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September 22, 2020 - 3:38pm
posted by Press Release in Chris Jacobs, NY-27, news, agriculture.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) is releasing following statement calling for the replenishment of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).

“Speaker Pelosi has held up aid for small businesses, American families, and schools for weeks, and now she is threatening the well-being of farmers and rural communities," Jacobs said. "The Commodity Credit Corporation has supported farmers for decades and has always been replenished by Congress without question, yet, the Speaker has refused to include it in the upcoming spending bill.

 “It’s an affront to our farmers that the Speaker has refused to act on this funding, and I commend Ranking Member Conaway for introducing an amendment to rectify this neglect. I support his amendment and urge its inclusion in this week’s spending bill to replenish this critical program.”

The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) has served as the financial institution for carrying out federal farm programs since 1933.

It exists to finance authorized programs that support U.S. agriculture such as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (COVID-19 financial assistance), the conservation reserve program, the dairy safety net, livestock disaster programs, in addition to the Market Facilitation Program and Food Purchase and Distribution Program aimed at combating the impacts of illegal retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products.

For more information visit: https://www.usda.gov/ccc.

September 18, 2020 - 2:39pm

Press release:

Washington, D.C. – President Donald J. Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced up to an additional $14 billion dollars for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19.

Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin Sept. 21st and run through Dec. 11.

“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump is once again demonstrating his commitment to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers remain in business to produce the food, fuel, and fiber America needs to thrive,” Secretary Perdue said. “We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations’ farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted.”

Background:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use funds being made available from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and CARES Act to support row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and many additional commodities. USDA has incorporated improvements in CFAP 2 based from stakeholder engagement and public feedback to better meet the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers. 

Producers can apply for CFAP 2 at USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices. This program provides financial assistance that gives producers the ability to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Producers will be compensated for ongoing market disruptions and assisted with the associated marketing costs.

CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories of commodities – Price Trigger Commodities, Flat-rate Crops and Sales Commodities. 

Price Trigger Commodities

Price trigger commodities are major commodities that meet a minimum 5-percent price decline over a specified period of time. Eligible price trigger crops include barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton, and all classes of wheat. Payments will be based on 2020 planted acres of the crop, excluding prevented planting and experimental acres. Payments for price trigger crops will be the greater of: 1) the eligible acres multiplied by a payment rate of $15 per acre; or 2) the eligible acres multiplied by a nationwide crop marketing percentage, multiplied by a crop-specific payment rate, and then by the producer’s weighted 2020 Actual Production History (APH) approved yield. If the APH is not available, 85 percent of the 2019 Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Option (ARC-CO) benchmark yield for that crop will be used.

For broilers and eggs, payments will be based on 75 percent of the producers’ 2019 production.

Dairy (cow’s milk) payments will be based on actual milk production from April 1 to Aug. 31. The milk production for Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 will be estimated by FSA. 

Eligible beef cattle, hogs and pigs, and lambs and sheep payments will be based on the maximum owned inventory of eligible livestock, excluding breeding stock, on a date selected by the producer, between Apr. 16 and Aug. 31.

Flat-rate Crops

Crops that either do not meet the 5-percent price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre. These crops include alfalfa, extra long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.

Sales Commodities 

Sales commodities include specialty crops; aquaculture; nursery crops and floriculture; other commodities not included in the price trigger and flat-rate categories, including tobacco; goat milk; mink (including pelts); mohair; wool; and other livestock (excluding breeding stock) not included under the price trigger category that were grown for food, fiber, fur or feathers. Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales. 

Additional commodities are eligible in CFAP 2 that weren’t eligible in the first iteration of the program. If your agricultural operation has been impacted by the pandemic since April, we encourage you to apply for CFAP 2. A complete list of eligible commodities, payment rates and calculations can be found on farmers.gov/cfap.

Eligibility

There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits when members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. In addition, this special payment limitation provision has been expanded to include trusts and estates for both CFAP 1 and 2.

Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions.

Applying for Assistance

Producers can apply for assistance beginning Sept. 21. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 11.

Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap/apply. For existing FSA customers, including those who participated in CFAP 1, many documents are likely already on file. Producers should check with FSA county office to see if any of the forms need to be updated. 

Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call (877) 508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages with the team at the FSA county office.

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment.

Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in the office, by phone and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.   

