Understanding Vermont's Agricultural Recovery from COVID-19 July 23 & 29, 2020 Understanding Vermont’s Agricultural Recovery from COVID-19 is a two-part webinar series exploring how leaders in Vermont’s food system are recovering, adapting, and building resilience, from farmers to restaurants to nonprofit leaders. Hosted by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) in partnership with High Meadows Fund Part 1: Where Our Food Grows – Farmers’ & Producers’ Path to Recovery Thursday, July 23rd 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Click here to register
The first webinar will focus on the food produced in Vermont. Producers, farm business advisors, and the Agency of Agriculture, Food, & Markets will talk about how producers have adjusted to shifting markets, and what they need to survive and retain customers who have turned to local producers during the past 4 months.
Presenters: Jacob Isham of Ceres Greens, Sam Smith of Intervale Center, Mark Curran of Vermont Family Farms, and Abbey Willard of Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. Facilitated by:Gaye Symington of High Meadows Fund.
Part 2: Where Our Food Goes – Retailers’ & Restaurants’ Path to Recovery Wednesday, July 29th 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Click here to register
In the second webinar, we’ll shift to retailers and purchasers from around the state in farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and restaurants to learn how national and regional market disruptions are affecting what’s on our shelves and our plates, if and how customers in the region now think differently about where their food comes from, and whether those shifts will last beyond the recovery phase of the pandemic.
Presenters: Lynn Ellen Schimoler of Working Lands Enterprise Initiative and Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets, Mieko Ozeki of Burlington Farmers Market, Annie Harlow of Independent Retail Grocers Project, and Jed Davis of The Farmhouse Group. Facilitated by:Gaye Symington of High Meadows Fund.
Where Our Food Goes – Retailers’ & Restaurants’ Path to Recovery Wednesday, July 29th 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Click here to register
30th Annual VBSR Conference Tuesday, September 22nd via Zoom Save the Date!
Grazing Management of Stockpiled Forage Conservation plantings protect various resource concerns, but the success of these plantings is dependent on making the right management decisions. The USDA NRCS Plant Materials Program provides technical assistance on forage management to assist producers and field offices with proper grazing recommendations while addressing other conservation concerns. The James E. “Bud” Smith Plant Materials Center, Knox City, Texas evaluated six common warm-season native and introduced grasses used for winter stockpiling in North-Central Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. The grasses evaluated were ‘Alamo’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), ‘San Marcos’ eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides (L.) L.), ‘Lometa’ Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash), ‘Selection 75’ kleingrass (Panicum coloratum L.), ‘W.W.-B. Dahl’ old world bluestem [Bothrichloa bladhii (Retz) S.T. Blake], and OK Select Germplasm little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash).
The trial compared the forage quality and quantity of perennial grasses during the winter months following grazing management practices commonly used in the Texas Rolling Red Plains. The evaluation compared grazing deferment the entire growing season (ungrazed) to spring grazing followed by deferment during the summer and fall months (grazed).
The grazed condition produced more annual forage (Figure 1 below), but less forage for winter grazing as a standing hay crop going into the dormant season. For example, ‘Lometa’ Indaingrass produced over 10,000 lb/acre forage during the growing season, but only 2,400 lb/acre was available as a stockpiled crop during the winter months (Figure 2 below).
Forage quality generally decreased under both management practices during the winter months, but crude protein and digestibility were slightly higher following early season grazing. These warm-season grasses increase plant diversity in range and pasture plantings while performing other valuable services such as improving wildlife habitat, providing protection from soil erosion, and restoring the landscape to native grasslands.
The study showed with proper summer grazing management, producers can maximize the quantity and quality of warm season grasses and provide a suitable winter stockpiled forage. Contact your local NRCS field office for recommendations for forages and/or developing a prescribed grazing plan for your operation.
(Washington, D.C., January 8, 2019) – At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a plan to ensure that low-income Americans have access to the nutrition they need, despite the inability of Congress to pass an appropriations bill that safely secures our borders. The plan provides full benefits for participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the month of February. When USDA’s funding expired on December 21, 2018, SNAP benefits for January were fully funded. States have already received that money and have been distributing it to participants. Since the lapse in appropriations, USDA has been reviewing options available to the department for funding February benefits without an additional appropriation from Congress.
“At President Trump’s direction, we have been working with the Administration on this solution. It works and is legally sound. And we want to assure states, and SNAP recipients, that the benefits for February will be provided,” Perdue said. “Our motto here at USDA has been to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone.’ With this solution, we’ve got the ‘Feed Everyone’ part handled. And I believe that the plan we’ve constructed takes care of the ‘Do Right’ part as well.”
