May 2021 Policy

By May 26, 2021Policy

FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

 

Coronavirus Relief for Farmers, Ranchers, and Food Systems

 

Pandemic Assistance for All Producers

The USDA is also following up on the American Rescue Plan with an additional $6 billion in Pandemic Assistance for Producers (PAP) including expanded funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grants, the Farmer Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) program, and the Local Agricultural Markets Program (LAMP) and much more. NSAC has posted a full recap of coronavirus relief for producers on its website.

 

Farm Debt Relief Now Available to Farmers of Color

As part of the American Rescue Plan, the most recent coronavirus relief package, Congress authorized $5 billion in direct aid to Black, Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Latinx farmers.  This includes $4 billion in debt relief on current FSA loans, and $1 billion in other forms of aid, from land access, training, and technical assistance to funding for minority-serving colleges and universities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) is distributing the $4 billion in farm debt relief payments for farmers of color who have farm loans made directly by FSA or through private lenders (i.e. Farm Credit, ag banks) with USDA guarantees.

 

Information on how the relief funds will be distributed and what farmers need to know about accessing this relief: https://www.farmers.gov/americanrescueplan?emci=1215f51c-80ae-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&emdi=c024b043-4daf-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&ceid=6663426

Frequently asked questions:

Farm Debt Relief Now Available for BIPOC Producers

 

Urban Agriculture

 

The USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production is making up to $2 million available for local governments to host Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction (CCFWR) pilot projects for fiscal year 2021. The cooperative agreements support projects that develop and test strategies for planning and implementing municipal compost plans and food waste reduction plans and they are part of USDA’s broader efforts to support urban agriculture. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on July 16, 2021. A pre-recorded webinar providing an overview of the purpose of the cooperative agreements, project types, eligibility and basic requirements for submitting an application is available at https://www.farmers.gov/manage/urban/opportunities. Find the full press release here! (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/releases/?cid=NRCSEPRD177722)

Conservation Programs

 

Application Period Open for Conservation Innovation Grants Program

NRCS is now accepting applications to support the development of early pilot projects or demonstrations of promising new conservation approaches, tools and technologies to further natural resource conservation on private lands through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program.  $15 million is available. CIG partners use creative problem solving and innovation to address our nation’s water quality, air quality, soil health and wildlife habitat challenges, all while improving agricultural operations. Proposals must be submitted through Grants.gov by July 19, 2021. See more details in the funding announcement:

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/newsroom/releases/?cid=NRCSEPRD1778431

 

Regional Conservation Partnership Program: Funding Available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for the 2021 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) until May 28, 2021. Program funds are used by conservation partner organizations to provide assistance directly to producers to implement conservation activities on their farms or directed to partners for a variety of technical assistance activities, including resource assessment, conservation practice survey and design, conservation planning, and resource monitoring. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is a priority area for funding. Partners are required to provide a significant contribution to the overall cost of the project, including in-kind services such as monitoring, conservation planning, and producer assistance.

For program background: https://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/grassrootsguide/conservation-environment/cooperative-conservation-partnership-initiative/?emci=1215f51c-80ae-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&emdi=c024b043-4daf-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&ceid=6663426

For more information on the 2021 funding opportunity:  https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/rcpp-funding-available-and-awards-2021/?emci=1215f51c-80ae-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&emdi=c024b043-4daf-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&ceid=6663426

 

Regional Food Systems Partnerships (RFSP)

$15.3 million is available through RFSP to fund public-private partnerships that build and strengthen viability and resilience of local or regional food economies. Projects should focus on increasing the availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products and alleviating unnecessary administrative and technical barriers. Projects can cover the planning and design of a local and regional food economy as well as implementing or expanding an existing one. Applications are due by July 6, 2021.