September 16, 2020 - 2:37pm

Press release:

Continuing their tireless advocacy for New York’s hard-hit dairy farmers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to ensure both Canada and Mexico are held accountable to their trade commitments under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which entered into force earlier this year on July 1st.

Specifically, the senators pointed out three harmful dairy trade practices, including Canada’s recent allocation of tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for U.S. exports of several categories of dairy products, Canada’s Class 7 pricing program (Class 6 in Ontario) and lack of transparency in milk-pricing regulations, and the need for Mexico to translate its USMCA commitment of safeguarding more than 30 common cheese names for American products, into regulations.

“New York’s dairy farmers are the lifeblood of the Upstate economy, but unfortunately they have been squeezed by the economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis,” Senator Schumer said. “That is why I am calling on Ambassador Lighthizer and Secretary Perdue to do everything in their power to ensure that Canada and Mexico abide by their dairy trade obligations, allowing Upstate New York dairy farmers to freely sell their product – as agreed to in the new trade agreement with both countries, the USMCA.

"The trade deal entered into force two months ago, and there can be no further delays to ensuring our New York dairy farmers can sell their products, unimpeded by unfair trade barriers, into Canada and Mexico and churn up profits that mitigate the huge losses they have suffered this year.”

“Dairy is New York’s primary agricultural product and our rural economies depend on the survival of the industry, but poor implementation of USMCA provisions on dairy will harm our dairy farmers and make it even harder for them to recover from this crisis,” Senator Gillibrand said. "Secretary Perdue and USTR Ambassador Lighthizer must hold our trading partners accountable and ensure equitable trading practices for America’s dairy farmers.”

Schumer and Gillibrand explained that under USMCA, Canada agreed to an expansion of tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for several categories of U.S. dairy products. However, recently, it has come to the senators’ attention that Canada’s recently-released TRQ allocations weaken the intent of the USMCA and will prevent New York dairy farmers from fully benefitting from the agreement’s expanded market access opportunities.

Additionally, the senators said that under the new trade deal, Canada agreed to eliminate Class 6 & 7 pricing within six months. However, as Schumer revealed in June, Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), which represents approximately 4,000 Canadian dairy farmers, requested that Ontario’s tribunal which provides an avenue of appeal on agriculture issues grant restricted access to DFO’s pricing regulations.

The senators argued that with only a few months left until the USMCA six-month deadline to eliminate Class 6 & 7, the lack of transparency and timing of DFO’s request  in combination with the new TRQs, raises questions about whether or not Canada is seeking to circumvent its dairy commitments in USMCA.

The senators also noted that U.S. dairy farmers secured a major victory in the USMCA when Mexico affirmed a list of more than 30 terms for cheese that would remain available as common names for U.S. cheese producers when exporting to Mexico, but with uncertainty remaining over how Mexico will translate its commitment to protect these common cheese names into regulations, U.S. dairy farmers are in danger of losing out on the market share they spent years developing.

September 10, 2020 - 1:12pm
posted by Press Release in agriculture, business, USDA, Agriculture Innovation Agenda.

Press release:

To further the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) work on the Agriculture Innovation Agenda (AIA), USDA today announced it is seeking public- and private-sector input on the most innovative technologies and practices that can be readily deployed across U.S. agriculture.

USDA is looking for ready-to-go technologies and practices to achieve its goal of increasing agricultural production by 40 percent to meet global population needs in 2050 while cutting U.S. agriculture’s environmental footprint in half.

“Across America, we have seen significant advances in agricultural production efficiency and conservation performance during the past two decades,” said Under Secretary Bill Northey, who leads USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation mission area. “We want to keep the momentum. As part of our Agriculture Innovation Agenda, USDA wants to continue helping farmers access new approaches.”

To help identify and accelerate adoption of ready-to-go innovations, USDA is currently accepting public comments and written stakeholder input through its Request for Information (RFI) through Nov. 9, 2020, which is published on the Federal Register.

Input is welcome from the private sector, not for profits, farmers, forest sector, trade associations, commodity boards and others involved in the supply chain or development of widely applicable practices, management approaches or technologies.

A ready-to-go practice, technology or management approach includes those that are fully developed, have been field tested and have completed independent research trials.

Based on stakeholder input from the RFI, USDA will develop a comprehensive U.S. agriculture innovation technology strategy for our customer-facing programs.

