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Pandemic-assistance program to equitably distribute resources

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently established new programs and efforts to provide financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers affected by COVID-19 market disruptions. USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers was developed to reach a broader set of producers than in previous COVID-19 aid programs.

USDA is committing at least $6 billion toward the new programs. The department also will develop rules for the programs to improve outreach to small-scale and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, and timber harvesters. It will provide support for the food-supply chain and producers of renewable fuel.

Existing programs – such as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program – will be included in the new initiative. Where statutory authority allows, that program will be refined to better address producers’ needs, according to the USDA.

After a review of previous COVID-19-assistance programs targeting farmers, the USDA identified gaps and disparities in how assistance was distributed. It also identified inadequate outreach to underserved producers and smaller and medium operations, according to Tom Vilsack, USDA secretary.

USDA will reopen sign-up for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 – CFAP 2 – for at least 60 days beginning April 5. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency has committed $2.5 million to improve outreach for the program. It will establish partnerships with organizations with strong connections to socially disadvantaged communities to ensure they’re informed and aware of the application process.

The USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers program will be reviewed for verified need. During the rulemaking process, USDA will look to make eligibility more consistent with the farm bill.

Moving forward, USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers will use existing programs – such as the Local Agricultural Marketing Program, Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach, and the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program – to enhance educational and market opportunities for agricultural producers. Visit usda.gov for more information.

Paycheck Protection Program updated

The National Milk Producers Federation has worked with members of Congress to ensure dairy farmers and cooperatives have equitable access to the Paycheck Protection Program. Producers who were denied a Paycheck Protection Program loan in 2020 may now qualify if the new rules address the issue that caused the initial denial of their loan, according to the federation.

Borrowers who received their loans before the U.S. Small Business Administration issued later rules and guidance may have received a smaller loan than they would under the new rules. For that reason borrowers who have not yet had their loan forgiven can now ask their lender to evaluate their initial loan application against the new rules. Additional loan funds may be provided to make up any difference.

Congress has created a separate type of Paycheck Protection Program loan with steeper qualification requirements for businesses that have received and spent their first loan. Called “PPP second draw loans,” they can be taken only by businesses that experienced a 25-percent reduction in revenue in 2020 and already spent the entire amount of the first Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Interested borrowers can apply for either type of loan or have their first loan reevaluated by their lender until May 31. Visit home.treasury.gov and search for "assistance to small business" for more information.

Conservation-award nominations sought

Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts seeks nominations for the 2021 Wisconsin Land Conservation Leadership Awards. Nominees may be individuals and organizations that show outstanding dedication to the protection of Wisconsin’s land, water and wildlife. There are six award categories.

  • Land Trust of the Year recognizes a land trust demonstrating commitment to safeguarding Wisconsin’s natural places through leadership and achievements.
  • Conservationist of the Year recognizes individuals, organizations or groups showing exceptional commitment to land-conservation efforts.
  • Land Legacy Award honors individuals, families or organizations whose generosity and philanthropic leadership positively impact conservation.
  • Policymaker of the Year recognizes individuals who have helped develop or strengthen public policies on behalf of land conservation in Wisconsin.
  • Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation is named for the former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The award recognizes people, organizations or partnerships committed to the regeneration, sustainability or preservation of working lands.
  • Harold “Bud” Jordahl Distinction Award honors individuals whose contributions do not fit into a specific category but whose efforts or accomplishments are deserving of recognition.

All nominations must be received or postmarked by Apr. 16. Visit gatheringwaters.org/nominate to download a nomination form and for more information.

Dane County extends Farm to Foodbank program

Wisconsin’s Dane County recently agreed to a 12-month, $10-million contract extension with Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. The agreement ensures food security for people continuing to struggle from the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dane County launched a partnership with Second Harvest in April 2020 to help meet emergency food needs during the pandemic. The county's original $8-million program was extended in December with an additional $4 million in funds. That was intended to support local food purchasing until summer 2021. The new agreement will run through July 2022 and total an additional $10 million. The county will allocate dollars from the recently adopted federal stimulus to sustain the effort well into 2022, according to the Dane County Executive’s Office.

