April 2021
Young Farmers & Ranchers Happenings
If anyone is interested in hosting a virtual tour of their farm or joining the YF&R committee, please email Heather at 
Vaccine Update For Food, Ag Workers
Essential Workers
“All staff involved in the production, processing, storage, transport, wholesale and retail sale, preparation, and service of food and consumer goods, including farm and other agricultural workers, including farm stand and nurseries” became eligible for vaccines 3/22/2021. Also included are “Food pantry workers or volunteers”.
 

Women Ag Leaders Profiled in Farm Bureau Series
In case you missed it, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) highlighted several women ag leaders in FBNews as part of the organization’s Women In Ag series during Women’s History Month (March). Featured leaders included Joanna Lidback, Vermont; Morgan Norris, Florida; Stacey Lauwers, Michigan; Isabella Chism, Indiana; and April Clayton, Washington.
Find Out How Dairy Farmers, Co-ops Can Still Apply For PPP
Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the CARES Act, its second coronavirus emergency relief package response enacted in March 2020. The program was designed to help small businesses keep their workers employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP loans revolve around payroll costs, including employer-provided benefits. Business owners can also use a smaller percentage of each loan to pay for mortgage interest, rent, utilities, worker protection costs related to COVID-19, and certain supplier costs and operational expenses. PPP loans are forgivable.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers the program, which agricultural businesses initially struggled to access. NMPF has worked with members of Congress to ensure dairy farmers and cooperatives have equitable access to PPP, and together have improved access for agriculture in multiple areas. Producers who were denied a PPP loan in 2020 may now qualify if the new rules address the issue that caused the initial denial of their loan. In addition, borrowers who received their loans before SBA issued later rules and guidance may have received a smaller loan then 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 so that additional loan funds may be provided to make up any difference.

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

Interested borrowers can apply for either type of PPP loan or have their first loan reevaluated by their lender until May 31. See below and visit the Treasury Department’s PPP webpage for more information.
COVID-19 Aid Released, Expanded To Include More Producers
USDA announced today its plans to distribute more than $12 billion under a program called Pandemic Assistance for Producers, which includes aid that had been put on hold as well as funds newly allocated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. The program assists farmers and ranchers who previously did not qualify for COVID-19 aid and expands assistance to farmers helped by existing programs. Farmers will need to sign-up only if they are applying for new programs or if they are eligible for CFAP assistance and did not previously apply.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack shared details of the new plan during a virtual meeting today with state Farm Bureau presidents and American Farm Bureau leadership.

“We appreciate Secretary Vilsack’s action to release funds and expand eligibility for farmers hit hard by the devastating effects of COVID-19,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “USDA’s decision to distribute aid based upon previous applications will help deliver assistance quickly. It was good to hear directly from the Secretary today about this program and his priorities going forward.”

The funding includes $6 billion to develop new programs or modify existing proposals using remaining discretionary funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act. USDA expects this to include funding for personal protective equipment (PPE), compensation to offset the pandemic’s impact on biofuels, specialty crops and farmers forced to euthanize animals due to supply chain issues, among other uses.

Another $5.6 billion will be directed to formula payments to cattle producers and eligible flat-rate or price trigger crops. In addition, $500 million in new funding is included for existing programs such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Farmers Opportunities Training and Outreach Program, Local Agricultural Marketing Program, Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills Program.

AFBF urges USDA to quickly accomplish the needed regulatory changes to deliver assistance to contract livestock and poultry growers who have yet to receive aid, despite specific authorization from Congress.

Sign-ups for the new program begin April 5, 2021. USDA’s announcement can be found here. AFBF Market Intel can be found here.
Application Period Open For MDAR Viability Grant Programs
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) is accepting applications from Massachusetts farmers who wish to participate in these Department programs that help with farm viability in Fiscal Year 2022. Applications are posted as part of the Request for Response on each program website at the links below. If you would like an application mailed to you, contact the program coordinator listed. 
 
The due date for applications is Thursday, April 29, 2021. 
 
