26.
Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed. Applications will be accepted through August 28.