Updated: Sep 2
The Florida House Majority Office is publishing a series of sector-specific resource blog posts and downloadable documents to aid constituents in understanding the support available to them during the coronavirus crisis. This post contains information and resources about Florida agriculture. Download the PDF version here.
USDA Flexibility on Crop Insurance
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new flexibility on crop insurance in response to COVID-19, which includes the following:
Enabling producers to send notifications and reports electronically.
Extending the date for production reports.
Providing additional time and deferring interest on premium and other payments.
Authorizing replant self-certification.
Waiving the witness signature requirement for approval of Assignments of Indemnity.
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibility for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.
Relaxing the Farm Loan-making process by:
Extending the deadline for applicants to complete farm loan applications.
Preparing Direct Loans documents even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches because of closed government buildings. Once those searches are complete, FSA would close the loan.
Closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security.
Servicing Direct Loans by:
Extending deadlines for producers to respond to loan-servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers.
Temporarily suspending loan accelerations, non-judicial foreclosures, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice.
Servicing Guaranteed Loans by:
Allowing guarantee lenders to self-certify, providing their borrowers with subsequent-year operating loan advances on lines of credit and emergency advances on lines of credit.
FSA will consider guaranteed lender requests for:
Temporary payment deferral consideration when borrowers do not have a feasible plan reflecting that family living expenses, operating expenses, and debt can be repaid; and
Temporary forbearance consideration for borrowers on loan liquidation and foreclosure actions.
For more information visit: www.fsa.usda.gov/news-room/news-releases/2020/fsa-makes-changes-to-farm-loan-disaster-conservation-and-safety-net-programs-to-make-it-easier-for-customers-to-conduct-business
FSA broadened the use of the Disaster Set-Aside (DSA) loan provision, normally used in the wake of natural disasters, to allow farmers with USDA farm loans who are affected by COVID-19, and are determined eligible, to have their next payment set aside.
In some cases, FSA may also set aside a second payment for farmers who have already had one payment set aside because of a prior designated disaster.
USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is ensuring that milk producers are not inappropriately penalized if their milk must be dumped because of recent market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, RMA is:
Allowing dumped milk to be counted as milk marketings for the Dairy Revenue Production or actual marketings for the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy programs.
Allowing phone and electronic transactions for 2021 crop year sales and reporting dates, including options and endorsements.
Extending the deadline for some perennial crop Pre-Acceptance Inspection Reports.
Waiving the 2021 crop year inspection requirements for the Nursery and Nursery Value Select programs in certain cases.
Conservation Planning and Programs
Producers can continue to apply for conservation programs and receive conservation planning assistance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offers year-round continuous signup for Farm Bill programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) August 2020 Interest Rates
The following interest rates are in effect from August 1 to August 31, 2020:
The CCC borrowing rate-based charge for August is 0.125%, same as in July.
The interest rate for crop year commodity loans less than one year disbursed during August is 1.125%, same as in July.
The interest rate for 15-year Sugar Storage Facility Loans for August is 0.875%, down from 1.000% in July.
For approved August interest rates for Farm Storage Facility Loans visit: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/news-room/news-releases/2020/usda-announces-commodity-credit-corporation-lending-rates-for-august-2020
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
The CARES Act provided $34.9 billion in funding for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies. This funding includes:
$9.5 billion in assistance for agricultural producers impacted by COVID-19.
$25.06 billion for food and nutrition service.
$14 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation, which funds many of the USDA’s programs for farmers.
To view all included funding in detail visit: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Coronavirus%20Supplemental%20Appropriations%20Summary_FINAL.pdf
Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)
Provides $19 billion for farmers and ranchers:
$16 billion in direct support to farmers and ranchers based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted.
$3 billion in USDA purchase and distribution
USDA will partner with regional and local distributors, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other food-service entities, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat.
The deadline to apply for CFAP has been extended to September 11, 2020. The original deadline was August 28, 2020.
Eligible commodities for CFAP include: non-specialty crops, wool, livestock, dairy, etc.
As of August 11, 60 additional commodities have been added, including additions to specialty crops and livestock along with the inclusion of nursery crops and cut flowers, aquaculture, and certain types of eggs.
