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May 26, 2020 - 1:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in USDA, CFAP, agriculture, business, coronavirus, Farm Service Agency.

Press release:

Agricultural producers can now (May 26) apply for USDA's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to offset impacts from coronavirus pandemic.

The application and a payment calculator are now available online, and USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff members are available via phone, fax and online tools to help producers complete applications. The agency set up a call center in order to simplify how they serve new customers acorss the nation.

“We know New York producers are facing a tough time now, and we are making every effort to provide much needed support as quickly as possible,” said Clark Putman, state executive director for FSA in New York. “FSA is available over the phone and virtually to walk you through the application process, whether it’s the first time you’ve worked with FSA, or if you know us quite well.” 

Applications will be accepted through Aug. 28.

Through CFAP, USDA is making available $16 billion for vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-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.

“We also want to remind producers that the program is structured to ensure the availability of funding for all eligible producers who apply,” Putman said. 

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.

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

Additionally, producers in search of one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a good first step before a producer engages the team at the FSA county office at their local USDA Service Center.

Applying for Assistance

Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Those who use the online calculator tool will be able to print off a pre-filled CFAP application, sign, and submit to your local FSA office either electronically or via hand delivery. Please contact your local office to determine the preferred method.

Find contact information for your local office at farmers.gov/cfap.

Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested after the application is filed. 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.

Additional Commodities

USDA is also establishing a process for the public to identify additional commodities for potential inclusion in CFAP. Specifically, USDA is looking for data on agricultural commodities, that are not currently eligible for CFAP, that the public believes to have either:

  1. Suffered a 5 percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  2. Shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel; 
  3. Or not left the farm or remained unharvested as mature crops.

More information about this process is available on farmers.gov/cfap.

More Information

To find the latest information on CFAP, visit farmers.gov/cfap or call (877) 508-8364.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and 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 at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

May 21, 2020 - 8:15am

Statement from Mindy Brashears, Ph.D., USDA undersecretary for Food Safety, and Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As the COVID-19 pandemic response continues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have been working around the clock on many fronts to support the U.S. food and agriculture sector so that Americans continue to have access to a safe and robust food supply.

As a next step in carrying out Executive Order 13917, the USDA and FDA today announced Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to help prevent interruptions at FDA-regulated food facilities, including fruit and vegetable processing.

This is an important preparedness effort as we are approaching peak harvesting seasons, when many fruits and vegetables grown across the U.S. are sent to be frozen or canned. The MOU creates a process for the two agencies to make determinations about circumstances in which the USDA could exercise its authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) with regard to certain domestic food resource facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods, as well as to those that grow or harvest food that fall within the FDA’s jurisdiction.

While the FDA will continue to work with state and local regulators in a collaborative manner, further action under the DPA may be taken, should it be needed, to ensure the continuity of our food supply. As needed, the FDA will work in consultation with state, local, tribal and territorial regulatory and public health partners; industry or commodity sector; and other relevant stakeholders (e.g. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to chart a path toward resuming and/or maintaining operations while keeping employees safe.

We are extremely grateful to essential workers for everything they do every day to keep our pantries, refrigerators and freezers stocked. All of the food and agriculture sector -- whether it is regulated by the USDA or FDA -- are considered critical infrastructure, and it is vital for the public health that they continue to operate in accordance with guidelines from the CDC and OSHA regarding worker health and safety. As we work to get through the current challenge together, we remain committed to workers’ safety, as well as ensuring the availability of foods, and that our food remains among the safest in the world.

Additional Information

On April 28, 2020, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13917, Delegating Authority Under the Defense Production Act with Respect to the Food Supply Chain Resources During the National Emergency Caused by the Outbreak of COVID-19, delegating the powers of the President under the DPA to the Secretary of Agriculture to ensure continuity of operations for our nation’s food supply chain.

The Executive Order gave the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to use the DPA if needed to require the fulfillment of contracts at food processing facilities. The MOU makes clear that the FDA will work with stakeholders to monitor the food supply for food resources not under the USDA’s exclusive jurisdiction in order to prevent interruptions at FDA-regulated food facilities.

This action is another in a series of proactive steps the USDA and FDA have taken to maximize food availability following unprecedented disruptions the COVID-19 pandemic has caused to food supply chains that have been established and refined for decades.

Supporting Industry and Protecting Frontline Workers

Our nation’s food and agriculture facilities and workers play an integral role in the continuity of our food supply chain.

The USDA and FDA have been working to ensure that frontline workers in food facilities and retailers that have remained on the job during this crisis have the information and resources they need for business continuity and to continue working safely, which includes mitigating the risk of spreading COVID-19. We continue to provide information and update frequently asked questions on both the FDA and USDA’s websites.

We will continue to work with facilities and farms, CDC, OSHA, and state, tribal, and local officials to ensure facilities and farms are implementing practices consistent with federal worker safety guidelines to keep employees safe and continue operations.

We are working with our federal partners who have the authority and expertise over worker safety to develop information on protecting worker health. We are also working with other federal partners to assist the food and agriculture industry in addressing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), cloth face coverings, disinfectants and sanitation supplies.

Monitoring and Securing Human and Animal Food Supply Chains 24/7

Throughout the pandemic, the USDA and FDA have been closely monitoring the food supply chain for shortages in collaboration with industry and our federal and state partners. We are in regular contact with food manufacturers and grocery stores.