Farm Viability Enhancement Program (FVEP) - This business planning and technical assistance program provides business planning and technical assistance to develop or update a business plan for established farms that own and operate unrestricted farmland. In return for a short-term covenant to keep the land in agricultural use, operators may be eligible for grants to implement capital projects on the farm. Grant levels are up to $50,000; $100,000; or $150,000 in return for a 5, 10, or 15-year covenant, depending on the size of the farm. Examples of uses of funds through the Farm Viability Program will vary depending on the needs of the farm but may include new or improved livestock barns or farm stores; purchasing farm equipment, delivery vehicles or tractors; constructing food processing or agricultural storage facilities.
  
For a FVEP application or more information, go to: www.mass.gov/service-details/farm-viability-enhancement-program-fvep and click on “AGR FVEP FY22-29” or contact Melissa Adams at Melissa.L.Adams@mass.gov, 413-726-2001.
 
APR Improvement Program (AIP) – for APR farms This business planning and technical assistance program helps sustain active commercial farming on land that has already been protected through the state’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) Program. AIP provides business planning assistance to farmers selected to participate in the program and grants may be available on a reimbursement basis to implement identified improvements on the farm to increase productivity and profitability. Grant levels are up to $40,000; $80,000; or $120,000 depending on the size of the farm and acreage under APR, on a cost reimbursement basis with a required 25% match contribution. AIP funds are used primarily for capital improvements to farm infrastructure, such as new or improved barns for storage or livestock housing, farm stores, processing facilities; or resource improvements for agricultural use, such as orchard renovations and fencing.
 
For an AIP application or more information go to: www.mass.gov/service-details/apr-improvement-program-aip and click on “AGR-AIP-FY22-13” or contact Michael Parker at Michael.Parker@mass.gov, 413-726-2008.
 
Matching Enterprise Grants for Agriculture (MEGA) - helps beginning farmers, who have been in business at least one (1) but no more than six (6) years, with business planning, technical assistance, and grant funds of up to $10,000 on a one to one matching cash reimbursement basis for farm improvements. It is the objective of the MEGA Program to assist beginning farmers who aspire to develop their farms into commercially viable operations. Funds may be used for equipment, infrastructure or other capital improvements identified through the business planning process to have a positive impact on the participating farm’s viability. Common uses of MEGA grant funds include greenhouses, barn renovations, tractor implements, chicken coops, farmstands, and refrigerated delivery trucks.
 
For a MEGA application or more information go to www.mass.gov/service-details/matching-enterprise-grants-for-agriculture-megaand click on “AGR-MEGA FY22-12” or contact Jessica Camp at Jessica.Camp@mass.gov.
Make Plans To Join Us For Virtual Ag Trivia Night!
The Promotion and Education Committee, 4-H and Dr. Weston Brown are hosting a virtual trivia night on April 19 at 7 pm! Come test your knowledge of agriculture...from the comfort of your own home!

There will be 4 rounds of 10 questions each, all relating to agriculture. The live video will start at 6:45 p.m. to give everyone a chance to get situated.

We're going to start asking questions at 7:00 p.m. There will be a link to a google form that will be the answer sheet. The questions will be read aloud and presented on the screen, and you can answer on the google doc. At the end of the round, submit the sheet and it will be graded. Once you submit your answer sheet, click "Submit a new response" at the bottom of the page, and a new answer sheet will be generated for the next round. Dr. Brown will be keeping track of points and will announce the standings between each round, and the winners at the end.

*Please keep team names the same each round!*

**A computer would be the best way to participate in this event!**

We look forward to seeing you there! 

To join the fun, please go to the Facebook event page and select going! We will go live from there the night of the event! Learn more by clicking here.
USDA Grants Available To Spur Innovation Technologies In Massachusetts
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced up to $200,000 of funding available in Massachusetts for eligible individuals, local and state governments, non-governmental organizations and tribes through Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). These grants are intended to stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches and technologies while leveraging federal investment in environmental enhancement and protection.
 
The deadline to submit an application for CIG is 11:59 pm EDT on April 23, 2021. To apply, visit Grants.gov for the 2021 Announcement of Program Funding, funding opportunity number USDA-NRCS-MA-CIG-NOFO0001057. 
 