USDA has launched a new AIA website where visitors can access information on the latest research and data, innovative conservation technologies offered via USDA programs, and other conservation resources. Visitors can also stay up to date on USDA’s accountability metrics and learn about the experiences of producers who share similar paths to success.

Background on USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda

The AIA is comprised of four main components. The first component is to develop a U.S. agriculture innovation strategy that aligns and synchronizes public- and private-sector research. The second component is to align the work of our customer-facing agencies and integrate innovative technologies and practices into USDA programs.

The third component is to conduct a review of USDA productivity and conservation data. USDA already closely tracks data on yield, but on the environmental side, there’s some catching up to do. Finally, USDA has set benchmarks to improve accountability. These targets will help measure progress toward meeting future food, fiber, fuel, feed and climate demands.

Some of the benchmarks include:

  • Agricultural Productivity: Increase agricultural production by 40 percent by 2050 to do our part to meet estimated future demand.
  • Forest Management: Build landscape resiliency by investing in active forest management and forest restoration through increased Shared Stewardship Agreements with states.
  • Food loss and waste: Advance our work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent in the United States by the year 2030.
  • Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas: Enhance carbon sequestration through soil health and forestry, leverage the agricultural sector’s renewable energy benefits for the economy and capitalize on innovative technologies and practices to achieve net reduction of the agricultural sector’s current carbon footprint by 2050 without regulatory overreach.
  • Water Quality: Reduce nutrient loss by 30 percent nationally by 2050.
  • Renewable Energy: Increase the production of renewable energy feedstocks and set a goal to increase biofuel production efficiency and competitiveness to achieve market-driven blend rates of 15% of transportation fuels in 2030 and 30 percent of transportation fuels by 2050.
View the RFI on the Federal Register, or download it here (PDF, 247 KB). For more information about the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, please visit www.usda.gov/aia.
September 1, 2020 - 4:17pm

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley recently testified in a virtual Zoom New York State Department of Labor public hearing regarding an upcoming decision on resetting the overtime threshold for farm laborers.

Concerned with the rashness of the actions attempted to be taken on this issue, during a pandemic, Hawley suggested that a delay in the decision-making would be most advantageous for farmers and their farms, and that the state should be doing as little as possible to interfere with their already modest margins.

“As someone with farming experience myself, I can tell you that however well-intentioned the lowering of the overtime threshold is for the farm workers, the actual farm employers themselves won’t be able to sustain these changes; certainly not in the economic world we’re living in right now,” Hawley said. “The last thing New York needs to be looking to do is strangle our farms and our farmers into submission.”

Hawley said during his testimony on Monday, “Why would we want to increase costs for our agricultural producers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic economic calamity? Workers are considered family; average wages are $13 an hour. In many cases, housing and food are provided.

"Even during good economic times, implementing mandatory increased labor costs for agriculture is a bad idea. Farmers have little to no control over prices they receive for their product, and with variations in factors like weather, long hours are necessary.”

In a closing note, Hawley said, “We need to protect New York state’s number one industry: Agriculture. [We should] delay the implementation of lowering the overtime threshold.”

August 26, 2020 - 5:19pm

Press release:

As part of the 2019 Farm Labor Bill, the Commissioner of Labor is required to convene a wage board to hold hearings to solicit input on the impact of the new law and make recommendations for overtime work.

Under the 2019 Farm Labor Bill, farm workers became eligible for overtime compensation starting in 2020, for any work over 60 hours per week.

Senator Ranzenhofer has issued the following statement:

“I would encourage all farmers and farmworkers to submit their testimony to the Board. It is so important that our Upstate farmers be heard and respected. Last year, when I hosted a farm roundtable, tour and community meeting with the bill’s sponsor, Senator Ramos, we heard many concerns from both farmworkers and farm owners.

“I know this bill was detrimental to our local farms and Upstate economy and I fervently hope that our farmers and farmworkers take the time to express their concerns with the wage board. Agriculture is a huge part of the economy of New York State and Upstate. These concerns need to be heard.”

To submit your testimonial, email [email protected]. You can also find the links to Zoom virtual meetings of the hearings on the State Labor website here.

August 21, 2020 - 8:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sunflowers, agriculture, news, batavia.
Video Sponsor

A pair of large fields of sunflowers are in full bloom off of Wortendyke Road, at South Pearl Street Road, in the Town of Batavia.

