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September 22, 2020 - 1:07pm

Press release:

Washington, D.C., Sept. 22 -- The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture USDA is investing $268 million to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure across 28 states.

The expenditure includles a total of $13,534,000 in loans and grants to three Genesee County towns: Byron, Pavilion and Stafford.

“Upgrading the infrastructure that delivers safe drinking water and modern wastewater management facilities will improve public health and drive economic development in our small towns and cities,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is a strong partner with rural communities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

Background:

USDA is funding 76 projects through water and waste disposal loan and grant program. These investments will help to improve rural water infrastructure for 267,000 residents and businesses.

The investments that USDA announced today are being made in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, interested parties should contact their USDA Rural Development state office.

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

Here is what will be allocated in Genesee County in this round of infrastructure funding:

  • Town of Byron -- $5,550,000 loan + $4,425,000 grant. Total: $9,975,000

This project will extend public water service to 608 people in the town who currently do not have safe potable water. Water quality testing indicates a significant portion of residents' individual wells have coliform and E. coli contamination, which the health department indicates does not meet standards and are a threat to the health of residents. There are no other funding sources.

  • Town of Pavilion -- $567,000 loan

This Rural Development investment will be used to build a new 300,000-gallon water storage tank and over one mile of water supply pipeline. The new water storage tank and pipeline will serve 2,495 people. Currently, due to the present water storage tank's deteriorated condition the town has significant water quality concerns. The current tank is located in a lower elevation so that the town does not have sufficient water pressure to fight fires in all areas. The new water tank will be located at a much higher elevation 1280 feet and will supply plenty of water pressure and good quality water.

  • Town of Stafford -- $1,353,000 loan + $1,639,000 grant. Total: $2,992,000

This Rural Development Investment will be used to create Water District #12 in the Town of Stafford. This project will extend public water service to 185 residents in the town who currently do not have safe potable water. Water quality testing indicates a isgnificant portion of residents' individual wells have coliform and E. coli contamination, which the health department indicates do not meet standrds and are a threat to the health of the residents.

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 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.
August 31, 2020 - 11:15am

Press release:

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand today announced that USDA is implementing the OneRD Guarantee Loan Initiative, releasing new information on rates and terms that will help lenders apply for loan guarantees to support rural businesses, infrastructure and community facilities and increase private investments in rural America.

Ahead of Fiscal Year 2021, USDA is providing guarantee percentages, annual fees, periodic retention fees, and optional construction fees to help lenders apply for the Agency’s four flagship loan guarantee programs. These programs are:

The fees in this notice are effective Oct. 1. Additional information is available in the Aug. 3 Federal Register (PDF, 203 KB).

Background:

Today’s announcement comes as part of the Administration’s commitment to cut red tape and streamline regulations to increase private investment under the OneRD Guarantee Loan Initiative.

On July 13, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that USDA is taking steps to increase private investment in rural communities across the country by making it easier for lenders to access four flagship loan guarantee programs.

Through a series of regulatory reforms, USDA is eliminating duplicative processes and launching a single platform for the Agency’s four key loan guarantee programs.

USDA is also standardizing requirements for credit reviews, loan processing, loan servicing and loss claims. These measures will make the application process simpler and faster for lenders.

The regulatory changes will take effect on Oct. 1. Additional information is available on page 42494 of the July 14 Federal Register (PDF, 889 KB).

Interested parties may join the OneRD Guarantee Loan Initiative subscription list to receive updates from USDA on this initiative.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, interested parties should contact their USDA Rural Development state office.

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.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

August 26, 2020 - 5:25pm
posted by Press Release in Child Nutrition Program, Chris Jacobs, news, covid-19, USDA, education.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Jacobs has sent United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue a letter, with 24 Republican members, calling for the review and swift implementation of flexibilities within the Child Nutrition Program. 

“As we head into the 2020-2021 school year, we need to be sure schools can accommodate the needs of children, many who may be observing hybrid or fully online classes this fall,” Jacobs said.

“As someone who has consistently advocated for quality education, I know that during this time when parents are stressed about children completing classwork, they shouldn’t have the extra burden of worrying about school meal services for their child.”

Originally, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA utilized flexibilities within the Child Nutrition Program to allow schools to provide meals to children as they were learning from home. As it stands now, these flexibilities, though within the legal bounds of the program, have not been authorized for the 2020-2021 school year.

“With the variety of plans different districts are implementing, it is critical that schools have the appropriate tools and flexibility to ensure they can carry out quality meal service and delivery for all students who need it,” Jacobs said.

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 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 - 12:41pm

Press release:

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will launch a third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchases with distributions to occur beginning by Sept.1 with completion by Oct. 31.

The purchases will spend the balance of $3 billion authorized for the program. So far, more than 46 million Farmers to Families Food Boxes have been invoiced and delivered.

“This third round of Farmers to Families Food Box Program purchases is a testament to the great work done by vendors in support of American agriculture and the American people," Secretary Perdue said. "It is also a testament that the program is accomplishing what we intended – supporting U.S. farmers and distributors and getting food to those who need it most.

"It’s a real trifecta, which is why we call it a win-win-win. The efforts of everyone involved form the backbone of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program and its goal to help fill the hunger gap in all of our communities.”

Background:

In this third round of purchases, USDA plans to purchase combination boxes to ensure all recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk, and meat products.