For more information visit: https://www.farmers.gov/cfap?utm_source=fsareferral&utm_medium=spotlight&utm_campaign=0519cfap
As of August 31, 2020, the USDA announced they will extend free school meals for students through December 31, 2020.
For more information visit: https://www.fns.usda.gov/news-item/usda-035520
H-2A Visa Information
USDA announced a temporary final rule to change certain H-2A requirements to help agriculture employers avoid disruptions in lawful employment.
For more information visit:
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)
Emergency Orders and Rules
In response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration announcement allowing temporary flexibility for egg packaging and labeling, Emergency Order (EO) 2020-006 suspends department rules for 30 days that require packaging to have printed information such as date of pack, grade, and size. EO 2020-006 will give industry flexibility to meet increased consumer demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
EO 2020-002 suspends, for 30 days, late fees on renewals for pest control, pesticide, fertilizer, and animal feed licenses. The EO also extends timeframes required for reporting and license renewal by 30 days.
EO 2020-003 suspends, for 30 days, late fees for renewals of the following permits and registrations: solicitors of charitable contributions, brake fluids, commercially used weights and measures, motor vehicle repair shops, and dealers of agricultural products.
Emergency Rule JER20-1 allows “winter blend” fuel to continue to be used to adjust to the current supply and demand for fuel.
To view a list of Emergency Orders and Rules visit: www.fdacs.gov/News-Events/Press-Releases/2020-Press-Releases/Commissioner-Nikki-Fried-Issues-Emergency-Orders-Rules-During-COVID-19
FDACS announced a $100,000 Walmart Foundation grant project to fight food insecurity in Florida’s rural communities amid COVID-19. FDACS, through its direct support organization Living Healthy in Florida (LHIF), will administer the grant to benefit rural farmers and foodbanks to help Florida’s families in need.
As of July 6, 2020, FDACS is making available their Division of Consumer Services to help hold bad actors accountable for ignoring COVID-19 directives.
Efforts to Increase Purchase of Florida Products
FDACS created the Florida Farm to You Commodities List to help connect buyers with producers of Florida-grown commodities like fresh produce, seafood, poultry and more.
Producers fill out an online form listing the commodity that is available, dates the commodity is available, quantity available, location, and contact information. This information is uploaded to the FDACS website, where buyers can then connect directly with producers.
For more information visit: https://www.fdacs.gov/Agriculture-Industry/Florida-Farm-To-You
FDACS is working with national grocery retailers to encourage them to end purchase limits on milk at their stores and to stock their stores with Florida-grown products.
FDACS is working to improve storage for excess milk and increase the number of refrigerated trucks transporting milk to retail stores to help keep stores stocked.
FDACS has reached out to other state agencies in need of fresh food, such as the Florida Department of Corrections, to encourage them to directly purchase from Florida farmers.
For state agencies to purchase from Florida farmers, state farmers must be registered on MyFloridaMarketPlace. This allows Florida farmers to become registered vendors and permits state dollars to go directly to Florida produce.
For more information visit: www.dms.myflorida.com/business_operations/state_purchasing/myfloridamarketplace
FDACS is redirecting “Fresh From Florida” marketing funds for trade shows to market agriculture commodities at risk of being lost.
FDACS is currently working with the USDA to combat the illegal dumping of foreign products into U.S. markets.
For more information visit: https://www.fdacs.gov/Agriculture-Industry/Keep-Florida-Growing
Essential Food and Agriculture Workers
FDACS has provided a downloadable template for essential critical infrastructure worker proof of employment for travel to and from work and other duties as assigned for those in the food and agriculture industry.
Download the template here: www.dropbox.com/s/cqcsvac39osewd4/Draft%20Essential%20Worker%20Movement%20Letter%20April%202020.docx?dl=0
For more information on FDACS food worker COVID-19 safety guidance visit: www.dropbox.com/s/4tgubdosq5qxrzy/FDACS%20Food%20Worker%20COVID%20Safety%20Guidance.pdf?dl=0
Feeding Florida Program
Feeding Florida purchases cosmetically blemished produce from local agricultural producers through the Farmers Feeding Florida Program, which is funded by the state Legislature through the FDACS Food Recovery Program. Food recovered through this program is provided to households in need through Feeding Florida’s member food banks.
For more information visit: www.feedingflorida.org/feeding-florida/florida-food-banks