USDA News: Offers Disaster Program Flexibilities In Northeast

USDA's New Delta Regional Food Business Center to Bolster Local Food Supply Chain Infrastructure In Business Center Delta Region

Discover the latest news from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) below:

Following Flooding In The Northeast, USDA Offers Disaster Program Flexibilities (2023/08/15)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken significant measures to support Northeast agricultural operations affected by the 2023 floods. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Risk Management Agency (RMA) have introduced policy flexibilities for vital disaster assistance programs and crop insurance. The FSA has extended its policy exceptions to all flood-affected counties across nine states, including Connecticut, Maine, and New York. FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux emphasized the agency’s commitment to helping producers recover, urging those affected to contact their local USDA Service Center. The FSA’s policy flexibilities encompass a range of programs, from Farm Storage Facility Loans to the Livestock Indemnity Program. This USDA initiative aims to provide financial relief, extend deadlines, and offer alternative resources to those in need.

On the other hand, the RMA focuses on ensuring timely payments to producers without unnecessary delays. They have authorized crop insurance companies to apply flexibilities in reporting requirements and the claims process for those impacted by the floods in seven states. RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger highlighted the importance of crop insurance and other USDA risk protection options in helping producers manage unforeseen natural disasters. Key flexibilities introduced by the RMA include extended reporting deadlines, waiving the 72-hour loss report requirement, and allowing electronic communication for reporting. These measures reflect the USDA’s commitment to assisting farmers and ranchers in their recovery efforts, ensuring they have the necessary support during these challenging times.

USDA Announces Additional Financial Assistance for Distressed Farm Loan Borrowers (2023/08/14)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled a new initiative to offer automatic financial support to eligible borrowers under the Farm Loan Programs (FLP) facing financial challenges. This move is a segment of the broader $3.1 billion provision set aside to aid distressed farm loan borrowers, as Section 22006 of the Inflation Reduction Act outlines. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized the USDA’s commitment to equipping producers with the necessary tools to regain financial stability. He stated that the newly announced financial aid would offer a lifeline to those with guaranteed farm loans, paving the way for long-term agricultural success.

Since President Biden ratified the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, the USDA has allocated around $1.15 billion to assist over 20,000 distressed borrowers. This initiative aims to sustain farming activities, facilitate borrowers’ return to their lands, and refine the USDA’s approach to loan borrowing and servicing for the foreseeable future. The current financial aid will extend support similar to that previously given to distressed direct loan borrowers. Preliminary estimates suggest that about 3,500 eligible borrowers will benefit from this assistance, though this number may vary as the final payment details are ironed out.

The criteria for an FLP-guaranteed loan borrower to be deemed “distressed” are multifaceted. Borrowers can qualify based on outstanding delinquencies on their FLP-guaranteed loans as of October 18, 2022, or if they’ve undergone a loan restructure between March 1, 2020, and August 11, 2023. Additionally, borrowers who’ve received payment extensions due to challenges like COVID-19 or other revenue setbacks between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2022, are also eligible. However, this aid excludes those without a payment under the Inflation Reduction Act assistance announced in October 2022. Qualifying borrowers will be notified via a letter from the FSA detailing the assistance and subsequent steps. At the same time, lenders will be informed about the borrowers benefiting from this aid and the corresponding amounts. Special provisions are in place for borrowers currently in bankruptcy, and those with federal debt post-liquidation of their guaranteed loan account as of July 31, 2023, will also receive relief.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Joins in Launching New Plant Sciences Building (2023/08/02)

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Plant Sciences Building that will be a hub for collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Washington State University (WSU). Located on the WSU campus, the new facility will be dedicated to research to enhance the health, sustainability, and profitability of dryland and irrigated agriculture in the Pacific Northwest. This collaboration began in 1931 and represents one of the nation’s most enduring federal-state partnerships in agricultural research.

The new building will house four ARS research units, focusing on Wheat Health, Genetics, Quality, Grain Legume Genetics, Physiology, Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems, and Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing. Additionally, members of WSU’s Departments of Plant Pathology, Crop, Soil Sciences, and Horticulture will share space with federal researchers. Approximately 15 ARS scientists and 15 WSU scientists will work in the facility, contributing to research that benefits growers, commodity groups, agricultural businesses, and the public. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Interagency and International Services program will oversee the planning, environmental, contracting, design, and construction contract for the project. Emphasizing the importance of the new facility, USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young said, “The groundbreaking of the new USDA-WSU building reflects USDA’s commitment to innovative research and cutting-edge solutions that make our farmers more productive, profitable, and resilient.”

