By Mark Schonbeck & Francesca Constantino

What does “Budget Reconciliation” mean for family farms and sustainable agriculture?

Find out in this October 14 NSAC blog post on budget reconciliation – what it has and what is missing at this time.

USDA funds $30 Million in Organic Research, Extension, and Education
Toward the end of September, the USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and the Organic Transitions Program announced a total of 33 awards to research teams, often including farmers as well as university scientists, to conduct research into a wide range of pertinent topics, from development and release of new improved cover crop cultivars to organic rice production and much more.  See the NSAC blog on the 2021 OREI and ORG awards for more.

USDA To Launch Loan Guarantee Initiative to Create More and Better Market Opportunities, Promote Competition and Strengthen America’s Food Supply Chain
In a recent press release, USDA announced an additional $100 million to provide loan guarantees for infrastructure for all sectors of the food supply chain, on top of the $500 million committed to meat and poultry processing infrastructure.

USDA Introduces New Insurance Policy for Farmers Who Sell Locally
In an effort to better serve specialty and organic crop producers, USDA is rolling out a new Micro Farm insurance policy option specifically for small farms who sell locally. The Micro Farm policy simplifies record keeping and covers post-production costs like washing and value-added products.  Beginning with the 2022 crop year, the program is available to producers whose farm operations earn an average allowable revenue of $100,000 or less, or for carryover insureds, $125,000 or less.

Funding and Marketing Opportunities

New VA grant program for local food production and sustainable agriculture infrastructure
Apply for funding by November 15

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is launching a new program under the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund providing matching grants of up to $25,000 in partnership with local governments for community infrastructure development projects that support local food production and sustainable agriculture. The reimbursable grants are for capital projects at new and existing food hubs, farmers’ markets, commercial kitchens and other value-added facilities for processing and packaging meats, dairy products, produce, or other Virginia-grown products. Small farmers, food processors, and local food systems advocates are encouraged to work with their localities to identify and develop suitable projects. Learn more and apply here. Application deadline is November 15, 2021. Awards will be announced no later than December 31, 2021. Interested?

Application Period Opens for Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Program 

USDA announced a Request for Applications (RFA) for its new $650 million Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant program to assist small businesses and nonprofits in certain commodity areas – specialty crop producers, shellfish farming, finfish farming, aquaculture, and apiculture; specialty crop, meat, and other processors; distributors; and farmers markets. Grants of $1,500 to $20,000 cover COVID-related expenses such as workplace safety measures (e.g., personal protective equipment), retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety, shifting to online sales platforms, transportation, worker housing, and medical costs.

Applications must be by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday, November 22, 2021. Note: if your operation does not currently have a DUNS number; you will need to obtain one (at no charge) at the USDA’s PRS DUNS number portal.  Learn more at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog post on the PRS.

USDA releases Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience
As part of its response to the Biden Administration’s Executive Order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the USDA has announced a new Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan, available in a pdf file.

Take Action – Framing Policy

USDA Unveils New Climate Partnership Initiative, Requests Public Input

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is committed to partnering with farmers, ranchers, foresters, landowners, and rural communities to develop climate solutions that strengthen rural America. The Department has outlined and requested public comments on a new Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry Partnership Initiative designed to create new revenue streams for producers via market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices. Comments may be provided on or before 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2021 via the Federal Register, Docket ID: USDA-2021-0010  Feedback will be used to inform design of the new program.

USDA Announces Intent to Establish an Equity Commission, Solicits Nominations for Membership

USDA is establishing an Equity Commission Advisory Committee and Equity Commission Subcommittee on Agriculture and seeks nominations for membership. This represents an important step towards implementing the American Rescue Plan Act provision that directs USDA to “address historical discrimination and disparities in the agriculture sector… [through] one or more equity commissions to address racial equity issues within USDA and its programs.”