A sign on a driveway between the two fields says that stems can be purchased for $1 each and payment can be made at a business at 9 Apollo Drive. The other side of the sign provides information for making an online payment. 

We stopped by the business on Apollo Drive late today to try and find out more about the sunflower fields but nobody was in.

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August 11, 2020 - 1:26pm

From the USDA:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today that additional commodities are covered by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) in response to public comments and data. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is extending the deadline to apply for the program to Sept. 11th, and producers with approved applications will receive their final payment.

After reviewing more than 1,700 responses, even more farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity for assistance to help keep operations afloat during these tough times.

“CFAP is just one of the many ways USDA is helping producers weather the impacts of the pandemic," Perdue said. "From deferring payments on loans to adding flexibilities to crop insurance and reporting deadlines, USDA has been leveraging many tools to help producers.” 

Background:

USDA collected comments and supporting data for consideration of additional commodities through June 22. The following additional commodities are now eligible for CFAP:

  • Specialty Crops -- aloe leaves, bananas, batatas, bok choy, carambola (star fruit), cherimoya, chervil (french parsley), citron, curry leaves, daikon, dates, dill, donqua (winter melon), dragon fruit (red pitaya), endive, escarole, filberts, frisee, horseradish, kohlrabi, kumquats, leeks, mamey sapote, maple sap (for maple syrup), mesculin mix, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, plantains, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, tangelos, turnips/celeriac, turmeric, upland/winter cress, water cress, yautia/malanga, and yuca/cassava.
  • Non-Specialty Crops and Livestock -- liquid eggs, frozen eggs and all sheep. Only lambs and yearlings (sheep less than two years old) were previously eligible. 
  • Aquaculture -- catfish, crawfish, largemouth bass and carp sold live as foodfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, salmon, sturgeon, tilapia, trout, ornamental/tropical fish, and recreational sportfish.
  • Nursery Crops and Flowers -- nursery crops and cut flowers.

Other changes to CFAP include:

  • Seven commodities – onions (green), pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts and watermelons – are now eligible for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act funding for sales losses. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for payments on marketing adjustments.
  • Correcting payment rates for onions (green), pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts, and watermelons.

Additional details can be found in the Federal Register in the Notice of Funding Availability and Final Rule Correction and at www.farmers.gov/cfap.

Producers Who Have Applied:

To ensure availability of funding, producers with approved applications initially received 80 percent of their payments. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will automatically issue the remaining 20 percent of the calculated payment to eligible producers. Going forward, producers who apply for CFAP will receive 100 percent of their total payment, not to exceed the payment limit, when their applications are approved.

Applying for CFAP:

Producers, especially those who have not worked with FSA previously, are recommended to call (877) 508-8364 to begin the application process. An FSA staff member can help producers start their application during the phone call. On farmers.gov/cfap, producers can:

  • Download the AD-3114 application form and manually complete the form to submit to their local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to their local office or office drop box. 
  • Complete the application form using the CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center. 
  • If producers have login credentials known as eAuthentication, they can use the online CFAP Application Portal to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center.  

All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap. For existing FSA customers, these documents are likely already on file. 

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment.

Service Centers that are open for appointments will prescreen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in the office, by phone and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

August 11, 2020 - 12:31pm

Submitted image and press release:

As part of National Health Center Week (Aug. 9 – 15), Tuesday highlights the importance of agricultural workers in our community and our commitment to providing them with the best of health care. 

“Agricultural workers in the U.S. have been called the ‘invisible population’ as they are socially and geographically isolated from the rest of society," said Mary Ann Pettibon, CEO, Oak Orchard Heath. "We want to recognize this population with gift bags of useful supplies and a cool drink to ease their otherwise extremely busy day.” 

Agricultural workers are also dealing with COVID-19 and we want to remind them of our commitment to help them with the Tuesday distribution of hygiene kits – a gesture of support.

Each kit contains hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, soap, masks, digital thermometers, and a water bottle.

Originally founded in 1966, Oak Orchard has grown from a migrant health project into an integrated health center with multiple locations providing health care services for everyone located in the communities we serve.