To protect SNAP participants’ access for February, USDA is working with states to issue February benefits earlier than usual. USDA will rely on a provision of the just-expired Continuing Resolution (CR), which provides an appropriation for programs like SNAP and child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations within 30 days of the CR’s expiration. USDA will be reaching out to states to instruct them to request early issuance of SNAP benefits for February. States will have until January 20th to request and implement the early issuance. Once the early issuances are made, the February benefits will be made available to SNAP participants at that time. USDA has also ensured the other major nutrition assistance programs have sufficient funding to continue operations into February. The child nutrition programs, including school meals and after-school programs have funding available to continue operations through March. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has prior year funding which USDA will begin to provide states this week to facilitate February benefits. Other FNS programs, which provide critical assistance to our nation’s food banks, the elderly, and Tribal nations, may continue to utilize grant funding provided prior to the lapse in appropriations. Commodity deliveries to those programs will continue. Nutrition Assistance Programs under a Lapse in Appropriations Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
USDA will use the authority under the last Continuing Resolution to issue February benefits. The Continuing Resolution that expired December 21, 2018 provided an appropriation for programs like SNAP and Child Nutrition to incur obligations for program operations during the 30 day-period following the expiration of the Act.
States will need to take action to issue February benefits on or before January 20, 2019. We will be reaching out to States to instruct them to request early issuance of SNAP benefits for February. States will have until January 20 to implement this early issuance.
Once these early issuances are made, the February benefits will be made available to SNAP participants at that time. SNAP monthly issuance for February is estimated to be approximately $4.8 billion and State administrative expense (SAE) is estimated at about $350 million for a total need of approximately $5.1 billion.
This approach requires careful coordination. FNS has noticed States to hold their issuance files. States would, instead, implement an early issuance strategy, providing February benefits to SNAP participants on or before January 20, 2019. We will be working with States individually on how this approach is executed, in order to issue benefits to eligible households in the most efficient and equitable manner possible.
Child Nutrition Programs
For these programs, including school meals and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, States already have funding to cover CN program operations for the month of January (approximately $2.1 billion) on the basis of the last continuing resolution.
This week, we will provide an additional two months’ worth of funding, consistent with the standard practice of funding these programs on a quarterly basis.
Supplemental Nutrition and Safety Programs
For WIC, FNS has identified resources to cover projected State expenditures for February. The agency will allocate at least $248 million to State agencies this week, and we have identified an additional $350 million in unspent prior year funds to allocate at a later date. A total of approximately $600 million in funding will be provided to WIC State agencies. We will continue to work with States to make resources available to the extent possible.
For the WIC Farmers’ Market (FMNP) and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Programs (SFMNP), FNS does not anticipate significant operational impacts as they are seasonal benefit programs with annual grant funds.
For the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), food deliveries planned for February will continue. Due to the lapse, States have not received their 2019 caseload assignments, so CSFP-participating States must operate at 2018’s caseload levels. Similarly, states have received no additional administrative funds since the lapse, and none can be made available until the lapse ends.
For The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), food deliveries planned for February (including entitlement, bonus and trade mitigation) will continue. States have received no additional administrative funds since the lapse, and none can be made available until the lapse ends.
For the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), food deliveries planned for February will continue. FDPIR programs have administrative funding through January 31 and are expected to operate the program.
How Seeding Rates Can Affect Species Composition In Pollinator Plantings USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provided this bulletin at 01/02/2019. Now that fall is coming to an end and winter begins to show its face, it is time to start thinking about establishing pollinator plantings. One thing to consider is what species to plant, and which species are best adapted and most compatible in a multiple specie mixture. In 2016, the staff at the Elsberry, Missouri Plant Materials Center (PMC) planted a demonstration pollinator planting to investigate establishment of multiple plant species beneficial to the Monarch butterfly and other valuable pollinators.The USDA NRCS Elsberry Plant Materials Center used demonstration plantings to compare 10 species of pollinator mixtures at 2 different rates and determine if there is a difference in species composition. Species were selected from the conservation practice standard for rare and declining habitats (NRCS conservation practice 643), and a list of milkweed species recommended for the Midwest. Ten species were selected for their value to Monarch butterflies, commercial availability of seed, seed expense, and bloom time with relation to the presence of Monarch butterflies in the Midwest (May through September). Listed below are the 10native forb species used in the demonstration planting along with their forbs and species composition of the seed mix.
The planting was seeded at the PMC in February 2016 as a winter dormant planting at a rate of 20 and 40 seeds/ft2. First year management consisted of mowing the planting 3-4 times to control weeds that would potentially out-compete the native forb seedlings. In 2017, the planting began to mature and several species began to show their beautiful flowers. Evaluations indicate that while the higher seeding rate did increase the abundance of species, it was not significantly higher for most.