 

Learn more about RFSP and how to apply:  https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/rfsp

 

Dates for webinars on how to apply for USDA marketing programs are:

 

Grants.gov Training Webinar Tuesday, May 25, 2021 – 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) Applicant Webinar

Tuesday, June 1, 2021 – 2:00-3:00 pm EST

Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) Applicant Webinar

Tuesday, June 8, 2021, 2:30 PM – 4:30 PM EST

For more information, see https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/webinars

 

Stipends for Grant Reviewers

Both FMLFPP and RFSP are competitive and undergo peer reviews prior to awarding funding. Grant reviewers help AMS select the best applicants. Reviewers are chosen from the public and private sectors for specific grant programs based on knowledge, education, and experience. Reviewers use their expertise to objectively evaluate and score applications against published evaluation criteria. Reviewers gain understanding of the grant-making process and have the opportunity to network with colleagues that often share common backgrounds and interests. Stipends are available!

Consider signing up to be a reviewer:  https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/grants/peer-review

 

Technical assistance for grant application

AMS partners with the following 11 organizations to provide outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged, rural, and other historically underrepresented grant applicants:

·         CSA Innovation Network

·         Farm to Institution New England

·         Farms to Grow

·         Famers Market Coalition

·         The Food Corridor

·         Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative

·         Local Catch Network

·         National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Foundation

·         Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network

·         North Carolina A&T University

·         The Wallace Center

 

For specific questions regarding this targeted technical assistance opportunity, contact Yvette Garcia (yvette.garcia@usda.gov) or Samantha Schaffstall (samantha.schaffstall@usda.gov).

 

Case Studies of Successful Marketing Program Grants – Seeds of Success

Each month USDA highlights the work of work of Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion grant recipients. Check out these reports to get ideas for your grant projects!

Read more https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/4e47985fe1384561b496920d010975d4

 

Debt Relief for Socially Disadvantaged Borrowers

Under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), USDA is delivering historic debt relief to address longstanding inequities for socially disadvantaged borrowers. USDA is authorized to  pay up to 120% of loan balances, as of January 1, 2021, for Farm Service Agency (FSA) Direct and Guaranteed Farm Loans and Farm Storage Facility Loans (FSFL) to any Socially Disadvantaged producer who has a qualifying loan with FSA. This includes producers who are one or more of the following: Black/African American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American, or Pacific Islander. Eligible recipients do not need to take any action until receipt of a payment offer from FSA. However, eligible recipients may, if necessary, update their demographic information in FSA records by contacting their Local FSA Service Center. FSA will be sending an offer notice to eligible recipients with eligible direct loans over the next 45 days. USDA expects payments to begin in early June and continue on a rolling basis.

Notice of Funds Availability:  https://www.farmers.gov/sites/default/files/2021-05/final-draft-arpa-section-1005-direct-loan-nofa-0520.pdf

Program information:  https://www.farmers.gov/americanrescueplan

Press release:  https://www.fsa.usda.gov/news-room/news-releases/2021/in-historic-move-usda-to-begin-loan-payments-to-socially-disadvantaged-borrowers-under-american-rescue-plan-act-section-1005?utm_campaign=0521_loanpayment_nr&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

 

FRAMING POLICY

 

USDA reports progress on Climate-Smart Agriculture Strategy

The Biden Administration directed federal agencies to coordinate a Governmentwide approach to combat the climate crisis through Executive Order 14008 Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. This Executive Order tasked the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to deliver a report with recommendations for a climate-smart agriculture and forestry (CSAF) strategy. USDA issued the Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry Strategy:  90-Day Report on its progress in developing the strategy. This is just the first step. The VABF policy staff are working with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to comments to USDA. If you have any input, let us know – Mark Schonbeck schonbeckmark@gmail.com and Francesca Costantino labella_francesca@yahoo.com.

https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/climate-smart-ag-forestry-strategy-90-day-progress-report.pdf

 

Food System Supply Chain Comment Period Open through June 21

USDA is seeking comments on a Department-wide effort to improve and reimagine supply chains for production, processing and distribution of agricultural commodities and food products. USDA is seeking input on:  1) critical factors, risks, bottlenecks, and vulnerabilities that can reduce critical processing and infrastructure capacity and impact availability and integrity of critical goods, products, and services, competitive and fair markets landscape; viability of local and regional producers and processors; and equitable access to food and economic opportunity across diverse communities; and 2) strategies to support resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains and ensure U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and nutrition security for all Americans. USDA will use the comments to prepare a report required by Executive Order 14017, America’s Supply Chains. Comments are due by June 21, 2021. Post written comments in response to this notice online at www.regulations.gov. Comments may also be sent to Dr. Melissa R. Bailey at melissa.bailey@usda.gov or mailed to: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, Room 2055-S, STOP 0201, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-0201. For more information, contact Dr. Bailey at (202) 690-1300 or email melissa.bailey@usda.gov.