Biden-Harris Administration Announces Major Investments in Urban Agriculture and Healthy Food Initiatives (2023/07/23)

Through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Biden-Harris Administration announced a series of investments to strengthen the food system, increase market access for producers, and enhance consumers’ access to locally grown foods. The USDA will establish 17 new Urban Service Centers and ten new urban county committees. There will be an investment of approximately $10.7 million in the Patrick Leahy Farm to School Program and an expansion of the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, which includes about $30 million in funding for the new Local and Regional Healthy Food Financing Partnerships Initiative.

As part of the announcement, USDA will invest $40 million from the American Rescue Plan into partnerships with community-based organizations to support Urban Service Centers and urban county committees. The investment includes partnerships with 17 local organizations to raise awareness of USDA programs and resources and help urban producers enroll. The initiative aims to improve local food systems’ supply chain resiliency by enhancing urban farms’ sustainability and long-term viability. Further investments will be made in urban agriculture, including $7.4 million for 25 Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production competitive grants and up to $9.5 million for Composting and Food Waste Reduction cooperative agreements for fiscal year 2023.

In addition to the urban agriculture initiatives, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service awarded $10.7 million to 103 projects under the Patrick Leahy Farm to School Grant Program. This investment will benefit 1.2 million children from nearly 3,000 schools in 40 States and the territory of Guam, supporting farmers and producers in their local and regional communities. Later this year, USDA will expand the Healthy Food Financing Initiative by offering grants, loans, and technical assistance to food retailers and food enterprises in underserved areas, made possible by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act.

USDA to Invest $300 Million in Enhancing Greenhouse Gas Tracking in Agriculture and Forestry (2023/07/12)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is set to invest $300 million into improving the tracking and verification of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry. This USDA initiative is part of President Biden’s Investing in America initiative to implement climate-smart practices. The funds are made available by the Inflation Reduction Act. They will further the objectives outlined in the Federal Strategy to Advance Greenhouse Gas Measurement and Monitoring for the Agriculture and Forest Sectors.

This investment is a critical component of the nearly $20 billion allocated to advance climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices under the Inflation Reduction Act. It is aligned with President Biden’s ambitious target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% by 2030, relative to 2005 levels.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized the importance of enhancing the scientific foundations of these programs, stating the USDA’s commitment to data-driven continuous improvement in its climate-smart agriculture and forestry efforts. The USDA has outlined seven focal areas to achieve its objectives, including advancing research networks for soil carbon and greenhouse gas, expanding data management, and improving conservation practice standards.

Furthermore, a draft of the federal strategy has been released for public input, outlining a strategic framework and priority actions to improve the accuracy and reduce the uncertainty of greenhouse gas estimates. The federal strategy outlines plans for enhanced greenhouse gas and soil carbon monitoring, improved use of advanced models and tools, and more prompt and accurate conservation data collection.

A webinar is planned on July 21, 2023, for interested stakeholders and technical experts to learn more about the effort. The USDA is also seeking public comments on the draft Federal Strategy. USDA prepared the strategy in collaboration with other key agencies and laid out a comprehensive plan to augment the agriculture and forestry sector’s measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification.

USDA’s Historic $262.5M Investment Fosters Diverse Next-Gen Agricultural Leaders (2023/06/22)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a significant investment of $262.5 million in higher education institutions to cultivate a diverse next generation of professionals in agriculture. Funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the investment will support the training of future agricultural professionals, enabling them to tackle upcoming challenges in providing a sustainable, profitable, and equitable food supply for a growing global population. This historic initiative will specifically target Minority-serving Institutions, enhancing the diversity of the agricultural workforce and propelling President Biden’s commitment to building a clean energy economy and strengthening American supply chains.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) program, named “From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program” (NextGen), will empower institutions across the country to develop the next workforce for the food, agriculture, natural resources, and human sciences sector. The program will benefit over 20,000 future leaders in food and agriculture through 33 project partners and is part of USDA’s drive for equity. This program will also incorporate tracking and reporting benefits via partnerships with the Intercultural Development Research Association and new public dashboards to provide transparent access to data on agricultural research funding investments and grant application statuses.

USDA Has Introduced The Delta Regional Food Business Center in Jackson, Mississippi (2023/05/15)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched the Delta Regional Food Business Center in Jackson, Mississippi, to bolster the food supply chain infrastructure in the Delta region. As part of a more comprehensive initiative, the center will collaborate with local organizations, universities, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Its primary objective is to extend regional food and farm businesses’ market reach while promoting local food systems’ resilience. Initially, the USDA allocated $400 million in funding to the initiative, and 12 organizations were chosen by May to lead efforts across the nation. The Delta Center, supported by the Mississippi Delta Council for Farm Worker Opportunities, Inc., plans to increase local food production to 2% of all food imported into the region, potentially boosting the regional income by over $100 million annually. The USDA aims to stimulate economic opportunities through these centers and foster a more diversified and resilient food system. In tandem, the USDA’s Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI) intends to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers, and rural communities and recently received a $420 million investment.