Native Plant Species Abundance (Averaged along a 100 foot transect) Lowering or adjusting the seeding rates of wildflower species for pollinator habitat plantings may be effective in keeping costs for these plantings more reasonable. However, lower seeding rates may also lead to increased open spaces in the planting. This may cause other issues such as erosion or weediness depending on the site. The addition of less competitive grasses may help in addressing erosion or weediness issues. At the time this demonstration was developed, NRCS required a minimum of 9 species for most wildlife-friendly plantings, which is the requirement this study was developed around. Currently, the NRCS minimum requirement is a 20 species forb mixture for pollinator, monarch butterfly, and natural community plantings. When developing a pollinator mix be sure to consider all the resource issues at the planting site and pay careful attention to the composition of the mix to promote more desirable species, such as milkweeds for Monarch butterflies. Crucial to your success is to control weed species before planting, practice good management of the stand in the first couple of years, and above all be patient with your pollinator habitat planting!
A seed mixture at 20 seeds per square foot still demonstrates plenty of color for pollinators to be attracted to. A bottomland field demonstrating several different species blooming and providing food for pollinators. A painted lady butterfly feeds on the flower of a New England Aster plant.
The Plant Materials Program provides application-oriented technology including technical publications, fact sheets, conservation plant releases of conservation plants, conservation plant identification tools for conducting plant materials work and land restoration, and other plant information. The Plant Materials Program has an extensive listing of publications categorized by topic. More information
The Viability Program has an upcoming fall deadline (November 30th) for businesses looking to enroll in the business planning program. The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Programprovides business planning, technical assistance and succession planning to Vermont farms, food businesses, forest products businesses, and forestland owners. Though our network of partners (including University of Vermont Extension, the Intervale Center, NOFA-VT, Center for an Agricultural Economy, Land For Good, Vermont Woodlands Association, and private consultants), we provide one-on-one, custom-tailored assistance. In the Viability Program, business owners work with skilled advisors to explore management and enterprise changes to increase net profitability; improve financial record keeping; develop skills in marketing, sales and human resources; receive focused management coaching; and develop ownership succession plans.
Every year, participants exit our program with a written business plan, improved business management skills, and a clearer vision for where they want to take their businesses and a plan for how to get there. The fall 2017 deadline for enrollment is November 30th, 2017 There is a $75 enrollment fee; for most participants, that is the only cost. Applications and information related to eligibility, are available online at http://www.vhcb.org/viability or by contacting the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 828-3370. This is a program of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board.
USDA Rural Development is currently soliciting applications for the Multi-Family Housing Preservation and Revitalization (MPR) program. The MPR program pre-applications will be accepted until close of business on December 1, 2017.
The MPR program restructures loans for existing Rural Rental Housing and Off-Farm Labor Housing projects to help improve and preserve the availability of safe affordable rental housing for low-income residents. Eligible applicants include current Rural Development multi-family housing project owners with active loans. Applicants can apply for the following restructuring tools: grants (limited to non-profit applicants), loans, and debt deferrals.
MPR funds may be used to preserve or improve existing housing in order to extend affordable use without displacing tenants through increased rents, or to perform a third party Capital Needs Assessment to help identify project needs.
Thank you for your work, Seth Leonard, Housing Program Director
TOP OF PAGE
USDA Soils Survey Manual The Soil Survey Manual is now available online as a downloadable PDF! You can print or view the entire manual or specific chapters. Hardbound copies are in limited supply making the PDF format easier to acquire. Simply click on: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/ref/?cid=nrcs142p2_054262 The newly updated Soil Survey Manual provides the major principles and practices needed for making and using soil surveys and for assembling and using related data.
USDA Seeks Applications for Grants to Help Repair Housing in Rural Communities
MONTPELIER, June 2, 2017: – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking applications for grants to make housing repairs for low- and very-low-income rural residents. The grants are being provided through USDA Rural Development’sHousing Preservation Grant program.
Housing Preservation Grants help rural homeowners and rental housing owners repair and improve their properties. Funds may be used to resolve health or safety issues, make accessibility modifications for people with disabilities, or make energy-efficiency improvements to lower utility costs.
Eligible New Hampshire and Vermont applicants include municipalities, public agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations. USDA does not provide funding directly to homeowners under this program. For additional eligibility information, see page 25228 of the June 1, 2017 Federal Register.
USDA provided Housing Preservation Grants to seven Vermont and New Hampshire organizations in 2016 helping preserve housing for 58 families. Recipients included: Southwestern Community Service (NH), Tri-County Community Action (NH), the Vermont Center for Independent Living (VT), Southeastern Vermont Community Action (VT), Gilman Housing Trust (VT), Northeast Employment and Training Organization (VT), and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VT).
