December 2021 Policy Updates

By: Francesca Constantino and Mark Schonbeck


Action alert on Country of Origin Labeling

Cheap imported meat undercuts our farmers, especially small family farms seeking to implement holistic grassfed management practices. Tell Congress to reinstate Country of Original Labeling for meat. Call or email both your U.S. Senators and urge them to co-sponsor S. 2716 and S. 3285! Find you Senators here Elected Officials Lookup.


Hi, my name is ___ and I live in {city, state}. I am calling to urge Senator ___ to co-sponsor both S.2716 and S.3285 to help American ranchers.

Both bills include mandatory Country of Origin Labeling, so that consumers can choose if they want to support American ranchers by buying meat that was born, raised, and processed in our country.

S.3285 has several other provisions that also support building a robust domestic food system. Protecting workers in meatpacking plants not only benefits these individuals, but also serves to better protect the safety and security of our food supply. S.3285 also includes reforms to strengthen anti-trust law in the livestock and meat industry and calls for a GAO report to identify what is needed to build a more resilient food system for American farmers and consumers. This bill recognizes that we are all better off when the farmers’, workers’, and consumers’ interests are protected.

I urge my Senator to sign on to both S.2716 and S.3285.

Text of the bills: 2716 at

S.3285 is available at


Funding and Marketing Opportunities


Organic Transition and Certification Cost-Share

As part of its broader Pandemic Assistance to Producers Initiative, USDA is providing $20 million in financial assistance to cover certification, education, and other expenses for agricultural producers who are certified organic or transitioning to organic. Cost covered include 25% of certified farm’s certification expenses, up to $250 per category; 75% of transitional operation’s fees to a certifying agent up to $750 per year; 75% of registration fees for educational events for both certified and transitional operations, up to $200 per year; and 75% of soil testing expenses, up to $100 per year. This assistance, provided through the new Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP) supplements the National Organic Certification Cost-Share (NOCCSP) program, whose payments for 2021 were cut from 75% up to $750 to 50% up to $500 due to budgeting errors. The deadline to apply for OTECP funding  is January 7, 2022. Submit your application through a local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. One-on-one support is available by calling 877-508-8364.


For more information, see the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), blog post at, or visit for more on this program, for more on USDA assistance to organic growers, and for more on other pandemic assistance programs


USDA Announces $90.2 Million in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Local and Regional Markets for U.S. Agricultural Products

Funding and Marketing Opportunities


Farm and Food Workers Relief Grant

USDA is accepting applications for the new Farm and Food Workers Relief (FFWR) grant program. The program will provide grants to provide relief to farmworkers and meatpacking workers who incurred pandemic-related health and safety costs. Eligible state agencies, tribal entities and non-profit organizations serving farmworkers and meatpacking workers can apply now through Feb. 8, 2022, at for grants ranging from $5 million to $50 million.


USDA Launches First Phase of Soil Carbon Monitoring Efforts through CRP

USDA is investing $10 million in a new initiative to sample, measure, and monitor soil carbon on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to better quantify the climate outcomes of the program. About the Conservation Reserve Program:  in exchange for a yearly rental payment, agricultural producers enrolled in the program agree to remove environmentally sensitive land from production and plant species that will improve environmental health and quality. In general, land is enrolled in CRP for 10 to 15 years, with the option of re-enrollment. FSA offers multiple CRP signups, including the general signup, a continuous signup that allows participants to take part of a field out of production for conservation buffers, a Grassland CRP, and pilot programs focused on soil health and clean water.

Earlier this year, USDA announced updates to CRP including higher payment rates, new incentives for environmental practices, and a more targeted focus on the program’s role in climate change mitigation. This included a new Climate-Smart Practice Incentive for CRP general and continuous signups that aims to increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate-Smart CRP practices include establishment of trees and permanent grasses, development of wildlife habitat, and wetland restoration. Download the “What’s New” fact sheet  to learn more about CRP updates.


USDA Now Accepting Applications For:

Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program
USDA Rural Development partners with lenders to guarantee loans to help eligible entities expand meat and poultry processing capacity and finance other food supply chain infrastructure. Fact SheetFederal RegisterApplication Deadline: Until funds are expended; specific Requirements Apply.

Funding Opportunities for Rural Infrastructure

Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantee Program (
USDA Rural Development helps private lenders provide affordable financing to qualified borrowers to improve access to clean, reliable water and waste disposal systems in rural areas. Application Deadline: Ongoing

Broadband ReConnect Program (
USDA Rural Development offers loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in areas of rural America that currently do not have sufficient access to broadband. Application Deadline: Feb. 22, 2022

Farm to School Grant Program – Applications Due Jan 10 (
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA Food and Nutrition Service offers this grant to plan, establish, and/or sustain a “Farm to School” program that improves access to local foods and nutrition/agriculture resources in schools. Farm to School Grant Applicant Resources Page. ( Planning Tool-kit ( Application Deadline: Jan. 10, 2022

Funding Opportunities for
Community and Economic Development

Take Action – Framing Policy

 NSAC responds to the FDA’s proposed rule regarding the agricultural water provision of the food safety modernization act.

COMMENT: NSAC Responds to the FDA’s Proposed Rule Regarding the Agricultural Water Provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act

Insights and Information Sharing


The Virginia Soil Health Coalition has new panel discussions and podcasts on soil health. See them all HERE.

Check out the special 4TheSoil: A Conversation” Special Episode: The Wisdom and Soil Health Insights of Ira Wallace of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange HERE.


NTIA Broadband Grant Program Public Listening Sessions

National Telecommunications and Information Administration will host broadband grant program public virtual listening sessions in connection with the five new broadband grant programs authorized and funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to collect stakeholder input to help inform program development and implementation. Jan 12, Jan 29 and Feb 2022


Reaching Your Agritourism Target Market: Booking Sites for Farm Stays/Experiences. January 18, 2022 at 11 am. Part of a monthly series of virtual agritourism gatherings. More information at


USDA Support for Food Banks and Emergency Food Systems
USDA Food and Nutrition Service announcement outlines USDAs expected investment, of approximately $2 billion, to support the nation’s emergency food system in fiscal year 2022.




USDA Announces $90.2 Million in Grants Awarded to Strengthen Local and Regional Markets for U.S. Agricultural Products


USDA is helping ensure underserved farmers, ranchers, and foresters have the tools, programs and support they need to succeed in agriculture by providing $75 million in American Rescue Plan funding to 20 organizations to provide technical assistance to connect them with USDA programs and services. For example, the National Black Farmers Association, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and Farmer Veteran coalition will collaborate with organizations and provide financial and business assistance and opportunities to receive USDA program technical support to their constituents.

A full list of cooperators is available at:


USDA Cover Crop Calculator

A new tool created by the Jamie L. Whitten Plant Materials Center helps conservation planners and producers in the mid-South to estimate seed cost and seeding rates for cover crop mixes.


NCAT Launches the AgriSolar Clearinghouse

Solar developments are expected to cover 3 million acres of land in the next ten years. Under traditional solar development, some of these lands could be taken over for energy-only production and this could impact pollinator habitat, food production, soil health, and cultural landscapes. National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has developed the Department of Energy (DOE)-funded AgriSolar Clearinghouse to support low-impact solar development that is complementary with sustainable agriculture. This co-location, when designed and managed with best practices, can increase pollinator habitat, promote native species, and include grazing and specialty crop production, all while diversifying revenue streams and increasing public acceptance.