 

View the Notice/Leave a Comment:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/05/17/2021-10351/supply-chains-for-the-production-of-agricultural-commodities-and-food-products#

Press release:

https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2021/04/21/usda-seeks-comments-food-system-supply-chains-response-president

 

POLICY INSIGHTS AND INFORMATION SHARING

 

Annual Organic Oversight and Enforcement Report Now Available

The National Organic Program (NOP) develops and enforces standards for organically produced agricultural products sold in the United States. USDA and accredited organic certifiers work together to enforce the standards, ensuring a level playing field for producers and protecting consumer confidence in the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal. As the organic community grows and supply chains become more complex, NOP continues to increase its oversight capacity to meet the evolving needs of the organic community. As part of the reporting requirements outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill, NOP published the 2020 annual Organic Oversight and Enforcement Report. The report includes a summary of investigations and compliance actions, an update on the work of the Organic Agricultural Product Imports Interagency Working Group, and an overview of organic import oversight.

View the report:  https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOPEnforcementUpdateFebruary2021.pdf

 

Insights on consumer perceptions on local food during the pandemic

The Consumer Food Insights Series shares analyses from a survey conducted by Colorado State University of 5,000 households in the fall of 2020. The most recent release explores how consumer perceptions and time impact expenditures during the pandemic. The main takeaway messages are:

  • More consumers shifted to local and regional food markets, particularly small, independent food stores and artisan food stores. These are important market access points for local producers.
  • Transparency and evidence of “locally grown” is important for buyers of local foods. Examples of information that could be shared include: a map of farm and location of markets and restaurants where farm products can be found; number of years the business has been part of the community; and information about the farmer or business owner the customer is supporting).
  • Restaurants do not seem to gain business from local food buyers, even if independent and locally owned. Perhaps local restaurants who do want to position themselves with local food enthusiasts will see these results as a reason to align with the local producers and food markets to jointly promote the local food scene in their community.

 

Read more https://lfscovid.localfoodeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/LFS-CFI-071.pdf

 

Alternative Farmers Market Models

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many farmers markets shut down. As guidance on social distancing and public health emerged, farmers markets altered their structure to comply and continue serving vendors and customers safely and effectively. Some changed to contactless drive-thru or curbside models, where customers pre-ordered products online or by phone before picking them up in their vehicles. Others opted for crowd control measures or limited entry designs, allowing a limited number of visitors into the market at a time to allow maximum social distancing. In addition, some markets changed their model altogether from a traditional farmers market to a local food aggregator. Read more https://lfscovid.localfoodeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Alternative-Market-Models-IB-updated.pdf

 

USDA Food Loss and Waste Innovation Fair on May 26

On May 26, the USDA will host a free, virtual innovation fair to highlight businesses that are creating state-of-the-art technical solutions to reduce food loss and waste. Participants will host virtual booths showcasing their food loss and waste activities, products, and innovations. Examples may include new packaging that keeps produce fresher, longer, or food products made from misshapen fruit. The fair will also showcase food sector industry leaders who are committed to reducing food loss and waste in their operations.

Register for the fair https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/news/innovation-fair

 

Webinar on regulatory challenges small farmers face

On June 10, Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund is hosting a free webinar on the challenges small farmers face, as one step in getting the message out. Please spread the word to raise awareness of the need for change among your networks and your customers, if you are a small farmer, to address the disconnect between consumers wanting more local, sustainable food, and a regulatory system that makes that difficult. Small farmers struggle to obtain the licenses needed to sell a few eggs, open a farm store, or sell from their homes. Production and sale of pasture-raised animals can be complicated. Farmers are having a hard time making appointments with USDA or state inspection facilities, yet are prohibited from selling the meat processed by more local and still regulated custom slaughter facilities. Small farms struggle with zoning ordinances addressing aesthetics, like those that preclude small vegetable farmers from using hoop houses to extend the growing season.