Oak Orchard Health

Oak Orchard Health is currently serving approximately 23,000 patients at 10 locations. Oak Orchard Health is a recognized patient-centered medical home and 501(c) nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) located in the towns of Albion, Alexander, Batavia, Brockport, Corfu, Lyndonville, Hornell and Warsaw.                                                                

August 7, 2020 - 1:23pm

From Sen. Charles Schumer:

After successfully pushing for an extended comment period to allow Upstate New York hemp farmers to share their concerns with the final rule, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to delay the issuance of a U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program final rule until 2022.

This will allow hemp growers and producers across the country and in Upstate New York to continue to operate under the 2014 Farm Bill pilot program regulations until that time. Schumer said with the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic across all sectors, implementing additional regulations would crush the budding hemp industry.

“When it comes to an industry as promising as industrial hemp in Upstate New York, the feds must do everything they can to nurture its potential," Schumer said. "Regulating this rapidly emerging industry is a must, but the timing of new regulations is important and the current economic crisis must be considered.

"That’s why today I’m urging USDA to delay their issuance of a final rule until 2022 so the hemp industry across the country and in Upstate New York has a chance to grow and create good-paying jobs at a time when jobs are needed the most. Delaying new regulations will help pull New York along in the recovery process as the nation deals with the impacts of the pandemic.”

Allan Gandelman, president of New York Cannabis Growers and Processors Association said, “There are over 700 registered hemp farmers across New York who would be negatively affected by the USDA's Interim Final Rule on hemp. The costs and bureaucracy of implementing the new rules as written create unnecessary financial burdens on farmers and our state agencies.

"The existing hemp pilot program has been sufficient in making sure farmers are complaint with all testing and public safety protocols. We would like to see the pilot program extended until 2022 and the USDA modify the program to let hemp become a widespread agricultural commodity like Congress intended by the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.”

Schumer explained, prior to the pandemic, the industrial hemp industry had begun to show significant growth in New York, adding a considerable number of good-paying jobs and bringing in significant revenue to the state, making it an indispensable crop in New York’s agricultural future.

Operating under the full benefits of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp farmers have reported difficulty integrating the Interim Final Rules into their operations, Specifically, Schumer said, the cost of complying with the Rules has proven to be suffocating for the emerging industry.

Compliance costs for reporting alone would be $17,363.40 according to USDA calculations, and testing would add more than $700 per sample.

The senator said these costs are simply too high for the budding industry to shoulder at a time when New York and the entire country is experiencing an economic crisis. Additionally, Schumer noted, implementing the Interim Final Rules now, also requires states to alter their Pilot Program budgets to meet standards, something which states slammed with COVID-related issues simply cannot spare the time and resources for.

Schumer also pointed out in light of COVID concerns, the timing and testing outlined in the Interim Final Rules would likely push farmers to rush harvests and increase the number of people working in facilities at once, leading to higher risk of COVID transmission among workers.

The senator says that delaying implementation until January 2022 and allowing states to continue operating under the 2014 Farm Bill will address these issues, protecting both the hemp industry in New York and farm workers from potential COVID spread.

August 5, 2020 - 1:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, farmers, covid-19, USDA.

Press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced it will authorize Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs) to extend deadlines for premium and administrative fee payments, defer the resulting interest accrual and allow other flexibilities to help farmers, ranchers, and insurance providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“USDA recognizes farmers and ranchers have been severely affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic this year and to help ease the burden on these folks, we are continuing to extend flexibility for producers,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “The flexibilities announced today support health and safety while also ensuring the Federal crop insurance program continues to serve as a vital risk management tool.”

Background:

Specifically, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide policyholders additional time to pay premium and administrative fees and to waive accrual of interest to the earlier of 60 days after their scheduled payment due date or the termination date on policies with premium billing dates between August 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. In addition, USDA is authorizing AIPs to provide up to an additional 60 days for policyholders to make payment and waive additional interest for Written Payment Agreements due between Aug. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2020.

RMA is authorizing additional flexibilities due to coronavirus while continuing to support producers, working through AIPs to deliver services, including processing policies, claims and agreements. RMA staff are working with AIPs and other customers by phone, mail and electronically to continue supporting crop insurance coverage for producers. Farmers with crop insurance questions or needs should continue to contact their insurance agents about conducting business remotely (by telephone or email). More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private insurance agents. A list of insurance agents is available online using the RMA Agent Locator. Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at rma.usda.gov.

July 27, 2020 - 1:45pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, H-2A workers, farmworkers.

