January Policy Updates

By January 29, 2020Policy

Take Action


Thank you to all who have signed the

Farmer Letter on Climate Change Solutions in Agriculture


It was great to see many of you at our excellent conference earlier this month in Roanoke.  I want to express my appreciation to those of you who signed this letter either at the conference or on line in response to earlier issues of this newsletter.  Signatures collected on hard copy forms on clipboards at the conference have been entered into the website and counted, bringing Virginia’s total to date to 72.


If you have not yet signed and would like to do so, visit https://vabf.org/, and click on the Farmers Letter on Climate link as it scrolls by on the banner. 



Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)


NRCS recently issued an Interim Final Rule for EQIP, and it is seriously flawed in two ways:

  • It fails to establish soil health and climate resilience as program priorities, as required by the 2018 Farm Bill
  • It creates a new loophole allowing “joint operations” to double their contract payment limit to $900,000. This will allow larger farms to get even a greater share of EQIP dollars and squeeze smaller-scale applicants out of the program.


If you use or are applying to EQIP, or you want to ensure that other farmers get the best possible EQIP support, join in the effort to submit comments on this Rule.  Learn more at https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/eqip-interim-final-rule-falls-short-on-sustainability/, and visit https://sustainableagriculture.net/take-action/ for help in developing and submitting your comment.



New Resources


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/.

An Organic Approach to Increasing Resilience


Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has published an update on climate risk management in organic systems.  This new report by Mark Schonbeck, Haley Baron, and Sheila Golden (2020, 16 pp) summarizes recent research developments on how cover cropping, beneficial soil biota, integrated organic soil health systems, and new climate resilient crop cultivars can help farmers meet the climate challenge; and provides information on federal and state programs that provide financial assistance for soil health and climate mitigation practices.  Available at https://ofrf.org.




USDA Program Funding Opportunities:


Value-Added Producer Grant Notice for Solicitation of Applications (NOSA)


USDA is currently accepting applications to the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, which provides competitive grants to farmers to create or expand value-added producer-owned businesses. With at least $37 million dollars in funding, VAPG is one of the only grant programs for producers and can help family farmers and ranchers diversify their operations, grow their businesses, and become less dependent on commodity markets. Program deadlines are March 10, 2020 (for in-person or mail applications) and March 5, 2020 (for electronic applications).  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 recent NSAC blog post at https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/37-million-value-added-producer-grant-2020/.


Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) application deadline Feb 13, 2020.  http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/14-million-available-to-help-train-the-next-generation-of-farmers/


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/.


Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) signup for the 2020 season is underway.  Inquire at your local NRCS district office, or visit the State office web site, https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/va/home/.


Conservation Reserve Program general signup closes February 28.  This program pays land owners who take environmentally sensitive land out of production for a contract period of 10 to 15 years.  For more information, see NSAC blog post Dec 18, 2019:



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

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



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.