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Small-scale farmers, food processors or distributors, or farmers markets financially impacted by Covid-19 can now apply for up to $20,000 to recover costs related to the pandemic. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is helping food producers access these dollars through the USDA’s Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Program. Applications are now open until Nov. 22, 2021.

If you operate a small farm producing specialty crops whose annual revenue is less than $1 million, run a farmers market, food hub, community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, a small food processing business or food manufacturing operation, you may be eligible for grant funding.

According to the USDA, the pandemic-related costs that are recoverable through this grant program relate to the following areas, and include estimating staff time to implement:

  • Workplace Safety: Implementing workplace safety measures to protect against COVID-19 such as providing personal protective equipment, thermometers, cleaning supplies, sanitizers, hand washing stations, installation and purchase of air filters or new signage.
  • Market Pivots: Implementing market pivots to protect against COVID–19. Though not exactly well-defined market pivot are related to cost of changing how you had to operate your enterprise to make it more COVID-19 safe including the staff time to implement these changes. For example, a farmers’ market may have had to restructure their layout to ensure one-way traffic and improve social distancing.
  • Retrofitting Facilities: Retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID–19 such as installation and purchase of protective barriers, walk up windows, heat lamps/heaters, fans, tents, propane, weights, tables chairs and lighting.
  • Transportation: Providing additional transportation options to maintain social distancing and worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID-19 such as securing additional transportation services for workers or establishing new delivery routed or distribution services. For instance, a food hub might have had to shift to delivering food directly to consumers rather than just having to have common distribution point.
  • Worker Housing: Providing additional worker housing resources or services to maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining of new or exposed employees.
  • Medical: Providing health services to protect workers against COVID-19 including offering or enabling vaccinations, testing, or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including paid leave.

This is not a competitive grant program; grants will be awarded based on eligibility. Funding is not awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the 45-day application period opened October 6.

Before applying, all applicants must obtain a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number. This DUNS number will be required to receive this grant. More information on how to obtain a DUNS number, plus full eligibility criteria can be found at the USDA’s website: https://usda-prs.grantsolutions.gov/usda.

You can also ask further questions about this program by emailing usda.ams.prs@grantsolutions.gov or call 301-238-5550. NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program will provide additional support related to accessing this new grant program. Check our website at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG or sign up for our weekly e-newsletter for updates. 

If you’re a small-scale farmer, food processor or distributor, or farmers market and have been financially impacted by Covid-19, you may be able to access up to $20,000 to recover costs related to the pandemic.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is helping food producers access these dollars through the USDA’s Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Program. Applications will open in early October. Producers should get prepared for the application period now.

If you operate a small farm producing specialty crops whose annual revenue is less than $1 million, run a farmers market, food hub, community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, a small food processing business or food manufacturing operation, you may be eligible for grant funding.

“Food producers provide an essential service for our communities, and these small-scale producers have continued to operate during the pandemic to make sure all of us are fed,” NCAT Executive Director Steve Thompson said. “NCAT is here to help food producers, processors and farmers markets access dollars to keep their doors open.” 

According to the USDA, the pandemic-related costs that are recoverable through this grant program relate to the following areas:

  • Workplace Safety: Implementing workplace safety measures to protect against COVID-19 such as providing personal protective equipment, thermometers, cleaning supplies, sanitizers, hand washing stations, installation and purchase of air filters or new signage.
  • Market Pivots: Implementing market pivots to protect against COVID–19. Though not exactly well-defined market pivot are related to cost of changing how you had to operate your enterprise to make it more COVID-19 safe including the staff time to implement these changes. For example, a farmers’ market may have had to restructure their layout to ensure one-way traffic and improve social distancing.
  • Retrofitting Facilities: Retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID–19 such as installation and purchase of protective barriers, walk up windows, heat lamps/heaters, fans, tents, propane, weights, tables chairs and lighting.
  • Transportation: Providing additional transportation options to maintain social distancing and worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID-19 such as securing additional transportation services for workers or establishing new delivery routed or distribution services. For instance, a food hub might have had to shift to delivering food directly to consumers rather than just having to have common distribution point.
  • Worker Housing: Providing additional worker housing resources or services to maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining of new or exposed employees.
  • Medical: Providing health services to protect workers against COVID-19 including offering or enabling vaccinations, testing, or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including paid leave.

This is not a competitive grant program; grants will be awarded based on eligibility. Funding is not awarded on a first-come-first-serve basis, and the 45-day application period is anticipated to open in early October.  