We have issued guidances to ensure regulatory flexibility to safely reroute food that typically would be bought in bulk by food facilities and restaurants, like eggs and flour, directly to consumer.

Food Safety Reminders for Every American

As we continue to respond to COVID-19, we want to remind consumers that there is no evidence that COVID-19 has been transmitted by food or food packaging, as well as the importance of taking precautionary food safety steps to protect against foodborne illness pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli.

With respect to the safety of food across the U.S., both the USDA and FDA continue to use their respective authorities, including conducting inspections, as appropriate. The agencies also continue to monitor foods for hazards, work with industry on any potential or reported issues in their facilities, and conduct food recalls when appropriate. This applies to both domestically produced food and food that is imported from other countries.

Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, foodborne exposure is not known to be a route of transmission for SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

With respect to foodborne pathogens, the CDC, FDA and FSIS continue to work with state and local partners to investigate foodborne illness and outbreaks. During this coronavirus outbreak, we will continue to operate to prepare for, coordinate and carry out response activities to incidents of foodborne illness in both human and animal food.

May 19, 2020 - 12:31pm

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today (May 19) announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to this direct support to farmers and ranchers, USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is partnering with regional and local distributors, whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat and deliver boxes to Americans in need.

“America’s farming community is facing an unprecedented situation as our nation tackles the coronavirus," Secretary Perdue said. "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.

“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.”

Beginning May 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. 

Background: 

CFAP provides vital 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.

Farmers and ranchers will receive direct support, drawn from two possible funding sources. The first source of funding is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January 2020, and mid-April 2020 and provides support for specialty crops for product that had been shipped from the farm between the same time period but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels. The second funding source uses the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act to compensate producers for $6.5 billion in losses due to on-going market disruptions. 

Non-Specialty Crops and Wool

Non-specialty crops eligible for CFAP payments include malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, and hard red spring wheat. Wool is also eligible. Producers will be paid based on inventory subject to price risk held as of Jan. 15, 2020.

A payment will be made based 50-percent of a producer’s 2019 total production or the 2019 inventory as of January 15, 2020, whichever is smaller, multiplied by the commodity’s applicable payment rates.

Livestock

Livestock eligible for CFAP include cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs. The total payment will be calculated using the sum of the producer’s number of livestock sold between Jan. 15 and April 15, 2020, multiplied by the payment rates per head, and the highest inventory number of livestock between April 16 and May 14, 2020, multiplied by the payment rate per head.

Dairy

For dairy, the total payment will be calculated based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of calendar year 2020 multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter. 

Specialty Crops

For eligible specialty crops, the total payment will be based on the volume of production sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020; the volume of production shipped, but unpaid; and the number of acres for which harvested production did not leave the farm or mature product destroyed or not harvested during that same time period, and which have not and will not be sold.

Specialty crops include, but are not limited to, almonds, beans, broccoli, sweet corn, lemons, iceberg lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries and tomatoes. A full list of eligible crops can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Additional crops may be deemed eligible at a later date.

Eligibility

There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies or limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits where members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. 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 on May 26, 2020. 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 Aug. 28, 2020.

Payment Structure

To ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, 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 as funds remain available.

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only, and 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 at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

April 28, 2020 - 11:45am

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On Monday,  the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), in conjunction with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE), published Frequently Asked Questions for nonprofit organizations seeking to receive food through the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Read more about the Farmers to Families Food Box Program FAQ at the AMS website.

On April 17, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). As part of this announcement Secretary Perdue also created the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

Through this program USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service entities, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products.

The program will begin with the procurement of 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.

Participating distributors and wholesalers will then package a preapproved box of fresh produce, dairy and meat products for delivery to food banks, community and faith-based organizations and other nonprofits serving Americans in need.

Additional information on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program is available on the AMS website.

Additional questions may be submitted to:  [email protected]

April 22, 2020 - 12:35pm

From USDA:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced emergency benefit increases have reached $2 billion per month for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households across all 50 states and three territories to increase food security during the coronavirus national emergency.

These emergency benefits represent a 40-percent increase in overall monthly SNAP benefits, significantly increasing food purchasing power for American families. 

“These are unprecedented times for American families who are facing joblessness and hunger," Secretary Perdue said. "USDA is providing a 40-percent increase in SNAP benefits to ensure that low-income individuals have enough food to feed themselves and their families during this national emergency."

Background:

Currently, a household with two adults, three children, and no income can receive the maximum benefit of $768. However, due to reportable income and other factors, the average five-person household receives significantly less, $528.

These emergency benefits would provide the average five-person household an additional $240 monthly in food purchasing power, bringing the average household up to the same benefit level as households already receiving the maximum. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed into law by President Trump, provided for the issuance of emergency allotments in response to COVID-19. Across the United States, emergency allotments total nearly $2 billion per month, which is in addition to approximately $4.5 billion in benefits already provided to SNAP households each month. 

All SNAP households that are eligible to receive less than the maximum benefit will receive the emergency allotment supplement to bring them up to the maximum. By law, SNAP households are not permitted to receive more than the maximum allotment.

SNAP emergency allotments allow states to raise benefits to the maximum amount for the household’s size for up to two months, and USDA is providing additional guidance today to states that want to further extend these emergency allotments month by month as prescribed by the law.

Hawaii -- approved last Friday -- was the final state agency authorized to provide the emergency allotments, which are now authorized in all 50 states, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia.