Since May 2020 the “Farm to Foodbank” program has sourced about 3 million pounds of produce, frozen meat, yogurt, eggs and cheese, shelf-stable products, and bread. Second Harvest has sourced food from more than two dozen Dane County farmers and producers as well as other providers for products that couldn’t be sourced in Dane County. Visit exec.countyofdane.com and secondharvestmadison.org for more information.

Propane incentive program offered

The Propane Education & Research Council is offering financial incentives toward the purchase of new propane equipment in exchange for sharing feedback and real-world performance data. The council’s Propane Farm Incentive Program offers as much as $5,000 off qualifying equipment. Qualifying equipment includes propane-powered irrigation engines, generators, agricultural-heating systems, flame weed-control systems, and agronomic heating systems.

Today’s propane-powered engines provide as much as 300 horsepower of continuous power, and produce fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than gasoline or diesel engines. Farmers also can save 25 percent or more with propane water heating versus electricity, according to the Propane Education & Research Council. Visit Propane.com and search for "Agriculture Programs and Incentives" for more information.

Best universities for climate-change solutions listed

A list of the country’s top 12 universities that are developing strategies for combating and solving global climate change recently was published by Successful Student. The education-focused website provides student-centric college rankings designed to help students navigate education opportunities. The “Best Universities Solving Climate Change” lists the top universities in alphabetical order.

  • Arizona State University
  • California Institute of Technology – Caltech
  • Cornell University
  • Harvard University
  • New York University
  • Oregon State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of California-San Diego
  • University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University

The universities are studying how the world is changing in weather patterns and temperatures, and what might be driving or contributing to the changes such as natural events and human involvement. Along with efforts to better understand climate trends, the universities are creating strategies to solve negative consequences. Many of the universities belong to the International Universities Climate Alliance and the University Climate Change Coalition. Visit successfulstudent.org for more information.

Coalition asks for hemp to be approved 

The Hemp Feed Coalition recently submitted a request that hemp become an approved animal-feed ingredient. It sent the submission to the Association of American Feed Control Officials and the U.S. Food and Drug Association-Center for Veterinary Medicine. If approved hempseed meal and hempseed cake could be legally used as commercial feed for laying hens. 

The submission is a culmination of a two-year long effort. Led by the coalition, hemp- and feed-industry experts and researchers studied hemp seedcake and meal. They also conducted a clinical trial to demonstrate their safety and efficacy as a feed for layers.

The coalition will now research other hemp byproducts – oil, sediment, hulls, pulp and screenings – for their benefit and safety as feed ingredients. The work will include clinical trials necessary to add ruminants to the hempseed-meal application that already was submitted for layers. Visit hempfeedcoalition.org or contact hunter@hempfeedcoalition.org for more information.

Digital-solutions pact formed

AgGateway and the Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation recently signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on initiatives to increase the exchange of information in farm operations. The agreement is expected to improve data flow.

Growers use systems that span across field equipment, on-farm computer systems and cloud systems, but often data can’t flow seamlessly across systems and functions. The new agreement will make it easier to address those challenges, said Wendy Smith, AgGateway’s president and CEO.

The Agricultural Industry Electronics Foundation’s 200 agriculture-equipment manufacturers and electronic-component suppliers work to ensure their brands are compatible with one another and with other systems so that farmers may operate as efficiently as possible in the field, said Peter van der Vlugt, the foundation’s chairman and general manager of Kubota Innovation Center Europe.

As a first initiative the partners may consider ways to address load-unload events in field operations. Load-unload refers to the ability to track movement of a harvested crop from the combine to the grain cart, to the truck at the edge of the field to the grain elevator.

The two groups note that better use of standards and connectivity for beneficial data flow is needed between the supply chain and field operations. The same is true of data formats optimized for equipment, and data optimized for on-farm computer systems. Visit AgGateway.org and aef-online.org for more information.

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