To be ready for the application, all applicants should obtain a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number. This DUNS number will be required to receive this grant. More information on how to obtain a DUNS number, plus full eligibility criteria can be found at the USDA’s website: https://usda-prs.grantsolutions.gov/usda.

You can also ask further questions about this program by emailing usda.ams.prs@grantsolutions.gov or call 301-238-5550. NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program will provide additional support related to accessing this new grant program. Check our website at ATTRA.NCAT.ORG or sign up for our weekly e-newsletter for updates. 

By Ann Baier, NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist

Foreword: After the recent passing of her mother, Ann reflects on some valuable lessons and preparations, especially relevant in the time of a pandemic.

Building resilience in agriculture and communities is at the heart of our work at the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). For over 40 years and continuing in this time of the pandemic, we persist in agricultural endeavors that support just and ecological food and farming systems in the midst of racial and economic inequalities and the public health implications of COVID-19.

Unexpected things happen all the time, in food and farming businesses, and in life. For a farm business to be resilient amid the unpredictable, we develop risk management plans and integrated pest management strategies to minimize loss and weather adversity. We create standard operating procedures, food safety plans, quality control measures. We analyze hazards and address critical control points and develop recall plans. We buy insurance. We set emergency preparedness plans in place, considering regional probabilities of a wildfire, flood, earthquake, hurricane or tornado, illness, or death.

Each of us has some capacity to prepare, prevent, or mitigate unpredictable events that may or may not happen in life and business. We also need to prepare for the inevitable (death)—that which will happen; we just don’t know how or when. During a pandemic, we are slightly more aware of our mortality, that any one of us could suddenly reach the end of our life. Our lives, no matter how long they may be, are finite. Even though talking about death may seem difficult at first, preparing for its eventuality won’t cause it!

Last year, my women’s group began discussing aging. (We are all aging, no matter how old we are!) We committed to meeting regularly to support and inspire each other to prepare for life’s eventual end. Each month we address a topic, such as Health and Medical Care, Legal Arrangements, Information for Survivors, Legacy / Succession, and Death Cleaning. We share meaningful reflections, practical help, and even laughter as we work toward clarity and organization. Our experience may be helpful to others.

The best time to make emergency preparedness plans is before the emergency begins. I’ll gather my important papers, map out an escape route, decide on an out-of-state contact and a family gathering place before a disaster looms and communications are lost. The best time to prepare to die is while we are healthy and of sound mind. When the possibility of illness and the eventuality of death seem far-off in the future rather than imminent, I can work with a clearer mind, and ground my decisions in carefully considered and dearly held values. It is quite all right to set arrangements in writing and not need them; it is more costly, legally complex, and emotionally exhausting to need, and not have them. Putting my affairs in order can give me peace of mind while I’m alive, especially understanding how I can minimize the legal, financial and emotional burdens on my loved ones–or business partners–when I cross life’s finish line.

Part I: Health and Medical Care: Advance Health Care Directives

My Mom used to joke, “None of us is going to get out of here alive!” Indeed, she made a timely exit from her life’s journey earlier this year. Her passing was peaceful and consistent with her values, thanks to her preparations. Mom completed both an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) and Physicians Orders on Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, I had copies, and both documents were on file with her health care system. Mindful that someday she would take “that journey that needs no baggage,” my Mom had put her wishes in writing years prior when thoughts of physical frailty or mental incompetence were merely hypothetical.

No matter my age or current health status, I can consider various scenarios and write down my wishes. What if I get into an accident or fall suddenly ill, get a brain tumor, or lose my memory? There are times when discussing the real possibility–or probability– of disability or death might feel like taking away someone’s hope. It is best to prepare now, while I can still reason clearly and speak for myself. Knowing I have discussed my values and criteria for decision-making with my family and my doctor and filed my advance health care directive with my health care system, I can be at ease.

My Mom had a fall. At age 95, it was not her first, but this one was different. The doctor who assessed her condition asked if we wanted to honor my mother’s POLST. “Yes,” I said, knowing we’d had the necessary conversations ahead of time. “Then we are providing comfort measures.” I clarified, “This may lead to the end of her life?” “Yes.” Having Mom’s wishes in writing gave me peace of mind. I did not need to second-guess, or worry that a family member would question her end-of-life care. It also allowed her a natural death, free of invasive medical interventions. She was able to die as simply as she lived, with modest use of finite medical resources.