USDA supports housing preservation as part of its mission to improve the quality of life in rural America. In 2016, USDA Rural Development helped 5,771 Vermont and New Hampshire families obtain and preserve safe and affordable housing. This June, USDA Rural Development is celebrating housing as the bedrock of rural economic development as part of Homeownership Month.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Proclaims August 7-13 "National Farmers Market Week" WASHINGTON, July 11, 2016 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today signed a proclamation declaring Aug. 7-13, 2016, as "National Farmers Market Week." This year marks the 17th annual National Farmers Market Week to honor and celebrate the important role that farmers markets play in local economies. "Farmers markets are an important part of strong local and regional food systems that connect farmers with new customers and grow rural economies. In many areas, they are also expanding access to fresh, healthy food for people of all income levels," said Secretary Vilsack. "National Farmers Market Week recognizes the growth of these markets and their role in supporting both urban and rural communities."
Throughout the week, USDA officials will celebrate at farmers market locations across the country. On Saturday, Aug. 6, Elanor Starmer, the Administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – which conducts research, provides technical assistance, and awards grants to support local and regional food systems – will kick off the week visiting a farmers market and wrap up the week at USDA's own farmers market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Aug. 12. "Farmers markets are a gathering place where you can buy locally produced food, and at the same time, get to know the farmer and story behind the food you purchase," said Administrator Starmer. "These types of markets improve earning potential for farmers and ranchers, building stronger community ties and access to local foods."
To help farmers market managers across the country promote and celebrate National Farmers Market Week, USDA is sharing online free farmers market related graphics that market managers and others can use to customize posters, emails, websites and other promotional materials. The graphics, along with a short demonstration video, can be found at: www.ams.usda.gov/resources/NFMW Over the course of the Obama Administration, USDA has invested close to $1 billion in 40,000 local food businesses and infrastructure projects. Farmers markets provide consumers with fresh, affordable, convenient, and healthy products from local producers. With support from USDA, more farmers markets offer customers the opportunity to make purchases with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program; and the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Programs.
Supporting farmers markets is a part of the USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Initiative, which coordinates the Department's work to develop strong local and regional food systems. USDA is committed to helping farmers, ranchers, and businesses access the growing market for local and regional foods, which was valued at $12 billion in 2014 according to industry estimates. You can also find local and regional supply chain resources on the newly-revamped KYF2 website and use the KYF2 Compass to locate USDA investments in your community. More information on how USDA investments are connecting producers with consumers and expanding rural economic opportunities is available in Chapter IV of USDA Results on Medium.
USDA Lowers Cost to Refinance Rural Housing Loans
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2016 – USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez today announced a series of changes that will make it faster and cheaper for homeowners to refinance USDA mortgages. “These changes reaffirm the Obama Administration’s commitment to middle-class Americans, and I am pleased that we continue to provide affordable housing to support thriving economies in rural communities,” Hernandez said. “Helping homeowners refinance their homes to reduce their monthly payments and take advantage of low interest rates will bring increased capital to rural residents and the communities where they live and work.”
The changes apply to mortgages issued through USDA and those where USDA has issued a loan note guarantee. They take effect June 2, 2016. Homeowners current on their mortgages for the past 12 months will no longer be required to secure an appraisal, provide a credit report or undergo a debt-to-income calculation when they refinance for a 30-year term. These changes will save time and money.
USDA began testing these changes in a 2012 a pilot program that was later expanded to include 34 states and Puerto Rico. To date, nearly 9,500 homeowners have refinanced their mortgages. Some borrowers saved as much as $600 a month. The average savings is around $150 per month. The streamlined rules are consistent with banking industry lending standards. These refinanced loans, like all USDA Rural Development housing loans, meet rigorous underwriting standards and are made only to qualified borrowers. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs have similar programs for the Americans they serve.
Interested homeowners with USDA loan guarantees should contact their lender about refinance procedures. Homeowners with USDA Direct loans should contact a USDA housing specialist. For additional details on these new changes, please see page 26461 of the May 3 Federal Register. To learn more about USDA housing programs, please contact a housing specialist at your nearest USDA Rural Development office. A list of State offices is available at: http://www.rd.usda.gov/contact-us/state-offices. Contact: Catherine Dugan (202) 720-0999
TOP OF PAGE
USDA Awards $46 Million to Boost Energy Efficiency in Vermont New Economic Opportunities to be Created for Businesses and Residents
BURLINGTON, Vt., Jan. 8, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today awarded $46 million in assistance to the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) to support energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements in rural areas across the state.
USDA awarded VEIC $46 million in assistance to help its customers save money, and live more comfortably by installing renewable energy systems and making energy efficiency upgrades, such as switching to cleaner and more efficient fuel sources and installing energy efficient building upgrades. This is the largest Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program (EECLP) project in terms of both financing and scale that the USDA's Rural Utilities Service has made since the program's launch in December 2013.