“Conservation Innovation Grants are critical for developing science, technology and innovative tools to address natural resource concerns on Massachusetts’s private working lands,” said Dan Wright, Massachusetts State Conservationist for NRCS. “CIG will benefit agricultural producers by providing more options for environmental enhancement and compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.”
 
Projects must be within Massachusetts and in conjunction with agricultural production. They may be area-based or statewide in scope. Applicants submitting proposals may request up to $200,000 of matching federal funds. CIG recipients must provide a non-federal funding match at least equal to the amount of federal funding requested. The non-federal match can be cash, in-kind or a combination of both. 
 
The proposal must involve Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) eligible producers and should demonstrate the use of innovative technologies or approaches to address a natural resource concern in one of the following categories: water quality, silvopasture, wildlife habitat. 
 
These grants do not fund research projects. The program is designed to aid the adoption of measures that have been sufficiently studied to indicate a high likelihood of success. The overall goal is to incorporate new innovations into NRCS technical manuals and make them available to the agricultural community.
 
The Conservation Innovation Grants at the state level build on our national program and enable NRCS to better address natural resource concerns at the local level. To learn more about Conservation Innovations Grants visit the CIG webpage.
2021 AFBF's County Leader Week Dates Announced
American Farm Bureau Federation will host the fourth annual County Leader Week April 19-23, 2021, in concert with National Volunteer Week. This week is an opportunity for county leaders to strengthen Farm Bureau by investing in their own development, as well as celebrate county leaders’ commitment to volunteerism. More information will be available in the coming weeks. Farm Bureau member leaders at all levels of the organization are encouraged to participate.

To prepare for County Leader Week, sign up for Board Essentials on Farm Bureau University and make sure to “like” American Farm Bureau Federation on Facebook for updates. 

New England Leopold Conservation Award Seeks Nominees
Know a farmer or forestland owner who goes above and beyond in their care and management of natural resources? Nominate them for the 2021 New England Leopold Conservation Award®.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 22 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New England the $10,000 award is presented with, New England Forestry Foundation and Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands & Communities.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on private, working land. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.

Nominations may be submitted on behalf of a landowner in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Landowners may also nominate themselves. The application can be found at www.sandcountyfoundation.org/ApplyLCA.

The application deadline date is July 15, 2021. Applications can be emailed to award@sandcountyfoundation.org. If mailed, applications must be postmarked by July 15, and mailed to:

Leopold Conservation Award
c/o New England Forestry Foundation
P.O. Box 1346
Littleton, MA 01460

Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and forestry conservation leaders.

“As a national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of farmers, ranchers and forestland owners,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

The New England Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, New England Forestry Foundation; Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands & Communities; Sand County Foundation, David and Ann Ingram, Farm Credit East, Yale School of the Environment and Whole Foods Market.

The first recipient of the award was Bill Hull of Hull Forest Products in Pomfret Center, Connecticut. Linda Rinta and the Rinta Family Farm of West Wareham, Massachusetts received the award in 2020.

Farm Bureau University
What is Farm Bureau University?
“Online Learning for Farm Bureau”

Learning is no longer confined to four walls and formalized training. Farm Bureau University allows Farm Bureau members to learn through interactive experiences online when and where they want. Farm Bureau members can log onto FB University from a desktop computer in their office or on an iPad in the field.

Currently available to Farm Bureau members:
  • Board Essentials – Online training for county board members to develop skills and acquire knowledge as a Farm Bureau leader.
  • FB Builder – An evaluation tool for your county Farm Bureau to assess on eight building blocks of organizational health.
  • Pillars of Agricultural Literacy – A tool to guide you, or a group, through the Pillars of Agricultural Literacy in order to create a purposeful plan to educate consumers about agriculture.

What’s new on Farm Bureau University?
Farm Bureau Board Essentials, the newest online learning program, offers resources and training to county board members to improve governance, planning, policy development and advocacy, and membership.

Whether you’ve been on the board for three weeks or 30 years, Farm Bureau Board Essentials sharpens your skillset and understanding as a board member.

How to register for Farm Bureau University
Any member can register for free at university.fb.org. New users need to register for an account and type in the correct code. The member code is “statefb” replacing state with the two-letter postal abbreviation. For example a New York Farm Bureau member’s code is “nyfb.”

Click here to register today.
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