May 1, 2020

Dear MNLGA Members:

Thank you to the many key contacts who completed the membership survey, which is focused on COVID-19. The survey closes at 5:00 this afternoon. I plan to have results to share with you next week.

The membership has gotten a little quieter, meaning my phone is no longer ringing off the hook and my e-mail volume has become more manageabel again. I hope, as we continue to navigate this current crisis, that you utlize the MNLGA as needed. We are all in this together and will support each other. Please do let me know if there is anything the MNLGA can help you with.

Below is new information for you. Please review as you have the opportunity. I wish you a good weekend!

This e-mail is distributed to key contacts; please feel free to share with others in your office.

Attention new members: I send new updates every day and really do not repeat a lot of the same information. Chelsea has added to the MNLGA’s COVID-19 resources page the COVID-19 based member alerts since we began issuing them on March 16 th . Please review them if you are hunting for older information.

New Information Today :

One of our members shared Penn State webinar on May 7 : A focus on H-2A Visa Ag Workers in Uncertain Times.  This session will cover COVID-19 mitigation efforts, such as international travel restrictions and consulate closures, that have disrupted the normal functioning of the H-2A visa program. These disruptions raise questions about the timely arrival of guest workers and the impact on essential food and agricultural businesses .

County Grants and Loans :
In a prior membership blast, I encouraged members to look at economic recovery and relief resources within their own county. Please check that out. I saw a press conference in Baltimore County this week where grants are being offered. Many counties are jumping on board with relief funding.

Pandemic Adjustment Loan Fund Program – Update
The Pandemic Adjustment Loan Fund Program (PALF) has been designed by MARBIDCO to help Maryland’s food and fiber producers, harvesters and primary processors adjust to the business disruptions caused by COVID-19 by offering loans with a quick turn-around time. This program assists existing agricultural or resource-based enterprises with taking advantage of new or continuing market opportunities. Eligible rural businesses can apply for loans up to $3,000 in working capital and up to $10,000 for equipment purchases at a low interest rate (3.75%) with very favorable terms. Loan repayments will be interest only for five months followed by amortizing payments for 12 to 36 months starting in 2021. Borrowers who make all their payments will receive a 10% rebate or grant (of the original amount borrowed) at the end of the loan term. The turn-around time for PALF loan approvals has typically been running at 3-5 business days.
MARBIDCO has received about 20 applications so far from a variety of agricultural businesses including diary, grain, hay, oyster, nursery and produce growers, as well as, commercial watermen and equine operations. These borrowers are investing in new equipment for their production processes, including refrigeration units, forklifts, new boat motors, or making improvements to their farm. They also borrow for working capital to cover the costs of seed and fertilizer, care for their horses or make payroll. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused these businesses to make adjustments in their operations, and for some to seek new markets to replace old ones that have dried up. Farmers are making these investments to continue or improve their production capacity, keep their employees working and/or reach new customers (now or in the future).
      The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many changes to occur not only in the national supply chain but also with how consumers seek locally produced goods. Farmers and watermen are essential to their communities, and the Pandemic Adjustment Loan Fund is one new way MARBIDCO is offering its support to them. MARBIDCO is accepting applications for the PALF program through May 31 st .    We encourage farmers, seafood harvesters and other agricultural businesses to find out how the PALF program can help meet an immediate financial need with a forward-looking orientation. Information about this program is available on the frontpage on the MARBIDCO website at: .

Article Regarding Employers and Coronavirus Lawsuits – A member shared this article with me from the Financial Times, dated April 23 rd . Food for thought regarding how government will respond to employers’ need for protection against employee lawsuits. 

Positive News from the Press
A member also shared this uplifting article from the New York Times , “In Lockdown, Discovering Gardening’s Restorative Powers.” Enjoy the nice read. 

Remember to utilize the COVID-19 resources page on the MNLGA website . It includes resources to help connect with consumers, explanations and access to state and federal recovery, employment, and relief efforts, and more.

Please keep me in the loop and let me know how the MNLGA can help you.

Vanessa A. Finney
Executive Director, MNLGA