"This loan will reduce barriers to energy investments by lowering the upfront costs, spreading these costs over 20 years, and by making financing more available," Vilsack said. "It also will help residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial consumers in rural Vermont reduce energy use and meet state and national energy goals." VEIC will operate and administer their program through Efficiency Vermont, an energy efficiency utility with a state-wide and predominantly rural service territory. The utility has a 15-year history of providing efficient lighting, appliances, equipment, and HVAC systems to residential and business customers. Efficiency Vermont dedicates a portion of its annual budget to services for low-income residents. VEIC's partnership with Efficiency Vermont serves as a model of how utilities can enable large-scale energy efficiency and renewable investments.
This USDA loan is expected to provide major benefits to rural Vermont residents, businesses, and communities beyond reducing the burden of energy costs. For example, reducing energy costs for farmers and food manufacturers—including family run dairies and maple syrup producers—can help them remain competitive. Cost-effective and high-quality energy efficiency upgrades will enable families and business to feel more comfortable during Vermont's long heating season and spend less on heating costs.
To date, the program has provided $56.6 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in rural areas. It also is another step by which USDA is supporting President Obama's Climate Action Plan. The program will help build a cleaner and more sustainable domestic energy sector for future generations by reducing barriers to investment in energy efficiency and potentially cutting energy bills for rural American families and businesses in the process.
USDA has other energy initiatives in addition to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program. Since 2009, the Department has provided financing for more than 14,000 energy projects nationwide through $2.1 billion in strategic investments to support rural businesses and American energy independence. These programs have saved more than 10.5 billion kilowatt hours of energy and have produced 160 million gallons of advanced biofuels. In Vermont alone, USDA invested nearly $2.7 billion between 2009 and 2014. This includes more than $680 million in economic development to support affordable housing and create jobs; more than $263 million in infrastructure development, including electricity, broadband and telecommunications, water, and community facilities; and $135 million through conservation efforts to protect Vermont's land, water and air resources. In 2016, we will continue to build on that investment to support the farmers, growers and rural small businesses driving the rural economy forward, including accepting new applications to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program, carry out record conservation efforts, facilitate groundbreaking research, promote new markets for rural products, and provide a safe, affordable and nutritious food supply for Vermont families.
President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.
SUPPORT LOCAL FARMING
Harvest Season: The Promise of Rural America At the core of USDA's mission is fostering economic opportunity and innovation to help rural America grow and create jobs. That means finding out what works and building on our successes to expand opportunities for American farmers and ranchers and yield positive results for our rural communities. Last week we announced preliminary Farm to School Census data for school year 2013-2014 indicating that last year schools purchased nearly $600 million worth of food locally. That’s 55% more than when the first Farm to School Census was conducted during school year 2011-2012! The census data indicate that in addition to increased consumption, strong farm to school programs also reduce plate waste and increase participation in the school meals program. Those numbers are good news for our kids who have more healthy, fresh options to choose from in the school cafeteria, and good news for farmers and ranchers who benefit from expanded marketing opportunities in their local communities.
You can see more ways USDA is working to invest in new market opportunities for local and regional food systems in a fact sheet we released last week. We also announced nearly $2.3 billion in loans to build and improve rural electric infrastructure in 31 states. The announcement included funding for smart grid technology, renewable energy improvements and storm damage repairs. These loans will also help build or improve 12,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines. Learn more about the program and find a project in your state.
Stay tuned this month as we highlight some of our nation’s #HarvestHeroes and continue to celebrate the promise of rural America, and the #RuralMade economy.
TOP OF PAGE
USDA Seeks Applications for $16.8 Million in Grants to Empower SNAP Participants to Make Healthy Eating Choices Contact: David Glasgow (202) 690-0548 or David.email@example.com
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the availability of up to $16.8 million in funding to help participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increase their purchases of fruits and vegetables. The funding is available to local, state and national organizations to test incentive strategies to help SNAP participants better afford healthy foods. This is the second round of awards to be made under the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) program created by the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture will administer the grants. "Eating healthy foods makes a difference to an entire family's health and ability to learn, work and enjoy life," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "These investments are moving the dial for families in need and expanding the market for America's fruit and vegetable producers. The FINI program scales up public-private collaboration to develop innovative strategies that make healthy fruits and vegetables more accessible to families around the country, part of our strategy to improve the diet and health of all Americans." FINI connects stakeholders from distinct parts of the food system and fosters partnerships to improve the nutrition and health status of lower-income households. These resources will allow partnerships like these to help even more families.
Funded projects will test community based strategies that contribute to our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants through incentives at the point of purchase, supported by efficient benefit redemption technologies, that inform future efforts.
Applications are due December 16, 2015. NIFA will host a webinar for applicants on October 14, 2015 at 2:00 p.m., EDT at http://nifa-connect.nifa.usda.gov/finip/. Applications are sought in three categories: (1) FINI pilot projects (awards not to exceed $100,000 in one year); (2) multi-year, community-based FINI projects (awards not to exceed $500,000 over no more than four years); and (3) multi-year, FINI large-scale projects (awards of $500,000 or more over no more than four years).
