Covid-19 Updates for Ag Businesses

Updated 4/7/20

Here are resources that have been developed in the past several days for agricultural businesses owners operating through the current health crisis.

Micro Loan and Grant Programs: American Farmland Trust Grants ($1k max); VT Farm Fund (up to $10k Emergency Loans), FACT Mini-Grant ($500 for livestock and poultry)

US Small Business Administration Emergency Programs

Small Business Owners Guide US CARES Act: See document download below (includes Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan/Grants) Note: As of 4/1/20, We have confirmation that farm businesses are eligible for the PPP SBA programs. “Farms” (ie. 100% farm production) are not currently eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) but please stay tuned if that changes. Food processors, value-added, maple syrup producers, nursery and aquaculture may be eligble for EIDL, check details with SBA. Both these programs are “forgivable” for certain uses and do not require 100% repayment. See fact sheets below.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program webpage: A fact sheet and applications are posted below. Contact your local bank or lender for information on how to submit an application. Farms, Forest and Maple businesses are eligible for PPP.

PPP for sole proprietor owners seeking benefit for themselves. See this article on how to calculate your previous year Schedule F “Net Earnings” from prior year.

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Application

What is an Emergency EIDL Grant? As of 4/7/20: Maple syrup producers, food processing businesses,nursery, aquaculture, and agricultural cooperatives are eligibel for EIDL $10,000 loan advance with no repayment required . “Farms” are not eligible for COVID-EIDL program below.

•A borrower applying for EIDL can request an advance on the loan of up to$10,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Applications are made directly through your local bank or lender.

VT Agency of Agriculture Covid-19 Response Page: Submission form to submit your emerging business issues, newsletter sign up and resource links.

VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development Covid Updates: Covid Newsletter Sign Up, Emergency Declaration Guidance, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Submit data on your business losses to inform agencies where support is needed

VT Emergency Management: This site contains the Essential Persons List (subject to change) and it’s relation to Emergency Child Care

UVM Extension Covid Response Blog for Produce Growers

Pro Dairy Cornell :Covid Resources Update: Lots of links below!

Novel coronavirus prevention & control for farms

Richard Stup, Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development, has tips for employers regarding novel coronavirus prevention and control on farms. Talk with your employees about coronavirus, how it spreads, and how to prevent getting infected. Print the CDC factsheets and posters, post in your workplace and employee housing facilities. Provide guidance to help employees clean and disinfect employer-provided housing. Follow up with employees and manage the process to be sure that this happens. Set up a regular weekly and daily schedule for cleaning. (CDC guidance for cleaning homes) Clean and disinfect your workplace. The employee breakroom and bathroom are great places for virus to be transmitted. Clean and disinfect any areas where employees congregate or routinely touch items such as doorknobs and computer keyboards. Set up daily and weekly cleaning schedules. Provide cleaning supplies such as cleaning solutions, buckets, mops, brushes, etc. for cleaning at work and for those living in employer-provided housing. (CDC list of approved antimicrobial cleaning products) Review your sick leave policy. The first advice for people who are sick is to stay home except to get medical care. Do you provide paid sick leave for your employees? If you do not, will employees feel financially obligated to come to work even if they are sick? Communicate with employees that they should stay home if they are sick. Employees sometimes come to work believing they will face punishment or firing if they miss work. Be sure your employees understand that their health and that of their co-workers’ comes first. Communicate and make a plan to cover for sick employees. CDC provides posters in English and Spanish covering symptoms of novel coronavirus. Prepare your disaster contingency plan. What will you do if 50 percent of your employees become sick and unable to work? Are there neighboring farms who might be able to share resources in an emergency? Who will manage for a few weeks if you or another key manager are unable to leave your house or are hospitalized? Cornell’s Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) provides community education resources across the entire disaster cycle of preparedness, response, and recovery.





Ecosystem Services Valuation – What is it, and should we look at farming practices differently?

By Tony Kitsos

In my opinion, any discussion concerning ecosystems and the services we gain from them must begin with the teachings of conservationist Aldo Leopold. In his seminal book, A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949, Leopold wrote on “The Land Ethic”:

The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter down river. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.

Leopold saw the value in land “conservation,” understanding that we must be able to both use, and preserve, that which we dwell upon – not only for monetary gain but for our very existence as a species.

Enter the discussion on valuing the conservation of habitat. Ecosystem Services Valuation (ESV) can be thought of as placing emphasis on “ecosystem services” by making an explicit link between the functions of nature and the subsequent benefits (goods and services) provided to society as a result of those functions. The “goods,” such as milk, beef, seafood, forage, timber, biomass fuels and natural fiber are easy to account for and important to human welfare. They usually have monetary value and are accounted for in the traditional functioning of our economy. The “services,” on the other hand, are just as valuable but are not accounted for in the consumer market. In other words, we do not directly pay for our use of them. They provide basic life-support functions, such as clean air, clean water, flood attenuation, carbon storage and sequestering, nutrient cycling, and biodiversity, to name a few.

But should we place economic value on these services? And if so, who should pay? With Legislation beginning in 1948 through today, dozens upon dozens of legislative actions at both the federal and state levels aimed at conservation and environmental protection have been passed. Most recently, Act 64, Vermont’s Clean Water Act, came on the scene, requiring farm businesses to adopt a wide array of practices geared towards improving the water quality of our state. With a combination of grants from NRCS EQIP and VAAFM BMP sources, farms can receive significant cost share towards implementation of these practices. However, the residual costs become the responsibility of the farmer and when profit margins are razor thin at best, those costs are daunting.

Are Vermonters receiving more value than just a new manure pit or barnyard to control unwanted direct discharges? What of the ecosystem value down the road – what value should be placed on land that must be maintained and farmed in specific ways? And does the product produced become more valuable? Should those goods be revalued to account for the “ecosystem services” provided by our land stewards – the producers? We may be entering into this arena of ESV and looking at other yet-to-be-identified players to actually pay for the future “ecosystem services” provided by Vermont farmers.  

Let’s keep in mind Leopold’s description of land ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

2018 Farm Bill Becomes Law

(Betsy Miller, Farm Viability Coordinator)

After months of negotiating the 2018 Farm bill was passed by congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2018.

The bill has many components relevant to agriculture in Vermont including:

  • Legalization of hemp
  • Changes to the Margin Protection Program (MPP)  for dairy
    • Increased margin up to $9.50
    • Lower premiums for first 5 million pounds of milk from farm
    • Allows for overlap with LGM
    • Refund of portion of premiums paid from 2015 – 2017
  • Changes to NRCS EQIP Programs

For more information regarding specifics of the farm bill follow these links:

https://www.agweb.com/article/the-2018-farm-bill-what-you-need-to-know/

This agweb article includes a table with MPP premium rates.

Senator Leahy has issued a press release on the subject:

https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/leahy-hails-senate-passage-of-five-year-farm-bill