States could request to provide an emergency allotment for current SNAP households beginning in March. USDA is continuing to work closely with states so that supplements are provided in subsequent months as this public health emergency warrants, as outlined in FFCRA. 

Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has taken to uphold the USDA’s commitment to “Do Right and Feed Everyone” during this national emergency. Other actions include:

  • Providing more than 227 million pounds of food – valued at $243 million through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), with another $850 million available from the FFCRA and Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act.
  • Launching Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) to provide the value of school breakfast and lunch to families eligible for free and reduce-price lunch;
  • Issuing Disaster Household Distributions, food targeted to meet specific needs when traditional channels of food are unavailable, to 16 States and territories, and 29 tribes;
  • Providing more than one million meals a week to rural children through public-private partnership Meals to You;
  • Allowing states to serve free meals to children in all areas across more than 35,000 feeding sites nation-wide;
  • Maximizing flexibilities, such as parent-pickup and meal times requirements, for the free meals provided through schools and other providers; 
  • Increasing access to online purchasing by expanding the online purchasing pilot to cover half of all SNAP households;
  • Debuting “Meals for Kids” interactive site finder – to help families find meals for children while schools are closed; and
  • Providing administrative flexibilities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to allow for social distancing and for State to more quickly process new applications.
These actions and more are part of USDA’s focus on service during the COVID-19 outbreak. For additional information on the many actions FNS has taken to respond to COVID-19, visit www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus or follow us @USDANutrition.

FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.

April 18, 2020 - 1:18pm

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.

President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need. 

“During this time of national crisis, President Trump and USDA are standing with our farmers, ranchers, and all citizens to make sure they are taken care of,” Secretary Perdue said. “The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers.

"This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.” 

CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals. 

  1. Direct Support to Farmers and Ranchers: The program will provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted and will 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.
  2. USDA Purchase and Distribution: USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat. We will begin with the procurement of 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 serving Americans in need.

On top of these targeted programs USDA will utilize other available funding sources to purchase and distribute food to those in need.

  • USDA has up to 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.
  • The FFCRA and CARES Act provided an 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.

Further details regarding eligibility, rates, and other implementation will be released at a later date.

April 15, 2020 - 4:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in USDA, DHS, H-2A visa, agriculture, business.

From the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Homeland Security, with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), today (April 15) announced a temporary final rule to change certain H-2A requirements to help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions in lawful agricultural-related employment, protect the nation’s food supply chain, and lessen impacts from the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.

These temporary flexibilities will not weaken or eliminate protections for U.S. workers. 

Under this temporary final rule, an H-2A petitioner with a valid temporary labor certification who is concerned that workers will be unable to enter the country due to travel restrictions can start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in H-2A status in the United States immediately after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the H-2A petition, but no earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition.

To take advantage of this time-limited change in regulatory requirements, the H-2A worker seeking to change employers must already be in the United States and in valid H-2A status.

Additionally, USCIS is temporarily amending its regulations to protect the country’s food supply chain by allowing H-2A workers to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period of stay in the United States. These temporary changes will encourage and facilitate the continued lawful employment of foreign temporary and seasonal agricultural workers during the COVID-19 national emergency.

Agricultural employers should utilize this streamlined process if they are concerned with their ability to bring in the temporary workers who were previously authorized to work for the employer in H-2A classification. At no point is it acceptable for employers to hire illegal aliens.

“This Administration has determined that continued agricultural employment, currently threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, is vital to maintaining and securing the country’s critical food supply chain. The temporary changes announced by USCIS provide the needed stability during this unprecedented crisis,” said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf. 

“USDA welcomes these additional flexibilities provided by the Department of Homeland Security today,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Providing flexibility for H-2A employers to utilize H-2A workers that are currently in the United States is critically important as we continue to see travel and border restrictions as a result of COVID-19.

"USDA continues to work with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor and the Department of State to minimize disruption and make sure farmers have access to these critical workers necessary to maintain the integrity in our food supply.”

The temporary final rule is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. If the new petition is approved, the H-2A worker will be able to stay in the United States for a period of time not to exceed the validity period of the Temporary Labor Certification.

DHS will issue a new temporary final rule in the Federal Register to amend the termination date of these new procedures in the event DHS determines that circumstances demonstrate a continued need for the temporary changes to the H-2A regulations. 

The H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to alien workers seeking to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States, usually lasting no longer than one year, for which able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers are not available.

April 9, 2020 - 2:25pm

Press release:

Agricultural producers now have more time to repay Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL) as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The loans now mature at 12 months rather than nine, and this flexibility is available for most commodities.

“Spring is the season when most producers have the biggest need for capital, and many may have or are considering putting commodities under loan," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. "Extending the commodity loan maturity affords farmers more time to market their commodity and repay their loan at a later time.

"We are extremely pleased that USDA can offer these marketing flexibilities at this critical time for the agriculture industry and the nation.”

Effective immediately, producers of eligible commodities now have up to 12 months to repay their commodity loans. The maturity extension applies to nonrecourse loans for crop years 2018, 2019 and 2020. Eligible open loans must in good standing with a maturity date of March 31 or later or new crop year (2019 or 2020) loans requested by Sept. 30. All new loans requested by Sept. 30 will have a maturity date 12 months following the date of approval.

The maturity extension for current, active loans will be automatically extended an additional three months. Loans that matured March 31 have already been automatically extended by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). Producers who prefer a nine-month loan will need to contact their local FSA county office. Loans requested after Sept. 30 will have a term of nine months.