Priority is given to projects that:
Maximize the share of funds used for direct incentives to participants
Provide incentives that are most likely to directly and efficiently increase the purchase and consumption of eligible fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants
Test innovative or promising strategies that would contribute to our understanding of how best to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by SNAP participants and inform future efforts
Improve or develop innovative benefit redemption systems that can be replicated or scaled
Use direct-to-consumer marketing
Demonstrate a track record of designing and implementing successful nutrition incentive programs that connect low-income consumers and agricultural producers
Provide locally- or regionally-produced fruits and vegetables, especially culturally-appropriate fruits and vegetables for a target group of consumers
FINI is a joint effort between NIFA and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, which oversees SNAP and has responsibility for evaluating the impacts of the incentive projects. Funding for the FINI program is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.
SNAP—the nation's first line of defense against hunger—helps put food on the table for millions of families experiencing hardship. The program has never been more critical to the fight against hunger. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children, and 42 percent of participants live in households in which at least one adult is working but still cannot afford to put food on the table. SNAP benefits provided critical assistance to millions who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. For many, SNAP benefits provide temporary assistance, with the average new applicant remaining on the program 12 months.
NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science, visit nifa.usda.gov/impacts or follow us on Twitter @usda_nifa, #NIFAImpacts.
LOCALLY GROWN FRESH PRODUCE
NEWS: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 2-8, 2015, National Farmers Market Week, noting that the country's more than 8,400 farmers markets play an important role in sustaining family farms and revitalizing rural communities. Secretary Vilsack has identified strengthening local food systems – including farmers markets – as one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic development and job creation. The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiativecoordinates USDA's resources, and outreach efforts related to this work.
USDA' s Rural Programs June is Homeownership Month Across Vermont and New Hampshire, our partner organizations, especially the nine NeighborWorks of America organizations serving the Green and White Mountains, mark the importance homeownership plays in our communities. Homeownership builds equity, people and community. This year USDA Rural Development staff will be celebrating the American dream by highlighting our borrowers and celebrating our partners. Follow us on Twitter to learn more @RD_VTandNH.
Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants: July 6th The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program finances telecommunications equipment, computer networks and advanced technologies for use by students, teachers, medical professionals and rural residents. Minimum grant amounts are $50,000; maximum amounts are $500,000. Click here for more information.
Housing Preservation Grant Program: July 6th USDA is seeking applications for grants to make housing repairs for low- and very-low-income rural residents. Eligible applicants for Housing Preservation Grants include town or county governments, public agencies, federally recognized Indian Tribes, and non-profit and faith-based organizations. Organizations working in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom (Caledonia, Essex and Orleans Counties) may apply for the Rural Economic Area Partnership Zone set aside.
Value-Added Producer Grants Program: July 7th The USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grant program provides farmers with up to $250,000 in working capital or feasibility funding to turn raw agricultural products into finished products that increase producer profitability and create jobs. The deadline for grant submissions is July 7th. Click here to learn more.
Rural Community Development Initiative Deadline: August 13thRural Community Development Initiative grants support rural housing, community facilities and economic development projects. Funds may be used to develop child care facilities; provide education, technical assistance and training; conduct strategic planning, and conduct other projects that help local communities develop their capacity. Maximum grant amount: $250,000. Eligible grant recipients are non-profit housing and community development organizations. Click here for more information.
TOP OF PAGE
AGRICULTURE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF SWANTON'S ECONOMY
USDA’s Building Blocks for Smart Agriculture & Forestry Fact Sheet The U.S. Department of Agriculture is announcing a comprehensive and detailed approach to support farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners in their response to climate change.
The USDA will use authorities in the 2014 Farm Bill to provide incentives and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners.
USDA’s strategy will be based on the following principles: Voluntary and incentive-based: Farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners are stewards of the land. USDA has a track record of successful conservation though voluntary programs designed to provide technical assistance for resource management. These efforts fit within USDA’s approach of “cooperative conservation.” Focused on multiple economic and environmental benefits: To be successful, the proposed actions should provide economic and environmental benefits through efficiency improvements, improved yields, or reduced risks. Meet the needs of producers: This strategy is designed for working farms, ranches, forests, and production systems. USDA will encourage actions that enhance productivity and improve efficiency. Asess progress and measure success: USDA is committed to establishing quantitative goals and objectives for each building block and will track and report on progress. Cooperative and focused on building partnerships: USDA will seek out opportunities to leverage efforts by industry, farm groups, conservation organizations, municipalities, public and private investment products, tribes, and states.