Press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced new features on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers.gov website designed to help facilitate the employment of H-2A workers.

“My mission from the beginning of my time as Secretary was to make USDA the most effective, most efficient, most customer-focused department in the entire federal government – these changes to Farmers.gov are doing just that," Secretary Perdue said. "USDA’s goal is to help farmers navigate the complex H-2A program that is administered by Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department so hiring a farm worker is an easier process. ... We will continue working to streamline these and other processes to better serve our customers across the country.”

Background:

The primary new H-2A features on Farmers.gov include: 

  • A real-time dashboard that enables farmers to track the status of their eligible employer application and visa applications for temporary nonimmigrant workers;
  • Streamlining the login information so if a farmer has an existing login.gov account they can save multiple applications tracking numbers for quick look-up at any time;
  • Enables easy access to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG);
  • Allows farmers to track time-sensitive actions taken in the course of Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s (OFLC) adjudication of temporary labor certification applications;
  • Allowing for farmers to access all application forms online.
All information can be found at www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a.

In 2018, Secretary Perdue unveiled farmers.gov, a dynamic, mobile-friendly public website combined with an authenticated portal where customers can apply for programs, process transactions and manage accounts. With feedback from customers and field employees who serve those customers, Farmers.gov delivers farmer-focused features through an agile, iterative process to deliver the greatest immediate value to America’s agricultural producers – helping farmers and ranchers do right, and feed everyone.

July 21, 2020 - 2:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, news, New York Farm Bureau.

Press release:

New York Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization, unveiled the results of a member survey that found 65 percent of the state’s farms and agribusinesses have been negatively impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 500 NYFB members participated in the informal survey conducted in mid-June that asked a dozen wide-ranging questions about the rural economy, health and safety of farm families and their employees as well as access to necessary personal protective equipment (PPEs). Respondents also described how they were personally affected.

Here are some key findings:

  • 43 percent of farms have lost sales during the pandemic.
  • More than a third of farms and agribusinesses (37 percent) are experiencing cash flow issues.
  • Almost half (47 percent) say they have reduced spending to local vendors and suppliers or will do so in the future.
  • An overwhelming majority of farms (84 percent) have a plan in place to train and assist their employees to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  • 46 percent of respondents say they are concerned about their mental health or that of someone they know.

“What we found with this survey is that no farm was untouched by the pandemic or the economic fallout,” said New York Farm Bureau president, David Fisher. “All of this underscores the need to continue to invest in our food system while also making health and safety a priority.

"Farmers are doing their best to make sure food production doesn’t stop, but we need to maintain the ability to process, distribute and market what we produce. As the state and federal governments look toward potential budget cuts and additional COVID-19 assistance, agriculture must be a part of the discussion. It really does take all of us working together to have a strong, sustainable food system that supports the farm community and feeds yours.”

July 17, 2020 - 1:14pm

Press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement announces a July 29 public teleconference of the Minority Farmers Advisory Committee (MFAC).

Participants will discuss USDA outreach, technical assistance, and capacity building for and with minority farmers; the implementation of the Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmer and Rancher Grant Program (2501 Program); and methods of maximizing the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs; and to plan mechanisms for best providing advice to the Secretary on the issues outlined above.

The meeting also introduces 15 newly appointed members of the committee.

The public conference call will be held on Wednesday, July 29 at 12:15-1:15 p.m. EDT. 

To listen to the discussion, use the call-in number: 888-251-2949 or 215-861-0694 and the participant code: 2513486#.

The Minority Farmers Advisory Committee is made up of 15 members, including representatives for: socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, nonprofit organizations, civil rights organizations or professions, and institutions of higher education.

Congress authorized the Committee in 2008, and since its inception, it has served to advise the Secretary and USDA on the implementation of the section 2501 Program of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990; methods of maximizing the participation of socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers in USDA programs; and civil rights activities within USDA.

The Committee is managed by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE). Learn more about this advisory committee at the OPPE website.

About the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement

USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement develops and maintains partnerships focused on solutions to challenges facing rural and underserved communities in the United States, and connects those communities to the education, tools, and resources available to them through U.S. Department of Agriculture programs and initiatives.

July 10, 2020 - 1:28pm

Press release:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today (July 10) announced approximately $4 million in available funding to develop partnerships to leverage USDA and local, state, and private sector resources to address challenges for limited resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers, and communities.

