Support for Farms Applying to Covid-Relief Grants

UVM Extension Farm Viability business advisors are working with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) Viability network to offer assistance to all farmers with the Vermont Covid Ag Assistance Program . VHCB has an intake form here to request assistance with your grant application.

The deadline for grant applications is October 1, 2020. To learn more about the program visit the website: VT Covid-19 Agricultural Assistance Program

 A number of other programs have emerged to provide funds or support services to farms across Vermont. See the Ag Covid Program Directory below. This document includes several links to grants, FSA payment programs and educational events.

Covid-19 Updates for Ag Businesses

Updated 5/13/20

This page is being updated regularly with resources for agricultural businesses owners operating through the current health crisis.

Vermont Policy Updates

(4/24/20) Governor Scott releases new policy to open today for nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers, effective Monday April 27th, 2020. See Addendum 11. This announcement, effective April 27th, 2020, allows for in-person customer purchase of seeds, annuals, vegetable seedlings, perennials, herbs, shrubs, trees, and other landscaping and gardening materials from an outdoor retail operation in adherence to the guidelines outlined in Addendum 11.

(4/24/20) Vermont Farmers Markets will be allowed to reopen under the new Farmers Market Guidance released by Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM)

(4/22/20) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The Vermont Department of Labor is now set-up to accept unemployment claims for “self employed” business owners under PUA. PUA website for Self Employed and online application page

Micro Loan and Grant Programs: Rural VT Farmers Market Grant ($500), 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

5/4/20 : As of today (5/4) EIDL application webpage opened up today! New PPP applications are being processed. Prepare your PPP applications directly with your local bank/lender.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) webpage: Updated fact sheets 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 Self Employed (sole proprietor) seeking benefit for themselves. See this article on how to calculate your previous year Schedule F “Net Earnings” from prior year.

(4/15/20) Updated Eligibility Guidelines for PPP, See page 6 for how business owners with no employees will calculate amounts. Where is says “Schedule C Line 31”, farm owners will use “Schedule F Line 34” Click Link Below

What is an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance? 4/22/20 “Farms” will be eligible for the EIDL program in the second relief package. We expect the SBA online application eligibility section to reflect that chance once the program re-opens.

A borrower applying for EIDL can request an advance on the loan of up to $10,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA). See the SBA EIDL Website. Applications are made online with the SBA directly. EIDL “advance” amounts are based on $1,000 per employee, thus a business with 10 or more employees can apply for the $10k max. The actual EIDL Loan can be for up to $2M and has an interest rate of 3.75%

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Application

Small Business Owners Guide US CARES Act: See document download below (includes Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan/Grants) Note: As of 4/24/20, We have confirmation that farm businesses are eligible for the PPP SBA programs. “Farms” (ie. 100% farm production) are also eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Food processors, value-added, maple syrup producers, nursery and aquaculture are eligble for EIDL. Both these programs feauture “forgivable” portions for certain uses and do not require 100% repayment. See the CARES Act Summary below.

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

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