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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.

May 21, 2012 - 3:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in USDA, kathy hochul.

Press release:

Today, Congresswoman Kathy Hochul (NY-26) hosted a call with Dallas Tonsager, the under secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) to discuss major upcoming projects in rural communities across the 26th District. 

“It is vital that Western New York receive the support necessary to continue the agricultural and rural development that helps keep us healthy and competitive,” Hochul said. “USDA Rural Development recognizes the importance of investing in our region, and they see the assets of our rural communities. I spoke with Under Secretary Tonsager today to encourage further investments, such as the urgent need for rural broadband access for our small towns and farmers. I am confident the USDA will continue to direct resources into our local communities."

"This is an exciting time for rural America and USDA Rural Development is assisting communities across the country," said Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager. "We look forward to continuing our work with Congresswoman Hochul to create jobs and economic development for the people of Western New York."

Tonsager was appointed as under secretary for Rural Development and sworn into office in May of 2009. Tonsager has more than 35 years of agricultural, business, cooperative, and financial experience through his work as a farmer, businessman, and community, state and national leader.

May 15, 2012 - 5:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, agriculture, USDA.

During some of the darkest days of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln wondered why agriculture, such a vital industry to the well being of the nation, was represented in the federal government by only a clerk.

At his prompting, Congress created the U.S. Department of Agriculture and 150 years ago today, the USDA was born.

The USDA now handles a wide variety of rural issues and is the primary conduit for a rural voice in the federal government. The USDA has a significant presence in Genesee County through its office on Liberty Street.

Local USDA staff celebrated the anniversary -- as USDA offices all over the nation did -- with cake, cookies and punch.

Photo submitted by David M. Klafehn.

June 9, 2009 - 11:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, Emerald Ash Borer, USDA.

eabtrap.gifPurple boxes are being spotted all over Genesee County. They can be seen hanging from trees and look rather curious.

The hanging prisms are intended to help USDA and state officials spot any new infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer, a pesky little beetle that munches on Ash leaves, but worse, lays larva in the Ash bark, which bores into the wood, disrupting a trees circulation system, eventually killing the tree.

Emerald Ash Borers have killed 10s of millions of Ash trees in North America, according to Sharon Lucik, a public information officer for the USDA in Michigan, where the beetle was first spotted in the U.S. in 2002.

No beetles have been found in New York, yet, with the borers being found in Canada and Pennsylvania, the USDA and state officials want to know as soon as it is spotted in the area, if ever, and make sure the area is quarantined, which means no wood can be transported from that area.

Apparently, the Emerald Ash Borer loves the color purple. The traps also contain a lure that smells to the beetle like a distressed Ash tree, such as one that has been damaged by man or mother nature.  The beetles will attack a healthy tree, but are quick to head to a tree it suspects is in a weakened state.

The beetles like Ash and only Ash.homepagemap.gif

Reader Gary Diegelman, who alerted us to this story and did some initial research, said he found out the boxes are placed on road right of ways approximately every 1.5 miles. The boxes will be hanging around most of the summer.

There is no government eradication program, Lucik said. It's up to each individual property owner to decide what to do if a beetle is found on his or her property.  The options include doing nothing, spraying a pesticide or removing the invested trees.  Of course, in the third option, the wood cannot be taken from the quarantined area.

The Ash Borer is a native of Asia and there is no known predator for the pest in North America.  It probably arrived in the U.S. riding in packing create wood or pallets aboard cargo ships.

The beetle would probably only migrate no more than half a mile a year on its own, Lucik said, but when people use Ash for fire wood or building material, the Ash can be transported up to hundreds of miles. 

The USDA program is designed aimed at quick detection so any invested Ash doesn't leave the area.

(Trap picture borrowed from a government Web site. It is not a local picture.)

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