New Digital Tool Supports Coronavirus Relief for America’s Farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to continue providing financial relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus continues to heavily impact our agricultural industry, creating significant market disruptions that threaten farmers’ livelihoods and the food they put on America’s tables. Through the expanded Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2), USDA hopes to offset some of the financial burden farmers are currently facing.

Working closely with the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area of USDA, MetroStar Systems, Inc. (MetroStar) has developed the CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder tool. The tool, which resides on farmers.gov, helps farmers quickly determine their eligibility and look up payment rates for commodities covered by the program. It provides condensed and easily accessible information, breaking down typically lengthy content and legalese into easily digestible, commodity-specific information. The tool is meant to be particularly helpful to independent and family-run farms. Once farmers have eligibility information for their commodities, they are able to make informed decisions on applying for aid. Applications for CFAP 2 are being accepted now through Dec. 11, 2020.

In early 2018, The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, unveiled farmers.gov to serve America’s farmers, ranchers, and private-land foresters — collectively, called producers. The vision of farmers.gov is to provide producers with online self-service tools, educational materials, and engagement opportunities to increase efficiency and productivity while preserving the long-held relationships between local USDA staff and their customers. MetroStar has partnered with USDA on farmers.gov since its beginning, following a farmer-centered approach to provide unified and streamlined information for our customers when they need it most, such as the critical CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder.

The Impact of CFAP 2

The first iteration of CFAP was launched in May; however, USDA recognized that determining payment rates for multiple commodities was time-consuming and the sheer volume of eligible commodities was overwhelming. The CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder is a testament to how MetroStar combines the power of human-centered design and software engineering to develop digital solutions that directly increase user engagement, enhancing producers’ experience in a way that best fits their needs. MetroStar strives to create tools and resources on farmers.gov that are trustworthy, accessible, and consider the different farming landscapes of America.

The MetroStar team followed an Agile approach to build the CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder in just two weeks to get it into producers’ hands as quickly as possible, given the urgent need of support. The tool was designed with accessibility issues in mind, including poor broadband in various rural regions. With minimal data to be downloaded and a mobile-friendly interface, farmers are able to access the tool from anywhere quickly and easily. With over 50 percent of users accessing the tool on their mobile devices, MetroStar continuously optimizes to provide the best mobile experience possible.

Within weeks of going live, the CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder has already become one of the most used tools on farmers.gov and has had the largest spike of new visitors from any tool so far.

Keeping the Heartbeat of American Agriculture Going

There is no shortage of threats to the agricultural industry, but positive impacts are made when the barriers between farmers and the agencies helping them are removed. MetroStar’s goal is to help break down any walls impeding farmers from applying for CFAP 2 and ultimately reduce financial burdens on America’s farmers.

Learn more about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 and CFAP 2 Eligible Commodities Finder Tool.

About MetroStar Systems, Inc.

MetroStar is a leading IT services provider for the public sector. For over two decades, our people have powered innovation through our core capabilities and practice areas. MetroStar’s focus on people and technology supports federal missions, including helping farmers feed America, ensuring humanitarian aid reaches refugees, and transforming the way data is disseminated for the nation’s leading data provider. Learn more about opportunities for designers, developers, writers, and philosophers to build a career with MetroStar.

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