Eligible commodities include barley, chickpeas (small and large), corn, cotton (upland and extra-long staple), dry peas, grain sorghum, honey, lentils, mohair, oats, peanuts, rice (long and medium grain), soybeans, unshorn pelts, wheat, wool (graded and nongraded); and other oilseeds, including canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sunflower seed, and sesame seed. Seed cotton and sugar are not eligible.

About MALs

Placing commodities under loan provides producers interim financing to meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are low and allows producers to store production for more orderly marketing of commodities throughout the year.

These loans are considered nonrecourse because the commodity is pledged as loan collateral, and producers have the option of delivering the pledged collateral to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for repayment of the outstanding loan at maturity.

MAL Repayment

Under the new maturity provisions, producers can still repay the loan as they would have before the extension:

  • repay the MAL on or before the maturity date;
  • upon maturity by delivering or forfeiting the commodity to CCC as loan repayment; or
  • after maturity and before CCC acquires the farm-stored commodity by repaying the outstanding MAL principle and interest.

Marketing Loan Gains

A Marketing Loan Gain occurs when a MAL is repaid at less than the loan principal. If market gain is applicable during the now-extended loan period, producers can receive a gain on the repayment made before the loan matures.

For more information on MALs, contact the nearest FSA county office. USDA Service Centers, including FSA county offices, are open for business by phone appointment only, and 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 at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

April 7, 2020 - 12:36pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, covid-19, CARES Act, farm aid, USDA, NYFB.

Press release:

New York Farm Bureau is requesting immediate help for farmers who are facing serious economic challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recently passed CARES Act provides $9.5 billion in funding for USDA, and NYFB is encouraging that funding to be used for direct payments to farms.

NYFB President David Fisher has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to make the case for federal assistance which spells out a number of ways USDA can help a diverse range of farms in New York weather the storm that is affecting millions of small businesses. This would help offset the fact that most farms may not meet the traditional eligibility requirements for Small Business Administration programs. At a time when food security is of utmost importance, we must do everything we can to keep farmers in business during this most challenging time.

The letter from President Fisher reads in part, “While no one could have predicted the extent of this virus on the country or its food supply, the impacts have been real and unprecedented for America’s farmers, including those in New York. Not only have farmers experienced the loss of markets, dumping of products, and labor disruptions, also there remains uncertainty of when they may see any type of recovery.”

In addition to direct payments, some additional requests include:

  • USDA should immediately make purchases of dairy products including but not limited to fluid milk, butter, cheeses and dry milk powders. Additional support could be provided through export assistance programs and direct commodity support.
  • The creation of a voucher program for people in need through the Milk Donation Program, as authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, to facilitate the distribution of donated milk through grocery stores and other venues since some food banks and food pantries often do not have enough cold storage to accept large quantities of highly perishable products.
  • With the steep decline in purchases in the food service sector, USDA should consider developing a purchase program that would quickly provide stability to all impacted fresh produce growers through the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. 
  • Provisions should be made for livestock, equine, horticulture, craft distilleries, maple producers and more who are facing closures and a significant loss of business.

Read the requests made by NYFB to assist farmers across the state and the full letter here.

March 27, 2020 - 4:36pm

Press release:

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement Thursday (March 26) in response to the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to authorize temporary waivers for in-person interviews for eligible H-2 visa applicants.

“Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2 visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty,” Secretary Perdue said. “H-2 labor is vital to the economy and food security of America – our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world.”

USDA has been directly engaged with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure minimal disruption in H-2A and H-2B visa applications during these uncertain times. This Administration is doing everything possible to maintain continuity of this critically important program.

These flexibilities will allow our farmers and ranchers to utilize workers they have used in the past, or those who are already in the United States, to get our food from the farm to our tables.

December 24, 2019 - 1:21pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, genesee county, USDA.

A press release from the USDA Office of Communication:

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a movement permit on Monday to Mr. S. Nicholas Claus of the North Pole, a broker with Worldwide Gifts, Unlimited. The permit will allow reindeer to enter and exit the United States between the hours of 7 p.m. Dec. 24, 2019 and 7 a.m. Dec. 25, 2019, through or over any U.S. border port.

“With a growing world population, Mr. Claus will have his busiest Christmas yet. At USDA, we want to ensure we are not hindering Mr. Claus’ important work of spreading Christmas Cheer for all to hear,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

“Ease of access into the United States for Mr. Claus and his nine reindeer will ensure that children all over the country – including my own 14 grandchildren – will wake up on Christmas morning with joy and filled with the spirit of the season. USDA issued this permit in advance and waived all applicable fees to help ensure a smooth trip on Christmas Eve night.”

In addition to the normal disease testing requirements, flying reindeer must undergo additional tests to ensure they will be able to safely handle significant changes in altitude and temperature throughout their journey, and are fit for landing on rooftops.

On this year’s health certificate, the accredited veterinarian noted that one of the reindeer named Rudolph was positive for “red nose syndrome”; however, it was also explained that this is normal for him and not an animal health concern. The veterinarian also verified the reindeer have been vaccinated against any diseases they could encounter on their trip around the world.

At the request of the Clauses, APHIS also completed a courtesy welfare and humane treatment check of the reindeer facility. Nicholas Claus, his wife and his staff passed with flying colors.