The program is administered by the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE).

The Centers of Community Prosperity initiative was launched by Secretary Sonny Perdue in 2019 to increase the capacity of rural and underserved communities through extensive collaboration, tailored technical assistance, and a community’s designation as a Community of Faith and Opportunity.

“This initiative is designed to assist persistent poverty communities with limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers and ranchers to strategically address community challenges,” said Mike Beatty, director of the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement. “We hope to assist in fostering hope and opportunity, wealth creation, and asset building for communities across the country.”

Community-based and nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, and tribal entities may compete for Community Prosperity funding on projects that provide outreach, education and training in agriculture, conservation, agribusiness, and forestry, with a focus on economic and workforce development, innovation and technology, and quality of life through food and agriculture.

The deadline for applications is Aug. 24. See the request for applications for full details.

USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement develops and maintains partnerships focused on solutions to challenges facing rural and underserved communities in the United States, connecting those communities to the education, tools and resources available to them through USDA programs and initiatives. Learn more at www.usda.gov/partnerships.

July 9, 2020 - 2:01pm

Press release:

Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an initial list of additional commodities that have been added to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made other adjustments to the program based on comments received from agricultural producers and organizations and review of market data.

Producers will be able to submit applications that include these commodities on Monday, July 13. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is accepting through Aug. 28 applications for CFAP, which helps offset price declines and additional marketing costs because of the coronavirus pandemic. USDA expects additional eligible commodities to be announced in the coming weeks. 

“When we announced this program earlier this year, we asked for public input and received a good response," Secretary Perdue said. "After reviewing the comments received and analyzing our USDA Market News data, we are adding new commodities, as well as making updates to the program for existing eligible commodities.

"This is an example of government working for the people – we asked for input and we updated the program based on the comments we received.”

USDA collected comments and supporting data for consideration of additional commodities through June 22.

Changes to CFAP include:

  • Adding the following commodities: alfalfa sprouts, anise, arugula, basil, bean sprouts, beets, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, celeriac (celery root), chives, cilantro, coconuts, collard greens, dandelion greens, greens (others not listed separately), guava, kale greens, lettuce – including Boston, green leaf, Lolla Rossa, oak leaf green, oak leaf red and red leaf – marjoram, mint, mustard, okra, oregano, parsnips, passion fruit, peas (green), pineapple, pistachios, radicchio, rosemary, sage, savory, sorrel, fresh sugarcane, Swiss chard, thyme and turnip top greens.
  • Expanding for seven currently eligible commodities – apples, blueberries, garlic, potatoes, raspberries, tangerines and taro – CARES Act funding for sales losses because USDA found these commodities had a 5 percent or greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for marketing adjustments.
  • Determining that peaches and rhubarb no longer qualify for payment under the CARES Act sales loss category.
  • Correcting payment rates for apples, artichokes, asparagus, blueberries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, garlic, kiwifruit, mushrooms, papaya, peaches, potatoes, raspberries, rhubarb, tangerines and taro.

Additional details can be found in the Federal Register in the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and Final Rule Correction and at www.farmers.gov/cfap.

Producers have several options for applying to the CFAP program:
  • Using an online portal, accessible at farmers.gov/cfap, allows producers with secure USDA login credentials—known as eAuthentication—to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center. New commodities will be available in the system on July 13.
  • Completing the application form using our CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator found at farmers.gov/cfap. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center. An updated version with the new commodities will be available on the website on July 13.
  • Downloading the AD-3114 application form from farmers.gov/cfap and manually completing the form to submit to the local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to an office drop box. In some limited cases, the office may be open for in-person business by appointment. Visit farmers.gov/coronavirus/service-center-status to check the status of your local office.

USDA Service Centers can also work with producers to complete and securely transmit digitally signed applications through two commercially available tools: Box and OneSpan. Producers who are interested in digitally signing their applications should notify their local service centers when calling to discuss the CFAP application process. You can learn more about these solutions at farmers.gov/mydocs.

Getting Help from FSA

New customers 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. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap. For existing FSA customers, these documents are likely already on file. 

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment.

Service Centers that are open for appointments will prescreen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors may also be required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in office, by phone and using online tools.

