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Producers to receive disaster assistance

More than $1 billion in payments will be released in the next several weeks for agricultural producers with approved applications for the Quality Loss Adjustment Program. Payments also will be made to producers who have already received payments through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus. The U.S. Department of Agriculture programs provide assistance to producers who suffered losses from 2018 and 2019 natural disasters.

From massive floods to winter storms, and from extreme drought to excess moisture, natural disasters in 2018 and 2019 were catastrophic for agricultural producers nationwide, said Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Many producers suffered the impacts of multiple events in both years, he said.

The Quality Loss Adjustment Program provides assistance to crop and forage producers who suffered quality loss due to qualifying natural disasters. The Farm Service Agency accepted applications from Jan. 6 to Apr. 9, 2021. Based on the applications producers will receive 100 percent of the calculated assistance in the program.

For each crop year 2018, 2019 and 2020, the maximum amount that a person or legal entity may receive is $125,000. Payments made to a joint operation – including a general partnership or joint venture – will not exceed $125,000, multiplied by the number of persons and legal entities that comprise the ownership of the joint operation. A person or legal entity is ineligible for Quality Loss Adjustment payment if the person’s or legal entity’s average adjusted gross income exceeds $900,000. That’s unless at least 75 percent is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities.

Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus provides payments to producers to offset production losses due to hurricanes, wildfires and other qualifying natural disasters that occurred in 2018 and 2019. The program covered losses of crops, trees, bushes and vines that occurred as a result of those disasters.

Producers who applied for and have received their first Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus payment can expect to receive the second payment beginning in mid-June for eligible crop losses. Due to budget constraints producers received an initial payment for 2019 crop losses equal to 50 percent of the calculated payment. The second payment will be equal to 40 percent of the calculated payment. The second round of payments are expected to exceed $700 million.

A third round of payments may be issued if sufficient funds become available. Producers with 2018 crop losses already have been compensated at 100 percent.

All producers receiving the program payments are required to purchase federal crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program coverage for the next two available crop years at the 60-percent coverage level or greater.

If eligible Quality Loss Adjustment Program participants may meet the insurance-purchase requirement by purchasing Whole-Farm Revenue Protection coverage offered through USDA’s Risk Management Agency. Visit farmers.gov for more information.

EPA, Army intend to revise “waters”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Army intend to revise the definition of “waters of the United States.” As described in an EPA declaration requesting remand of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule – stakeholders such as states, tribes, local governments, scientists and non-governmental organizations – are seeing destructive impacts to critical water bodies in the 2020 rule, the EPA stated.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said, “We’re committed to establishing a durable definition of ‘waters of the United States’ based on Supreme Court precedent and drawing from lessons learned from current and previous regulations, as well as input from a wide array of stakeholders.”

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule has resulted in a 25 percentage-point reduction in determinations of waters that would otherwise be afforded protection, said Jaime Pinkham, acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for Civil Works.

The U.S. Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting remand of the rule. The action reflects the agencies’ intent to initiate a new rulemaking process that restores the protections in place prior to the 2015 "waters of the United States" implementation. It anticipates developing a new rule that defines "waters of the United States" and is informed by an engagement process and the experience of implementing the pre-2015 rule, the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, and the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule. Visit epa.gov/wotus for more information.

JBS USA expands capacity

JBS USA recently announced plans to invest more than $130 million in the U.S. beef industry. The company plans to increase production capacity and more than $150 million in annualized pay increases to workers at its nine beef plants.

The company has invested $130 million to increase production capacities at two of its major beef-processing facilities in Grand Island, Nebraska, and Omaha, Nebraska. The company is on schedule to complete by late summer an expansion of the Grand Island facility. That involves construction of a new harvest floor and enhanced animal-welfare facilities.

JBS USA is expanding cooler capacity and upgrading the fabrication floor at its Omaha facility. The expansions are expected to increase processing capacity by about 300,000 head of cattle per year.

JBS USA stated it also provided more than $150 million in annualized wage increases in the past 12 months. The average wage for hourly beef-team members is currently more than $22. The company in March also launched a free-of-charge, two-year college tuition program providing more than 66,000 company team members and their dependent children opportunities to pursue higher education.

The JBS USA Grand Island facility is a two-shift, beef-processing plant employing more than 3,600 people. It has the capacity to process more than 1.4 million cattle per year. The Omaha facility is a single-shift beef-processing plant employing more than 650 people. It focuses on specialty-beef products such as grass-fed, Wagyu and organic beef options. Visit jbsfoodsgroup.com for more information.

Interstate-shipment program for meat expands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the State of South Dakota have finalized a Cooperative Interstate Shipment agreement. It provides an opportunity for selected state-inspected meat and poultry processors to ship their products across state lines. In the Cooperative Interstate Shipment agreement, the State of South Dakota may inspect meat in selected establishments for shipment throughout the United States.

Nine states currently participate in the program to promote expansion of business opportunities for state-inspected meat and poultry establishments. Selected state-inspected establishments that comply with federal-inspection requirements are permitted to ship their product in interstate commerce.

“If we’re going to strengthen our nation’s food system and prevent supply-chain bottlenecks before they occur, we must continue to provide smaller meat-processing establishments the opportunity to build their local and regional marketplaces,” said Sandra Eskin, USDA deputy undersecretary for food safety.

The Cooperative Interstate Shipment program is limited to establishments located in the 27 states that have established a meat and poultry inspection program. To be eligible to participate state meat and poultry inspection programs must meet criteria to show that the inspection it provides to state-inspected plants will be the “same as” the inspection the Food Safety and Inspection Service provides to official federal establishments.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service provides ongoing oversight of the Cooperative Interstate Shipment program to ensure participating states maintain and operate their “same as” programs in compliance with applicable federal statutes and regulations and follows the federal agency’s directives and notices. The agency reimburses the states for 60 percent of their costs associated with providing the interstate eligible inspection service.

In addition to South Dakota the Food Safety and Inspection Service has signed agreements with Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin. Visit fsis.usda.gov/cis for more information.

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