The Claus team will arrive pulling a wooden sleigh with jingling bells attached, filled with brightly wrapped gifts. Port personnel will clean and disinfect the runners and underside of the sleigh at the time of entry, and will also conduct a short visual inspection of the reindeer.

Claus will also have his boots disinfected and will thoroughly wash his hands. These measures are intended to prevent the entry of any livestock diseases the team may encounter during deliveries to farms around the world prior to entering the United States.

“It would be a disaster for Worldwide Gifts, Unlimited, if my reindeer were to unintentionally bring in foot and mouth disease along with all the gifts,” explained Claus. “Why, something like that could put me out of business. That’s why we work all year to keep the reindeer healthy and take all possible precautions before and during our trip.”

Claus has also provided an advance list of what port personnel should expect upon their arrival. This includes a variety of food items, all of which come from approved locations and none of which pose a threat to U.S. animal or plant health.

November 15, 2019 - 12:25pm

Press release:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today (Nov. 15) released a report detailing how the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Market Facilitation Program (MFP) has treated Upstate farmers unfairly—and launched a new effort to restore parity to the system.

The MFP is designed to reimburse the farms that have been damaged by the turbulent trade climate across the globe, and has distributed $25 billion in mitigation payments to help farmers recover in recent months.

However, Schumer explained, this funding was distributed unevenly, sending 95 percent of the top payment rates to Southern farmers, who have been harmed less than other regions, and helping farms owned by billionaires and foreign-owned companies.

To address this disparity that is negatively impacting Upstate farmers, who are in dire need of assistance, Schumer urged USDA to improve the MFP to better support small New York farmers.

“This report shows that as Upstate farmers are grappling with extreme uncertainty caused by the chaotic global trade climate, USDA is using a flawed formula that helps big, wealthy farms and billion-dollar foreign-owned companies, while our small and family farms in New York have been left in the dust,” Senator Schumer said.

“The USDA must stop picking winners and losers in such an unbalanced way, and instead ensure all of America’s and Upstate New York’s farmers get the help they need and deserve—not just a lucky few.”

Farmers across New York State are being treated unfairly in many ways, including:

  • Farmers in New York are receiving $41.10 less per acre than farmers in Georgia and other Southern states;
  • Even within New York the difference in payments from county to county can be significant and cause similar farms to get vastly different payments. For example, Orleans County has a payment rate of $48 per acre, yet Warren County has a rate of $15 per acre. For an average-sized farm this is a difference in payments of $9,936 and $3,105 for Upstate farms that likely have very similar growing conditions;
  • At a county level, the average payment rate in New York was $28 per acres. However, many counties in Southern states received the maximum payment rate of $150 per acre. With more than 33,400 farms across New York, averaging about 207 acres each, NY farmers would receive a payment of about $5,796, while the same sized farm in one of these other Southern counties would receive $31,050(delta: $25,254).
  • USDA currently ignores any trade damage not related to its own chaotic trade actions and largely shuts out Upstate New York’s specialty crops from direct assistance.
  • Instead of taking steps to support small and beginning operations, USDA doubled the payment limit for row crop payments from $125,000 to $250,000. This change will concentrate payments even more in the large complicated farming conglomerates.
  • Rather than using current production numbers, USDA based payments to dairy farmers on data that are 6 to 8 years old.

In the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, Congress provided balanced support to help farmers manage market instability across the country and provided permanent support for USDA export market development programs.

Schumer raised concerns that the administration’s policy upends this careful compromise, replaces income from markets with government payments, creates vast inequities, and does not address the actual trade damage to farmers who have been hit the hardest.

NY County

USDA MFP Payment rate

Warren

$15

Allegany

$17

Delaware

$18

Washington

$18

Essex

$19

Lewis

$19

Sullivan

$19

Wyoming

$19

Herkimer

$20

Steuben

$20

Westchester

$20

Chenango

$21

Cortland

$21

Franklin

$21

Madison

$21

Schuyler

$21

Tioga

$21

Clinton

$22

Jefferson

$22

Schenectady

$22

Albany

$23

Ulster

$23

Albany

$23

Saratoga

$24

Otsego

$25

Broome

$26

Cattaraugus

$26

Schoharie

$26

St. Lawrence

$26

Tompkins

$26

Broome

$26

Cattaraugus

$26

Chemung

$27

Erie

$27

Chautauqua

$28

Dutchess

$28

Onondaga

$28

Rensselaer

$28

Fulton

$30

Montgomery

$31

Genesee

$32

Oneida

$32

Yates

$35

Columbia

$36

Cayuga

$38

Livingston

$38

Ontario

$38

Cayuga

$38

Niagara

$39

Oswego

$39

Orange-Rockland

$43

Monroe

$45

Greene

$47

Orleans

$48

Seneca

$48

Wayne

$52

    November 1, 2019 - 4:43pm
    posted by Billie Owens in USDA, education, scholarships, news.

    Press release:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the “OneUSDA Internship” opportunity for Summer 2020. As part of the Federal Pathways Program, the OneUSDA Internship Program will provide students a way to explore serving their country through a career in government while gaining work experience in agriculture, natural resources, rural development, and other career fields.

    “Our goal at USDA is to recruit the best and retain the best through our OneUSDA Internship Program offered nationwide,” said Secretary Perdue. “Today’s young people are the future of America and there are few things more American than agriculture. We’re aiming to find young talent, with a diverse background, across all 50 states, to begin their careers as interns with USDA.”