$420M On Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure (2023/05/04)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has inaugurated 12 Regional Food Business Centers designed to aid farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and leverage federal, state, and local resources. The centers aim to offer technical assistance, capacity building, and national coordination to help address challenges within the food and agriculture sector. Alongside this, the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI), backed by a $420 million budget, aims to support innovative projects focused on improving processing and distribution capacity in the food industry, thereby bolstering resilience across the supply chain and fortifying local and regional food systems. The Regional Food Business Centers and the RFSI form part of a broader initiative, launched in September 2022 with an initial funding of $400 million, aimed at promoting economic opportunities in rural and urban areas and creating a diversified, resilient food system. The organizations selected to run each center include diverse institutions that will cooperate with grassroots food and farm organizations to enhance food system resilience, focusing on historically underinvested communities.

USDA’s Latest $59 Million Investment In Climate-Smart Agriculture Initiatives (2023/04/07)

Via its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has unveiled a $40 million investment in 31 new projects to bring together partners to create cutting-edge methods for climate-smart agriculture. Also, the USDA has created two new formal partnerships to advance the adoption of nutrient management and is spending $19 million on two nutrient management initiatives sponsored by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). These programs are consistent with President Biden’s Investing in America plan, which aims to revive the economy from the middle out and from the bottom up while also sparking a Made in America innovation boom.

New Program To Build Drought Resilience (2023/02/14)

The USDA recently announced new investments and strategies to help farmers and ranchers in the West conserve water, address climate change, and build drought resilience. The Western Water and Working Lands Framework for Conservation Action is a comprehensive strategy under the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to address water and land management challenges across 17 Western States. This strategy is designed to combat six central water and land management challenges threatening the region’s water supply.

New Funds Bring USDA Climate-Smart Commodities At USD 3.1 Bn (2022/12/15)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Biden-Harris Administration has announced an additional $325 million investment for 71 projects as part of the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative. The initiative, which received over 1,000 applications requesting over $20 billion in financing, aims to expand market opportunities for American producers of climate-smart goods. Key collaborators include the 1890 Land-grant University and Tuskegee University, a historically black college and university (HBCU). Furthermore, the InterTribal Buffalo Council intends to collaborate with 76 tribes to promote climate-smart practices concerning buffalo herds via the Tribal Buffalo Market Initiative. Other partners like Marbleseed will work with organic grain growers and those transitioning to organic methods. Additionally, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley plans to test agrivoltaic technology to measure greenhouse gas reduction for Hispanic farmers and ranchers. The combined initiatives are projected to result in new markets and income sources for farmers, ranchers, loggers, and communities, with the 141 chosen projects aiming to match about 50% of government investment with non-federal revenues.

Invests USD 14.2M in 52 Urban Agriculture & Innovative Production Efforts (2022/11/02)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is dedicating $14.2 million towards 52 grants to stimulate urban agriculture and innovative production. Funded partly by the American Rescue Plan Act, the investment aims to boost access to nutritious food, raise climate change awareness, create jobs, educate communities about farming, and promote green spaces in urban areas. Building upon $26.3 million in projects backed since 2020, these grants are part of the USDA’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP). The initiative supports various activities via two types of grants: planning and implementation projects. These projects range from initiatives to improve food access and education to supporting new farmer start-ups and urban forestry. Some examples include Lorain’s Food Forward Initiative in Ohio, focusing on improving food access in economically distressed areas, and Tampa Family Health Centers’ project in Florida, offering nutritional education and gardening lessons. The 52 projects are spread across 27 states and are part of the USDA’s more considerable investment in urban agriculture.

USDA Grants $43 Million for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (2022/06/03)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $43.1 million in grants and cooperative agreements to support urban agriculture and bolster the food supply chain, making it fairer, more competitive, and more resilient. The investment includes $10.2 million to expand compost and food waste reduction efforts, $14.2 million for urban agriculture and innovative production projects, and $18.7 million for 75 grant proposals from the 2021 application cycle. Also, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is launching six new urban county committees to facilitate farm loans, disaster assistance, safety net, and conservation programs for urban producers. This initiative is part of the USDA’s Food System Transformation Framework, aiming to build a resilient food supply chain, create a fairer food system, improve access to nutritious food, and foster equity by generating wealth in small towns and underserved communities.

USDA urban & USDA Investment

Photo by Pieter van de Sande on Unsplash 


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