USDA’s strategy is made of these 10 building blocks: Soil Health: Improve soil resilience and increase productivity by promoting conservation tillage and no-till systems, planting cover crops, planting perennial forages, managing organic inputs and compost application, and alleviating compaction. USDA aims to increase no-till implementation from the current 67 million acres to over 100 million acres by 2025. Nitrogen Stewardship: Focus on the right timing, type, placement and quantity of nutrients to reduce nitrous oxide emissions and provide cost savings through efficient application. Livestock Partnerships: Encourage broader deployment of anaerobic digesters, lagoon covers, composting, and solids separators to reduce methane emissions from cattle, dairy, and swine operations. USDA plans to support 500 new digesters over the next 10 years, as well as expand the use of covers on 10 percent of anaerobic lagoons used in dairy cattle and hog operations. Conservation of Sensitive Lands: Use the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) to reduce GHG emissions through riparian buffers, tree planting, and the conservation of wetlands and organic soils. By 2025, USDA aims to enroll 400,000 acres of CRP lands with high greenhouse gas benefits, protect 40,000 acres through easements, and gain additional benefits by transferring expiring CRP acres to permanent easements. Grazing and Pasture Lands: Support rotational grazing management, avoiding soil carbon loss through improved management of forage, soils and grazing livestock. By 2025, USDA plans to support improved grazing management on an additional 4 million acres, for a total of 20 million acres. Private Forest Growth and Retention: Through the Forest Legacy Program and the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, protect almost 1 million additional acres of working landscapes. Employ the Forest Stewardship Program to cover an average of 2.1 million acres annually (new or revised plans), in addition to the 26 million acres covered by active plans. Stewardship of Federal Forests: Reforest areas damaged by wildfire, insects, or disease, and restore forests to increase their resilience to those disturbances. USDA plans to reforest 5,000 additional post-disturbance acres by 2025. Promotion of Wood Products: Increase the use of wood as a building material, to store additional carbon in buildings while offsetting the use of energy from fossil fuel. USDA plans to expand the number of wood building projects supported through cooperative agreements with partners and technical assistance, in addition to research and market promotion for new, innovative wood building products. Urban Forests: Encourage tree planting in urban areas to reduce energy costs, storm water runoff, and urban heat island effects while increasing carbon sequestration, curb appeal, and property values. Working with partners, USDA plans to plant an average of 9,000 additional trees in urban areas per year through 2025. Energy Generation and Efficiency: Promote renewable energy technologies and improve energy efficiency. Through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program, work with utilities to improve the efficiency of equipment andappliances. Using the Rural Energy for America Program and other programs, develop additional renewable energy, bioenergy and biofuel opportunities. Support the National On-Farm Energy Initiative to improve farm energy efficiency through cost-sharing and energy audits.
TOP OF PAGE
USDA Announces Record Number of Organic Producers in U.S.
WASHINGTON, April 15, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the organic industry continues to show remarkable growth domestically and globally, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and a total of 27,814 certified organic operations around the world.
According to data released by the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP), the number of domestic certified organic operations increased by more than 5 percent over the last year. Since the count began in 2002, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by over 250 percent. The certified operations list is available at apps.ams.usda.gov/nop.
"As demand for organic products continues to soar, more and more producers are entering the organic market," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "USDA tools and resources have created opportunities for organic farmers and more options for organic consumers. Growing demand for organic goods can be especially helpful to smaller family operations. The more diverse type of operations and the more growing market sectors we have in American agriculture, the better off our country's rural economy will be."
USDA is committed to connecting organic farmers and businesses with resources to ensure the continued growth of the organic industry. Along with programs to support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and integrated pest management, USDA administers organic certification cost share programs to offset the costs of organic certification for U.S. producers and handlers nationwide.
Now, USDA is using funding from the 2014 Farm Bill to develop the Organic Integrity Database, a modernized certified organic operations database that will provide accurate information about all certified operations that is updated on a regular basis. The modernized system will allow anyone to confirm organic certification status using the online tool, support market research and supply chain connections, allow international verification of operator status to streamline import and export certificates, and establish technology connections with certifiers to provide more accurate and timely data. The initial launch is planned for September 2015.
Anyone seeking federal grants or low-interest loans to start sustainable agriculture, forestry, entrepreneurship, food systems, conservation, or community development programs can acquire a newly revised guide published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The guide is titledBuilding Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities. It describes 63 programs that are intended to assist local governments, private businesses and individual producers in a wide range of sustainability, economic development and conservation efforts. The 86-page guide is available as afree download (click here) or for sale as a printed document.
Vermont Strong Communities Quarterly
SWANTON TOWN CENTER
Strong Communities is a quarterly newsletter published by the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to highlight news, trends and best practices to strengthen your community. Each issue spotlights planning and revitalization successes throughout Vermont, outline upcoming grant and training opportunities, and provide tools you can use in your community. Please click on the button below to access the current issue of the newsletter:
USDA to Conduct Grant Workshops to Support Local Foods WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced a partnership through the Agricultural Marketing Service Technical Assistance (AMSTA) Project to conduct workshops that will help potential grant applicants understand, develop, and submit their Federal grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.