    The OneUSDA Internship Program offers Federal opportunities to students currently enrolled in qualifying educational programs or institutions, with a comprehensive developmental program intended to provide students with experience in a dynamic work environment that will enhance their educational goals and shape their career choices.

    An internship with USDA will involve various components of on-the-job experience, mentorship, and training tailored to the student’s education, experience, and interests.

    During 2019, USDA was proud to host thousands of interns throughout the country, many of which were through the Federal Pathways Program. In the Summer of 2020, USDA will hire Pathways Interns in hundreds of locations in nearly every state in the country for the following occupational fields:

    USDA is making sure the Summer 2020 OneUSDA internship job announcement is easier-than-ever for students to find and apply for. After choosing the geographic location of preference and the career path that best matches with student’s area of study and professional aspirations online, students simply follow the weblinks here to set up an account, then follow the prompts to apply to the internship.

    When applying, students will also have an opportunity to indicate their preferred occupational area of interest and USDA Agency or office. The application window opens today (Nov. 1) and close on Nov. 15th. Application review will begin immediately thereafter.

    For more information, visit www.USDA.gov/Internships.

    October 29, 2019 - 1:35pm
    posted by Billie Owens in agriculture, USDA, news, education, scholarships.

    WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the opening of the 2020 scholarship application cycle for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program.

    The program aims to increase the number of students studying agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, and other agriculture-related disciplines. The program is available through the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE).

    The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program was established in 1992 as part of the partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the 19 1890 Land-Grant Universities (PDF, 1.2 MB).

    The program provides full tuition, fees, books, room and board to students pursuing degrees in agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, or related academic disciplines. When the student has completed the academic and summer work requirements of the scholarship, USDA may convert the student to a permanent employee without further competition.

    Currently, USDA and 1890 Land-Grant Universities are providing scholarships to 109 students.

    “The Scholars Program is an important way to collaborate with historically black land-grant universities and train the workforce for 21st century agriculture.” said Mike Beatty, director of USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement.

    This program is among several USDA efforts to build the capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Since the passage of the Second Morrill Act of 1890, USDA has supported scholarships, research, education, extension activities, and grants for facilities and equipment at these institutions.

    The USDA/1890 National Scholars Program is available to high school seniors entering their freshman year of college, and college sophomores. General requirements include U.S. citizenship, a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a score of 1080 or more on the SAT or 21 or more on the ACT, and acceptance to, or currently attending an 1890 University to study agriculture, food, and natural resources.

    The scholarship is renewable each year and is contingent on satisfactory academic performance and normal progress toward the bachelor’s degree. Additional requirements are listed in the application package.

    All application materials must be postmarked by Friday, Jan. 31. See the 2020 high school application (PDF, 337 KB) and the 2020 college application (PDF, 347 KB) for details. For other questions, email: [email protected]

    August 9, 2019 - 10:54am
    posted by Billie Owens in bergen, water distribution, infrastructure, news, USDA.

    The Town of Bergen is approved for nearly $9 million in funding for water infrastructure, the USDA's Rural Utilities Service Administrator Chad Rupe announced Thursday.

    A loan of $5.9 million and a grant of $3,058,000 from the USDA's Water and Environmental Program will be used to install a water distribution system.

    The project description says the service area has no municipal water system and Bergen residents rely on individual wells. It says this funding will bring public water service to 335 residential connections and 32 commerical properties in the town that currently lack access to safe potable water.

    "We are very pleased with the award (of the funding package)," said Town of Bergen Supervisor Ernie Haywood this morning (Aug. 9), "and we thank all those involved who made it possible. We are moving forward..."

    According to the description, "Regulatory agencies indicate the deficiencies in the system are a threat to the health of residents and that the completion of this project will address the code issues, alleviate health problems and provide reliable water to the residents and commercial properties. The project will also supply fire protection for all located in the district."

    In areas without public water, firefighters must draw water from other sources such as ponds and creeks in order to fight a blaze.

    Proponents of the federal assistance package reached out to property owners to inform them about the plan for a water district and public meetings have been held about it.

    As part of the approval process, the USDA requires a percentage of affected property owners to sign petitions in favor of the infrastructure and funding package. For the last several months, the Town of Bergen has gathered signatures to create a water district where there is no public water system.

    The expectation is that construction would start quickly once the funds are released and that it would take about a year to complete, said Bergen Councilman Mark Anderson.

    In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities.

    In January 2018, Secretary George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump.

    These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

    Thursday's announcement about rural water and wastewater investments will benefit 133,000 rural Americans in 24 states. A total of $135 million will be distributed to pay for 49 U.S. projects.

    USDA had $2.9 billion in loans and grants available in the Water and Environmental at the start of the 2019 fiscal year. Additional funding announcements are expected in the coming weeks.

    USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports: infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed Internet access in rural areas.

    For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

    May 13, 2019 - 3:51pm
    posted by Billie Owens in Town of Le Roy, water, infrastructure, USDA, news.

    Information from the USDA:

    The Town of Le Roy is the recipient of an $89,000 loan and a $34,000 grant from the USDA's Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program to build Water District #11.

    According to today's announcement by the USDA, in Washington, D.C., this project will extend public water service to eight residential users in the town who currently do not have safe potable water. The announcement did not specify where Water District #11 to benefit eight households is located.

    The investment will eliminate health concerns, lower costs and provide better water quality and quantity as well as fire protection.

    Le Roy's project is one of 40 approved in 20 states intended to improve rural water infrastructure. The investments will benefit 111,000 rural Americans, according to USDA.

