February 2020 Policy Updates

By February 20, 2020Policy

Take Action

Have you signed?

Farmer Letter on Climate Change Solutions in Agriculture

… if not – the time is now!


The campaign to gather signatures on the Farmers’ Letter on Climate Change is entering the home stretch toward a public release in March.  We will also use the letter in policy advocacy efforts this year on Capitol Hill and with USDA administrators.


As farmers, gardeners, educators, and advocates for a sustainable agriculture and food system, we stand on the front lines of climate change – not only in terms of its impact on our farms and livelihoods, but also because we are a vital part of the solution.  Join the nationwide movement for a climate-friendly and resilient agriculture and food system!


Sign this letter if you meet the USDA definition of “farmer” (you sell at least $1,000 in farm products per year) and you see eye to eye with the statement.  If you are not currently farming, you can help by inviting farmer friends and neighbors, or vendors at your farmers market to consider signing on.


We, the undersigned farmers and ranchers, write to express our deep concerns about climate change impacts on agriculture in the United States and to call for solutions that invest in our rural and agricultural communities.

Agriculture is on the front lines of a changing climate.

For full text of the letter click here.


We currently have almost 1600 signatures nationwide, including 78 from Virginia and 152 from North Carolina.  Let’s help double these numbers in the next three weeks – share this with other farmers in your network.  The more signatures on our Farmers’ Letter, the greater impact it will have in impelling decision makers in Congress and USDA to adopt the best policy for farmers, rural communities, and future generations.


Featured Funding Opportunity

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Signup open through May 29


The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is designed to support a whole-farm, comprehensive approach to conservation planning and resource stewardship.  Contract payments are based on both existing conservation practices and adoption of new enhancements to move resource stewardship to a higher level.


The CSP is not “just for larger conventional farms.” With a minimum contract payment, a funding set-aside for organic and transitioning producers, and new or increased financial support for comprehensive conservation planning, advanced crop rotations, cover cropping, and management intensive rotational grazing, today’s CSP has a lot to offer all producers regardless of scale, enterprise mix, or production system.  For an excellent article on CSP with success stories from several small, diversified farms in Virginia, click here.


Signup is open through May 29.  Inquire at your district NRCS field office, or contact Julie Hawkins, 804-287-1692, or julie.hawkins@usda.gov.


Other USDA Program Funding Opportunities and Information Resources:


Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general signup closes February 28.  For more on EQIP, visit https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/va/home/, open the drop-down menu for Programs and click on “financial assistance” to find the EQIP page.  For more information on CRP, see NSAC blog post Dec 18, 2019:



Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) is accepting applications through March 5 for proposals to create or expand value added producer-owned businesses. For more information, see the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s updated Farmers’ Guide to VAPG, available at our publications page: https://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/, and the NSAC blog post at https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/37-million-value-added-producer-grant-2020/.


Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) includes small grants (up to $20K) for producers to install solar, wind, or energy efficiency infrastructure.  Apply by March 31, 2020.  For more info, visit https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/reap-rfp-for-rural-renewable-energy-projects/.


Organic Transitions Program (ORG) application deadline is February 27, 2020

ORG: https://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/organic-transitions-org


Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has updated its Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs, based on the numerous wins and other changes in the 2018 Farm bill. Available at: https://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/grassrootsguide/.



State Program Funding Opportunity


Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program. $73 million to help farmers implement cover crops, nutrient management, IPM, riparian buffers, fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and more.  Available through June, 2020 or until funds exhausted. Details in July, 2019 e-newsletter and at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/soil-and-water/costshar2. To apply, visit your Soil and Water Conservation District office. 


Other News


National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Winter Meeting

McAllen, TX – January 26-29


About 100 folks from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) staff and NSAC member groups gathered in McAllen, TX for three days of meetings, farm tours, and opportunities to learn more about the Rio Grande Valley’s agri-cultural traditions, challenges, and opportunities.  Dr. Alexis Racelis of University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and over 20 of his students in his sustainable agriculture participatory action research program gave a presentation and poster gallery session that left us all inspired. The meeting also offered opportunities to visit nearby wildlife refuges, and to support a local initiative to stand up for the rights of asylum seekers.


Together we discussed agriculture related issues ranging from racial equity and farmworker rights to local food systems, conservation, research priorities, and the challenges of climate change.  We finalized the Coalition’s priorities for the coming year, which include working lands conservation, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, the Local Agriculture Markets Program (LAMP), and multiyear commitments to research and develop policy proposals for helping farmers cope with and help mitigate climate change, and for immigration reform.  For more on the NSAC meeting, see https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/nsac-work-heats-up-2020-winter-meeting-recap/.



USDA Takes Baby Steps Toward Fair Competition in Livestock and Poultry Industry


The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued new criteria for determining whether meatpackers are giving “undue preference” to some producers over others.  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is examining the new administrative policy closely to determine whether it will be effective in leveling the playing field, and how it might be strengthened.  For more information, see https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/comment-new-fair-competition-rules-for-livestock-and-poultry-industry-advanced/.