The Department of Agriculture last week approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The program is designed to connect excess meat, dairy and produce on farms with families facing food insecurity.
The funding far exceeds the $100 million per month the department initially planned for the program, due to high interest and need. The program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in dairy, $258 million in meat and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products.
The American Farm Bureau Federation and Feeding America, the country’s largest hunger relief organization, sent a letter to the USDA requesting a nimble approach to quickly and effectively get food from America’s farms to the nation’s food banks and others addressing food insecurity. USDA is authorized to spend up to $3 billion through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. These initial contracts will distribute food from May 15 through June 30, 2020.
The American Sheep Industry Association has completed the development of the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan for Business Continuity in a Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak. ASI worked with the Center for Food Security and Public Health at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine to develop this plan.
The sheep industry is a diverse industry producing quality meat and wool products under a variety of management and environmental conditions. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan focuses on business continuity in the event of an FMD outbreak. FMD is the most highly contagious disease of livestock and affects domestic cloven-hoofed animals (cattle, swine, sheep and goats) and many wild animals (deer, bison, pronghorn antelope and feral swine). FMD is not a food safety or public health concern.
Having the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan in place prior to an FMD outbreak is critical for food security and animal health and well-being. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan will facilitate the safe movement of sheep and wool with no evidence of disease from farms in an FMD control area to harvest channels or to other farms. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan will enhance coordination and communication between all parties, speed up a successful FMD response, and support continuity of operations for sheep producers and associated industries.
“The industry is pleased to have completed this plan with the assistance of the Iowa State’s Center for Food Security and Public Health and the volunteers that served on the stakeholder group,” said ASI President Benny Cox of Texas. “ASI funded this project because it is important for our producers to have a plan to follow to ensure the economic viability of the American sheep and wool industry during an FMD outbreak.”
The poultry, beef, milk and pork industries have worked collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state animal health officials and academia to develop business continuity plans for their industries. The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan is consistent with USDA’s FMD response goals and other Secure Food Supply Plans to maintain business continuity for sheep and wool producers (whose animals are not infected with FMD) and processors and to provide a safe, continuous supply of lamb, mutton and wool for consumers.
The Small Business Administration Monday announced eligibility for agricultural business in the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans and EIDL Advance programs. SBA’s EIDL portal has been closed since April 15.
However, the Agency reopened the portal in a limited capacity this week. SBA is reopening the Loan and Advance application portal to agricultural enterprises only. SBA will move forward and process the applications without the need for re-applying for producers that submitted a loan application through the portal before the legislative change in funding. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the move “will make a tremendous difference for America’s agricultural community.”
Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising livestock, aquaculture, and other farming and agricultural-related industries. Applicants must have 500 or fewer employees. For more information, visit www.sba.gov/Disaster.
The Minnesota Milk Producers Association introduced its Dairy CORE Program, which stands for Coronavirus Recovery. They say the program will get right to the heart of the industry’s biggest challenge, which is dairy farmers need cash to continue their operations.
Some members of the dairy industry recently proposed to temporarily alter the Federal Milk Marketing Order System. The Minnesota farmers point out that everyone in the industry wants higher milk prices, but arbitrarily bumping prices to a made-up number could cause more harm than good. The people who buy milk at the processing plant, as well as at the store, may decide they no longer need to buy it.
They also point out that while raising the Class 1 milk price would benefit dairies with Class 1 milk, the farms without milk in the Class 1 category would get left behind. Important parts of their CORE Program include distributing Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments as quickly as possible. They want the Federal Milk Marketing Orders to stay where they are.
They’re also calling for raising or eliminating the cap on direct payments. They say the current payment caps are out of touch with the risk undertaken by even the smallest of dairy operations.
Curtis, Neb. — The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture will distribute $200,000 in federal stimulus funding to support students facing financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funds were provided by the U.S. Department of Education through the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and are designed to prioritize aid to students based on their socioeconomic circumstances.
“We want to do anything we can to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on our students, and that includes easing the financial impact,” said Kelly Bruns, interim dean of the college. “Our students are always our No. 1 priority.”
NCTA students can receive CARES funds in one of two ways:
- About three-fourths of the federal funds will be distributed to students via direct grants, based upon their demonstrated need as calculated by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid previously submitted for the 2019-20 academic year. Students eligible for these funds will receive an email from the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid indicating that they qualify for this grant, and they will need to fill out a simple form indicating they were adversely financially impacted by COVID-19. Those grants will begin to be distributed by May 8.
- The remaining funds will be distributed in the form of emergency grants to cover unexpected costs such as housing, food, technology, or health care that resulted from the pandemic. Students will receive an email indicating that they may qualify. To apply for those funds, students should login to their MyNCTA portal and click on the financial aid tab, where they will find a link to an application. There is no deadline to apply for an emergency grant, but students are urged to apply as soon as possible because funds are limited. Eligibility will be determined based on guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and requests will be reviewed promptly.
For information, see https://ncta.unl.edu/scholarships-and-financial-aid-programs or leave a message for NCTA Financial Aid Coordinator Krista Williams at 308-367-5207.
Part of the University of Nebraska system, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is a two-year institution with a statewide mission of preparing students for successful careers in agriculture, veterinary technology and related industries.
NCTA is known for its affordable tuition, high job-placement rate for its graduates, and for the success of student teams in numerous competitive activities including crops judging, ranch horse events, livestock judging, shotgun sports, stock dog trials, and intercollegiate rodeo. The college is consistently ranked as one of the best two-year schools in the nation.