Advance Health Care Directive templates are easy to find; many health care systems provide them. Physicians Orders on Life-Sustaining Treatment, or POLST, is described in https://polst.org/: “All adults should have an advance directive to help identify a surrogate decision-maker and provide information about what treatments they want for an unknown medical emergency. A POLST form is for when you become seriously ill or frail and toward the end of life. A POLST form does not replace an advance directive — they work together.” The POLST form has three sections with checkboxes to express your wishes with respect to: A) Resuscitation (Attempt or Not); B) Medical Interventions (Full, Selective or Comfort-Focused Care); C) Artificially Administered Nutrition (Long-term, Trial or None), followed by D) Information and Signatures—yours and your doctor’s. That’s all. Together, the AHCD and POLST can save costly confusion for family members and care providers when life hangs in the balance. It is reassuring to have written guidance about when to try what kinds of interventions, and when to accept death when it is time.

Part II: Legal Affairs

Making legal arrangements, appropriate to one’s family composition and farm business, is a worthy investment of time and money. Get reliable legal advice! Key documents often include a Will, General Durable Power of Attorney, and a Living or Revocable Trust. A Trust complements the Will, and allows the property to be transferred to beneficiaries without the expense and delay of probate court proceedings. A Trust is “funded” by titling items of value (such as bank accounts and real property) in the name of the Trust, and recording deeds with the county.

A Trust names beneficiaries and Successor and/or Co-Trustees. “We wouldn’t want to declare you incompetent!” explained my Mom’s estate attorney, as she drew up the Trust.  And explained the key distinction between Co-Trustee and Successor Trustee. Being named Co-Trustee gave me the legal authority to take care of Mom’s affairs as her energy waned, her eyesight faded, and her hand grew increasingly unsteady over several years. The latter would have allowed me to act only if and when the primary Trustee was declared physically or mentally incapable by a medical professional. Because life provides no guarantees about a person’s longevity or the order of death (one of my mom’s children died before she did), it is good to name more than one Co-Trustee, and the order in which they would serve.

Making necessary legal arrangements does not mean giving up or losing hope. It’s simply a good idea. At any moment, I may find myself needing to act, in some legal capacity, on behalf of my spouse, sibling or business partner—or one of them for me! Some people lose capacity gradually, with age or dementia; others more suddenly, due to an accident, stroke, heart attack, or some rapidly progressing illness. Human beings may find it increasingly embarrassing, frightening, or uncomfortable to speak of getting one’s affairs in order when failing health or death become real possibilities. Anyone’s judgment can be clouded by emotion, fear, or stress when the balance of life itself or the future of business seem to hang on some critical decision. Why not set things in order now?

Further Reading:

  • Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
  • Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To by Melanie Cullen, September 2018, 8th Edition, NOLO Pres
By Margo Hale, NCAT Southeast Regional Director and NCAT Livestock Specialist

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I, like many of you, was focused on working from home while also homeschooling my daughters. I was busy postponing and rescheduling several NCAT training events and figuring out how to best serve our ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture clients. As the pandemic continued to spread, we saw various impacts in all aspects of our life. Across the country, we saw our traditional supply chains falter, and consumer buying habits changed overnight. Thankfully, our household never ran out of toilet paper, but it was several weeks before I could find rice and beans to buy!

Because we raise our own beef, pork, and eggs, I rarely pay attention to those areas of the grocery store, but it was shocking to see empty shelves. We sell only a few beeves and hogs each year, mainly to friends and coworkers. You can learn more about how we sell our beef and pork from this short video https://attra.ncat.org/small-scale-meat-sales/. While we never have a problem selling what we have available, we also don’t usually have an overwhelming demand. As soon as COVID-19 hit, though, people who have never bought meat from us before began reaching out to see if we were selling meat. They wanted to stock their freezers! I heard from farmers all over the country that this was happening to them, too. This demand is great for producers, but it also comes with some challenges.

Meeting Increased Demand for Local Meat

You might be able to gain new customers during this time, as people are wanting to stock their freezers and prepare for supply-chain disruptions. You want to ensure that these new customers continue purchasing from you even after the grocery stores are restocked. In order to do this, you must provide an excellent product and good customer service. It is tempting to quickly scale up production to take advantage of the demand, but don’t do so at the cost of quality. Don’t process and sell animals that don’t meet your highest quality standards. Providing great customer service is another way to keep customers coming back. NCAT Specialist Dave Scott and his wife Jenny shared some really great tips on providing excellent customer service to their meat customers in the “Direct Marketing Meat” podcast series.