    “These investments will have a far-reaching, positive impact on rural residents, businesses and communities,” said Joel Baxley, acting assistant secretary for Rural Development. “Improving water and wastewater infrastructure enhances quality of life, helps support economic development and ensures that rural areas have safe and abundant water supplies.”

    USDA is investing $82 million through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Rural communities, water districts and other eligible entities can use the funds for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems. The projects must be in rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

    April 3, 2019 - 3:38pm
    posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture, USDA.

    Press release:

    Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched two new features on farmers.gov to help customers manage their farm loans and navigate the application process for H-2A visas.

    “Customer service is our top priority at USDA and these new features will help our customers as they manage their farm loans and navigate the H-2A temporary agricultural visa program,” Secretary Perdue said. “In my travels across the country, I have consistently heard people express a desire for greater use of technology in the way we deliver programs at USDA.

    "As we adopt new technology, we are introducing simple yet innovative approaches to support our farmers, ranchers, producers, and foresters as they support the nation every day. It’s my goal to make USDA the most effective, most efficient, most customer-focused department in the entire federal government, and farmers.gov is a big step in that direction.”

    In 2018, Secretary Perdue unveiled farmers.gov, a dynamic, mobile-friendly public website combined with an authenticated portal where customers will be able to apply for programs, process transactions and manage accounts.

    Navigating the H-2A Visa Process

    Focused on education and smaller owner-operators, this farmers.gov H-2A Phase I release includes an H-2A Visa Program page and interactive checklist tool, with application requirements, fees, forms, and a timeline built around a farmer’s hiring needs.

    You may view the video at this link

    The H-2A Visa Program – also known as the temporary agricultural workers program – helps American farmers fill employment gaps by hiring workers from other countries. The U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of State, and state workforce agencies each manage parts of the H-2A Visa Program independently, with separate websites and complex business applications.

    Over the next several months, USDA will collaborate further with the U.S. Department of Labor on farmers.gov H-2A Phase II – a streamlined H-2A Visa Program application form, regulations, and digital application process that moves producers seamlessly from farmers.gov website to farmers.gov portal to U.S. Department of Labor’s IT systems.

    Managing Farm Loans Online

    The self-service website now enables agricultural producers to login to view loan information, history and payments.

    Customers can access the “My Financial Information” feature by desktop computer, tablet or phone. They can now view:

    • loan information;
    • interest payments for the current calendar year (including year-to-date interest paid for the past five years);
    • loan advance and payment history;
    • paid-in-full and restructured loans; and
    • account alerts giving borrowers important notifications regarding their loans.

    To access their information, producers will need a USDA eAuth account to login into farmers.gov. After obtaining an eAuth account, producers should visit farmers.gov and sign into the site’s authenticated portal via the “Sign In / Sign Up” link at the top right of the website.

    Currently, only producers doing business as individuals can view information. Entities, such as an LLC or Trust, or producers doing business on behalf of another customer cannot access the portal at this time, but access is being planned.

    Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge are the recommended browsers to access the feature.

    About farmers.gov

    USDA is building farmers.gov for farmers, by farmers. Future self-service features available through the farmers.gov portal will help producers find the right loan programs for their business and submit loan documents to their service center.

    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.

    February 21, 2018 - 9:10am
    posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, news, USDA.

    Press release:

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated Genesee and Niagara counties in New York as primary natural disaster areas due to losses and damages caused by flooding that occurred on Nov. 6-9 last year.

    Farmers and ranchers in the contiguous Erie, Livingston, Monroe, Orleans and Wyoming counties in New York also qualify for natural disaster assistance.

    Qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for FSA’s emergency (EM) loans, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration of Feb. 16, 2018, to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses.

    FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster.

    Other FSA programs that can provide assistance, but do not require a disaster declaration, include: Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; the Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; and the Tree Assistance Program.

    Interested farmers may contact their local USDA service centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

    December 10, 2014 - 5:25pm
    posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, USDA.

    Press release:

    Today, senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and representatives Brian Higgins and Chris Collins announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved primary and contiguous disaster designations for seven Western New York counties, due to losses caused by excessive snow, flooding, freeze, and high winds that occurred Nov. 17-24. The Secretarial natural disaster declaration will apply for the following counties: Genesee, Erie, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming.

    Last month, following the storm, Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins and Collins urged the USDA to assess damage and be ready to issue this declaration so that emergency loans could be made available to the farmers, flower growers, and local producers that suffered as a result of the historic November snowstorm. The lawmakers said that USDA assistance is available to farmers who experience severe crop, livestock and business loss.

    “After weathering several days of brutal weather and record-high snowfall, the USDA’s decision to provide emergency disaster assistance to farmers and growers across seven Western New York counties is welcome news. I visited many communities and saw the damage the snow caused firsthand. Thankfully, this disaster declaration means our Upstate farmers and growers will have access to critical emergency loans and more, at a time when they need it the most,” Senator Schumer said. “I applaud the U.S. Department of Agriculture for swiftly assessing the damage to farms, flower growers, vineyards, wineries and orchards throughout the region following the historic snowfall in November, and coming through with disaster designation.”