Eligibility in the third round will be open to entities who can meet the government’s requirements and specifications. Proposals will be expected to illustrate how coverage will be provided to areas identified as opportunity zones, detail subcontracting agreements, and address the “last mile” delivery of product into the hands of the food insecure population.

A notice explaining the solicitation process will be issued in the days to come with a webinar and other educational opportunities provided for those interested in participating. 

In the ongoing second round of purchasing and distribution, which began July 1 and will conclude Aug. 31, USDA aims to purchase up to $1.47 billion of food for the program. For the second round, USDA extended contracts of select vendors from the first round of the program worth up to $1.27 billion. Some contracts were not extended at the vendors’ request or reduced based on information provided by the contractor.

Additionally, in the second round, USDA approved up to $202 million in new contracts, via a new acquisition activity, with select vendors whose offers were not previously accepted due to various issues in their proposals. These distributors were selected to increase the focus on Opportunity Zones in order to direct food to reach underserved areas, places where either no boxes have yet been delivered, or where boxes are being delivered but where there is additional need.

The first round of purchases totaling more than $947 million occurred from May 15 through June 30.

More information about the third round of food box purchasing will be made available on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program website at www.usda.gov/farmers-to-families. Please monitor the website or subscribe for updates.

July 15, 2020 - 1:48pm

Press release:

WASHINGTON, July 15 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today posted the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s final scientific report, an objective review of the latest available science on specific nutrition topics.

The report’s evidence-based findings will inform USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as they co-develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which will provide recommendations on what to eat and drink to promote health and prevent chronic disease

“Science-based dietary guidance is critical to ensuring a healthy future for America,” said USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps. “USDA greatly appreciates the high-quality work done by this committee comprised of our nation’s leading scientists and dietary experts. We look forward to thoroughly reviewing the report and leveraging their scientific advice as we partner with HHS to develop the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

USDA and HHS are accepting written public comments on the committee’s final report through Aug. 13, 2020. The public will also have an opportunity to provide oral comments on the scientific report to the departments at a public meeting on Aug. 11.

Background:

Moving into the next stage of development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, USDA and HHS will leverage the scientific advice in the committee’s report, as well as comments from the public and other federal agencies to develop the upcoming edition of the dietary guidelines. The departments plan to publish the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of this December.

Throughout the entire 2020-2025 dietary guidelines process, USDA and HHS have taken numerous steps to promote transparency, integrity and public involvement. Most recently, the advisory committee held a webinar – the first of its kind in the dietary guidelines process – to publicly present their draft conclusions. The committee considered all of these conclusions holistically to develop the report they provided USDA and HHS.

In another unprecedented step of transparency, the topics and questions the committee examined were made public prior to scientific review. These topics and questions were defined with input from the public and other federal agencies, and based on how well they informed dietary guidance for public health. Similar to prior committees, this committee addressed all of the topics and the majority of the scientific questions set forth for review. All of this information can be found in their scientific report document released today.

The committee’s work was informed by more than 62,000 public comments, a testament to USDA and HHS’s commitment to public involvement in the dietary guidelines process. For comparison, prior committees received an average of about 450 comments. To date, the public has had more than 18 months to provide comments to help shape the committee’s review and the forthcoming dietary guidelines.

In addition to co-developing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (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.

July 13, 2020 - 4:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, USDA, rural America.

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking steps to increase private investment in rural communities across the country by making it easier for lenders to access four flagship loan programs.

USDA is seeking public comment on a series of regulatory reforms known collectively as the OneRD Guarantee Loan Initiative. Under the initiative, USDA will eliminate duplicative processes and launch a single platform for four key loan programs:

USDA also will standardize requirements for credit reviews, loan processing, loan servicing and loss claims. These measures will make the application process simpler and faster for lenders. Among the reforms, USDA intends to:

  • Launch a common loan note guarantee application and consistent forms for lenders to use across the four programs;
  • Issue loan note guarantees to lenders within 48 hours after they provide documentation to prove the requirements of the conditional commitment have been met;
  • Provide guarantee percentage and fee requirements to lenders through a single annual notice at the beginning of each fiscal year;
  • Allow lenders to obtain approval for a loan guarantee prior to the beginning of construction projects. A one-time fee and other requirements may apply; and
  • Provide automatic approval to lenders in good standing who are supervised or created by state or federal regulatory agencies to participate in all four programs. This expands the base of eligible lenders for the four guaranteed loan programs. Nonregulated lenders may seek approval to participate through a single certification process that will be valid for five years.

USDA plans to conduct a series of listening sessions this summer on the proposed changes. For more information on how to register, visit: www.rd.usda.gov/onerdguarantee.

The changes will take effect on Oct. 1. Additional information is available today (July 13) in the Federal Register (PDF, 896 KB).

Interested parties may join the OneRD Guarantee Loan Initiative subscription list

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 Perdue 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. To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB).

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.

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.

June 23, 2020 - 7:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in USDA, Grab and Go, Summer Meals Program, BCSD, batavia, news.

Press release:

Batavia City School District’s Summer Meals Program, or “Grab and Go” meal distribution for the summer months, will begin on Monday, June 29.

Distribution will be on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings from 9-11 a.m. at Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate Schools.

The Jackson distribution site will be at the school’s Hutchins Street entrance; JK's will be in the main loop on Vine Street as it has been this spring.

Each M-W-F distribution will include two days of breakfasts and two days of lunches for each child, age 18 and under.

No enrollment is necessary, and there is no-cost for families.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Meals Program is a federally funded, state-administered program that was established to ensure that children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session.

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.

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.

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