"The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program is a key to USDA's efforts to revitalize rural economies by supporting local and regional food systems," said AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo. "The grant workshops will ensure that more communities and businesses across the country can participate in the competitive grant process with proposals that create real economic opportunities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food."
NIFA is coordinating the workshops through the Regional Rural Development Centers. Cooperative Extension System educators will provide training in all regions of the country, and NIFA will conduct outreach to raise awareness of AMS grant opportunities and increase participation in the programs. The AMS and NIFA collaborative effort for this innovative national training project will be directed by Dr. Stephan J. Goetz of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development based at Penn State University.
A list of upcoming grant workshop dates and locations can be found at http://www.amsta.net. More workshops will be added soon, and the State representatives listed on the website can be contacted for additional information about upcoming workshops. Some of the workshop sessions will be recorded and available for online viewing for those not able to attend in person.
With $30 million authorized annually by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) through fiscal year 2018, AMS's Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program awards competitive grants to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local and regional markets. The Farmers Market Promotion Program supports farmers markets and other direct producer-to-consumer activities, while the Local Food Promotion Program supports enterprises that aggregate, store, distribute and process local and regional food.
These investments are part of USDA's commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy foods. USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) coordinates USDA's support for local and regional food systems. Projects aligned with these efforts can be found on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. For more information on AMS visit www.ams.usda.gov, and for more on NIFA visit www.nifa.usda.gov.
TOP OF PAGE
SCHOOLS SUPPORT LOCAL FARMING
FARM TO SCHOOL PROGRAMS CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR FARMERS
This year, in every month of the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers –and English, math, and social studies instructors, too will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment (click on the photo to access featured videos & webinars).
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country.
For example, the Lake County Community Development Corporation in Bozeman, Montana reports a 40 percent increase in revenues to farmers based on school sales alone. The Southwest Georgia Project, a community development non-profit, notes that “We’re actually seeing our farmers have hope. The farm to school program allows them to see an opportunity for a sustainable living for themselves and their families.” Testimonials in a USDA video released this week highlight the degree to which farm to school programs support healthy eating behaviors among children and provide positive economic impacts to local communities.
Strengthening local food systems is one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic development, and Farm to School programs can play an important role. To support the expansion of Farm to School programs into more schools and expand opportunity for farmers and ranchers, USDA offers grants, training, and technical assistance. Since the start of our Farm to School Grant Program in fiscal year 2013, for example, USDA has awarded grants to 139 projects spanning 46 states and the District of Columbia, serving more than 16,200 schools and 4.55 million students, nearly 43% of whom live in rural communities.
Just this week, I visited the George Washington Carver Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia and the Virginia State Fair to announce more than $52 million in new USDA grants nationwide to support the development of the local, regional and organic food sectors. You can learn more about USDA’s investments at www.usda.gov/results.
At USDA we’re transforming school food and creating a healthier next generation. We’re happy to celebrate in October, but we’re going to be cheering for schools with farm to school programs all year long. When students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm, they’re more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. I see the change every time I visit a cafeteria; students light up when meeting their farmer. They are piling their trays full of healthy foods, they are learning healthy habits that they will carry with them for life, and they are learning an appreciation for the American farmer that they will carry with them their entire lives. - USDA Secretary Vilsak
TOP OF PAGE
VT SHORELAND PROTECTION ACT
VT SHORELAND PROTECTION ACT - In May 2014, the Vermont legislature passed a Shoreland Protection Act (Ch. 49A, 10 V.S.A. Section 1441 et. seq.) that regulates activities within 250 feet of a lake's mean water level for all lakes greater than 10 acres in size. In general, the Act seeks to prevent the degradation of water quality in a lake by controlling new development within the protected shoreland zone. Click on the photo at left for more info. The new Vermont Shoreland Protection Act has an informative website available at http://www.watershedmanagement.vt.gov/permits/htm/pm_shoreland.htm. The Act took effect on July 1, 2014. More information is available at the Northwest Regional Planning Commission at 802-524-5958.
9-VOLT BATTERY SAFETY TIPS
BEWARE OF 9-VOLT BATTERIES - 9-volt batteries are one of the most commonly used battery types in the home. They can, however, create a dangerous fire hazard if not stored or disposed of properly. The danger is created by the two exposed posts which can short circuit if touching something metal & make enough heat to start a fire. Click on the graphic at left to view a detailed sheet.
EASTERN EQUINE ENCEPHALITIS (EEE) & WEST NILE VIRUS - Both are serious infectious diseases that are present in Vermont & are transmitted by mosquitoes. In 2012, two Vermonters died from EEE. In 2013, EEE killed two horses in Franklin County - one in Highgate & one in Swanton. Click on the flier on the left for more details. Information on these two diseases & other health topics is available at www.healthvermont.gov .