    Senator Gillibrand, the first New York senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, said:

    "I saw firsthand the severe losses Western New York’s agriculture community faced after last month’s unprecedented snowfall. The stories I heard were powerful. This declaration will enable those who lost greenhouses, barns, processing facilities, harvesting equipment, animals, trees, vines and crops to access resources that will help them as they recover and begin planning for a new growing season. I thank Secretary Vilsack and the dedicated staff of the Farm Service Agency who worked so hard to make sure the voices of our farmers were heard and that this much-needed aid is being made available."

    Congressman Higgins: “Farm communities in Western New York were hit hard by the November snowstorm, and the federal government has an obligation to respond. This disaster caused loss of crops and business impacting the livelihood of local farmers. We applaud the USDA’s willingness to provide much needed relief to those struggling to recover from damages caused by the storm.”  

    Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27): “Western New York's agriculture community took a huge hit during the historic November snowstorm and our local farmers and growers need help. I am pleased that our bipartisan push worked and the USDA is taking action necessary to provide needed disaster assistance.”

    The senators and congressmen explained that this Secretarial disaster designation will make farm operators eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans. Farmers in the eligible counties will have eight months from the date of the Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for such emergency loans.

    The programs available with a USDA disaster declaration are as follows:

    ·         Emergency Farm Loans -- low interest loans;

    ·         Disaster Set-Aside Program -- borrowers located in designated disaster areas or contiguous counties who are unable to make their scheduled payment on any FSA debt can set aside one payment after a disaster.

    Additionally, the following programs are available through the USDA without a disaster declaration:

    ·         Tree Assistance Program (TAP) -- provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists and nursery tree growers to replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters;

    ·         Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) -- provides benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths in excess of normal mortality caused by adverse weather;

    ·         Forest Restoration Program (FRP) -- helps the owners of non-industrial private forests restore forest health damaged by natural disasters;

    ·        Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, & Farm-raised Fish (ELAP) -- provides emergency relief to producers of livestock, honey bees, and farm-raised fish from other natural disasters that are not adequately covered by any other disaster program.

    In their letter to Secretary Vilsack last month, Schumer, Gillibrand, Collins and Higgins wrote: “We urge USDA to dedicate all available resources to complete a damage survey in the most timely manner to assess the need for a USDA disaster declaration to prevent the delay of any needed emergency relief. Additionally, we request that FSA field officers work with farmers to help them accurately document losses, which will enable them to apply for USDA disaster programs.”

    October 26, 2012 - 3:56pm
    posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, USDA.

    Press release:

    Genesee County farmers and private landowners were matched $1.5 million dollars in federal assistance this past fiscal year to install conservation practices on their farms, fields and forests.

    Heath Eisele, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said, “We are currently accepting applications for fiscal year 2013. To be considered for funding, interested applicants should submit their applications to the Batavia Field Office no later than Nov. 16.

    Although the fate of the 2012 Farm Bill is undecided at this time, several programs remain intact to help landowners address a variety of resource concerns on their working lands. The NRCS programs for which applications are being accepted, include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Agricultural Management Assistance Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.

    According to the most recent Agricultural Census, Genesee County is comprised of approximately 184,000 acres of cropland. According to Eisele, this is where farmers in particular can have the biggest impact on improving soil, water and air quality.

    “Many farmers have traded in their moldboard plow for equipment that reduces tillage and improves overall soil health. However, many farmers are not aware that financial assistance is available to help them transition to a less intensive cropping system or take their conservation efforts to the next level,” Eisele said.

    One grain farmer who has championed the use of innovative farming techniques and who has utilized NRCS conservation programs is Donn Branton, of Stafford. Precision nutrient application, tissue testing, reduced tillage and cover crop cocktails are just a few of the ways that Branton is able to “build” soils and sustainably increase crop production.

    NRCS currently offers incentive payments to farmers willing to plant a cover crop on fields where cover crops were not previously planted. In 2012 the incentive rate was $73 per acre for grass cover crops planted conventionally and $75 per acre for organic. Planting a cover crop mixture earned farmers $90 per acre. Incentive rates may change slightly for 2013.

    “Cover crop is really the first step toward improving soil quality. In order to maximize the benefits, it is important that fields are not exposed to tillage after planting or for termination. Tillage can destroy soil structure, provide a seed bed for weeds and reduce residue on top of the ground,” Eisele said.

    Farmers who adopt no-till or reduced tillage methods, such as strip-till or ridge-till, can receive up to an additional $43 per acre to limit the amount of disturbance to the soil. 

    “I have found that leaving residue on the surface so it can degrade naturally promotes better soil as opposed to tilling it in,” Branton said.

    Farmers not able to plant cover crop or utilize residue management can receive an annual payment of $10 per acre for three years by incorporating a small grain into their cropping rotation. The small grain will provide cover throughout the winter months and can be harvested for silage or grain. Hay may also be considered if not previously grown in rotation on the farm.

    Other cropland practices that are eligible for financial assistance through EQIP include: grassed waterways, nutrient management, diversions, and riparian herbaceous buffers.

    EQIP also offers technical and financial assistance to farmers that have resource concerns around the farmstead. Roof runoff management, silage leachate control, milkhouse waste containment, and waste storage are some of the practices that can be implemented through the program.  Other practices such as solid-liquid separation facilities, waste storage covers, composting facilities and anaerobic digesters have also been popular in the county.

    To learn more about NRCS New York Conservation Programs, visit their Web site at www.ny.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/. To apply, interested landowners can call 585-343-2362 and request an application or visit the Batavia Field Office at 29 Liberty St., Suite 3, Batavia.

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