 

Register here:  https://app.getresponse.com/site2/webinar_june102021/?u=BpmaL&webforms_id=BaZ6e

 

Webinar – When it Rains, it Pours: Conservation Considerations for Resiliency in a Changing Climate

Thursday, May 27, 3:00-4:00 p.m. EST

 

In agricultural watersheds, shifting climate patterns threaten both farm productivity and aquatic ecosystems. During this webinar, Dr. Mark Williams of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service will discuss how variability of precipitation and discharge can influence the effectiveness of conservation practices – both nutrient management practices/4Rs and structural practices. Innovative drainage design and management practices are needed to ensure that agricultural adaptation to climate change is sustainable. No registration required. Access the webinar shortly before 3:00 pm EST at: https://nrcs.adobeconnect.com/ceap2/. Each webinar will be recorded and archived for later viewing on the Conservation Outcomes Webinar Series website.

 

VIRGINIA NEWS

 

Senate confirms Virginia’s own Jewel Bronaugh as Agriculture deputy secretary
Jewel Bronaugh

On May 13, the Senate confirmed Jewel Bronaugh as the Agriculture deputy secretary. Dr. Bronaugh’s confirmation is historic, as she will serve as the first Black woman and woman of color to serve as deputy secretary. Dr. Bronaugh has had a long, distinguished career as an educator and champion for farmers and rural communities. Most recently as the 16th commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Jewel Bronaugh worked to expand opportunities for small and midsized farmers and ranchers to obtain infrastructure and processing capabilities, and developed strategies to meet environmental and water quality goals for the Chesapeake Bay. She also served as dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University, and Virginia state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency. In spring 2019, Bronaugh launched the Virginia Farmer Stress Task Force to raise awareness and coordinate resources to address farmer stress and mental health challenges in Virginia. In the fall of 2020, she helped establish the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund and Program, the first statewide program of its kind to address food access within historically marginalized communities. Bronaugh received her Ph.D. in career and technical education from Virginia Tech.

Resources

Covid 19 Resources – to help mitigate the challenges facing the food and farm system

https://sustainableagriculture.net/our-work/nsac-response-to-covid-19/covid-19-resources/?emci=283ecdad-907a-ea11-a94c-00155d03b1e8&emdi=ea000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000001&ceid=6663426

 

Farmers’ Guide to Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) from Farmers’ Legal Action Group

http://www.flaginc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Farmers-Guide-to-the-Coronavirus-Food-Assistance-Program-2-CFAP-2-November-11-2020.pdf?emci=1215f51c-80ae-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&emdi=c024b043-4daf-eb11-85aa-0050f237abef&ceid=6663426

 

Pending legislation

A bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives has introduced the Farm to School Act of 2021, which is designed to help school food systems recover from the impacts of the pandemic.  This bill would expand both funding and scope of the USDA Farm to School Grants program, with a special focus on communities of color and high-need student populations.

Take Action!

Call our Senators and your Representative and urge them to support the Strengthening Local Processing Act (H.R. 1258 and S. 370).  Over the past year, the pandemic has severely impacted large scale meat processing facilities and created bottlenecks for small and midscale livestock producers in getting their products to market. This Act would increase the capacity of small-scale meat processors to meet current needs and help local farmers get their meat to market.  To learn more and take this action, click here.

To find your US representatives in Virginia:  https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/

Our nationwide campaign to recruit Congressional co-sponsors for the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA), introduced earlier this spring by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) continues unabated.  The ARA is designed to help farmers weather the storms and droughts of climate change, and to help make US agriculture climate-beneficial by 2040.  Call your Representative and our two Senators and ask them to co-sponsor the ARA.  We are In Virginia, Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) and Gerald Connolly (D-11th) have already joined Rep. Pingree as original cosponsors – so those of you in their districts, call them to say Thank you!