More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

June 17, 2020 - 6:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in kathy hochul, agriculture, Pavilion, Noblehurst Farms.
Video Sponsor

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul paid a visit to Noblehurst Farms in Pavilion today to highlight the Nourish NY program, which purchased $25 million in agricultural products from farms throughout the state to distribute at food banks from New York City to Buffalo.

June 4, 2020 - 12:29pm

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C.: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has already approved more than $545 million in payments to producers who have applied for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

FSA began taking applications May 26, and the agency has received over 86,000 applications for this important relief program.

In the first six days of the application period, FSA has already made payments to more than 35,000 producers. Out of the gate, the top five states for CFAP payments are Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and South Dakota. USDA has released data on application progress and program payments and will release further updates each Monday at 2 p.m. ET. The report can be viewed here.

FSA will accept applications through Aug. 28. Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion in financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5-percent-or-greater price decline due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly marketing of commodities.

In order to do this, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date nationwide, as funds remain available.

Getting Help from FSA

New customers 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. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

Producers can download the CFAP application and other eligibility forms on this website. Also, on that webpage, producers can find a payment calculator to help producers identify sales and inventory records needed to apply and calculate potential payments.

Producers self-certify their records when applying for CFAP and that documentation is not submitted with the application. However, producers may be asked for their documentation to support the certification of eligible commodities, so producers should retain the information used to complete their application.

Those who use the online calculator tool will be able to print a pre-filled CFAP application, sign it, and submit it to your local FSA office either electronically or via hand delivery through an office drop box. Please contact your local office to determine the preferred delivery method for your local office. Team members at FSA county offices will be able to answer detailed questions and help producers apply quickly and efficiently through phone and online tools. Find contact information for your local office at farmers.gov/cfap.

Policy Clarifications

FSA has been working with stakeholder groups to provide further clarification to producers on the CFAP program. For example, the agency has published a matrix of common marketing contracts that impact eligibility for non-specialty crops and has provided a table that crosswalks common livestock terms to CFAP cattle categories. Updated information can be found in the frequently asked questions section of the CFAP website.

More Information

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only; call (877) 508-8364. Field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone and using online tools whenever possible.

All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found here.

June 3, 2020 - 1:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, video, news, Pavilion, Noblehurst Farms, Craigs Creamery.
Video Sponsor

On Monday, Craigs Creamery/Noblehurst Farms in Pavilion hosted a milk giveaway. Every car the showed up got at least a gallon of milk for free, with a total of 2,000 gallons available. The distribution was in conjunction with Natural Upcycling, Dairy Farmers of America, and the Livingston County Farm Bureau and took place on World Milk Day.

The milk was processed by Pittsford Farms Dairy. When Billie and I lived in Pittsford, that was the only place we ever bought milk. It's the best. Below is a video about the dairy I produced in 2008 as a project for a video production class I was in at the time.

May 28, 2020 - 3:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, business, covid-19, New York Farm Bureau.

Press release:

New York State has issued comprehensive guidance to help farms manage and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and New York Farm Bureau is asking farms across the state to review the information and put it to practice.

The guidance follows a letter NYFB President David Fisher wrote to Governor Cuomo in April asking for this assistance.

Farms have implemented a number of health and safety practices to protect their families and employees, but still had lacked comprehensive protocols from state officials that are specific to the unique aspects of agriculture.

The new guidance includes information for farmworkers, detailed cleaning protocols and a checklist for farms to follow.

“Planting season is underway and guest workers are arriving on farms," said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau president. "If we are to farm and produce food in a safe and responsible manner, farmers need to understand how best to do that amid a pandemic.

"I would like to thank Governor Cuomo as well as the Commissioners of Agriculture and Markets, Health and Labor for the newly released guidance. Farm safety is extremely important, and we must do all that we can to inform our farms, protect our valuable employees, and prevent a potential spread of the virus. No place of business is immune from the virus, and I ask my fellow farmers to continue to be proactive in their efforts."

NYFB has emailed the guidance to its members as well as published the information on the COVID-19 page of its website.

Since the pandemic began, the organization has worked with its partners across agriculture to provide members with the resources they need in these times. In addition, NYFB and Cornell Cooperative Extension have been conducting outreach to county health departments across the state to assess preparedness and quarantine housing options should an outbreak occur on a farm.

NYFB has also established a farmworker relief database to connect farms with potential temporary employees should they be needed.

Links to the NYS documents in English are below. NYFB expects NYS to release similar versions in Spanish in the near future.

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