Episode 128. Direct Marketing Meat with Dave and Jenny Scott. Part 1

Episode 129. Direct Marketing Meat with Dave and Jenny Scott. Part 2: Processing

Episode 136. Direct Marketing Meat with Dave and Jenny Scott. Part 3: Relationships

Episode 137. Direct Marketing Meat with Dave and Jenny Scott. Part 4: FAQs

In the ATTRA video COVID-19 Market Adjustments, you can also hear how COVID-19 has affected Dave’s and Jenny’s business, Montana Highland Lamb.

Plan for Processing

Selling meat can be a challenge when processors are overwhelmed by demand.Another challenge many livestock producers are facing is the lack of processing. Access to meat processing facilities has always been a challenge for small-scale livestock producers. The problem has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Producers are increasing production in response to increased demand for direct-to-consumer meat sales—which means there are more animals to process in facilities that already have limited availability. For example, I can usually call just a couple of months in advance to schedule a processing date for our animals; I called our processor in May and the earliest dates they had were in January 2021! Our hog will be awfully big by then. If you are a livestock producer and haven’t already booked your processing appointments for the coming year, I encourage you to call your processor today. I had a great conversation with Rebecca Thistlethwaite with the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network about these challenges with processing, especially during this time. You can listen to that podcast here.

If you are a livestock producer, there is a great opportunity to meet the demands for locally produced meat, though there will likely be some challenges. If you are selling meat directly to consumers for the first time, expanding production, or have questions related to processing, please know our NCAT Livestock Specialists are here to help. You can contact us by calling 800-346-9140 or emailing askanag@ncat.org.

Related ATTRA Resources

Organic and Grass-finished Beef Cattle Production

Direct Marketing Lamb: A Pathway

Direct Marketing

Working with Your Meat Processor

ATTRA COVID-19 Resources

Other Resources on Selling Meat

Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network

NMPAN COVID-19 Resources

Farm to Freezer: The Logistics of Online Sales & Shipping Meat Webinar

The New Livestock Farmer: The Business of Raising and Selling Ethical Meat

Direct to Consumer Beef Webinar Series

In response to the global pandemic, NCAT initiated a partnership with non-profits, local agencies, and businesses in Butte, Montana, to launch the Butte Mutual Aid Network to assist folks in need because of Covid-19. This is a neighbor-to-neighbor network connecting people who can help with people who need help.

Local residents can visit the website, https://buttemutualaid.org, to complete forms to ask for assistance, offer to volunteer, and provide donations to support needs in the community. A hotline for those more comfortable with the phone is also available: 406-494-8688.

The website also provides information about other resources that people can access if needed.

In the first two weeks, 40 volunteers registered on the network, and 29 people have received assistance. This includes families with young children, some led by single mothers.

The network is connecting volunteers with those in need to deliver groceries, deliver hot meals, and provide companionship and conversation. It is also coordinating with local schools to offer tutoring services for children while schools are closed.

Nearly $5,000 in donations have already been received to provide direct aid to those in need because of the coronavirus pandemic. Financial assistance includes providing Visa and local business gift cards to individuals and families that need help.

Mutual aid networks have been springing up around the country to provide hands-on local assistance and to help people stay connected and share ideas.

“It’s fascinating to me — and encouraging — to see the proliferation of these mutual aid networks across the country and across the world,” said Steve Thompson, Executive Director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). “It’s a nice antidote to the us versus them mentality that has seemed so dominant in recent years.”

“A lot of this is happening organically here in Butte,” Thompson said. “So many people are stepping up to do good things. We just hope to be able to add value to that, to help match needs with volunteers.”

NCAT has served as the facilitator and manager for the network. Energy Corps AmeriCorps member Maryssa Fenwick serves as coordinator, with other NCAT staff providing assistance in various capacities.

Local partners in the network include Butte Broadcasting, the Butte Chamber of Commerce, Butte-Silver Bow City-County, Butte Food Co-op Planning Committee, Butte Local Development Corporation, Headwaters Resource Development Council, the Montana Standard newspaper, Safeway groceries, the Salvation Army, Montana Tech University, and United Way of Butte and Anaconda.

For more information on the Butte network, visit the website or call the hotline. To learn more about mutual aid networks and find information about starting your own network, visit https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/.

 

Call or contact your local Farm Service Agency today!

No, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) is not food for the nation’s hungry, but rather assistance for the nation’s food producers. Details of how U.S. farmers can apply for this assistance are still scarce, but the most important message is to begin the process ASAP if you are a farmer who has experienced a loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Here is a way to contact your local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office which will be implementing this program:

Find your Farm Service Agency office

You must make a phone call to your local FSA office to start the process.

Direct support for farmers and ranchers available via CFAP will include:

  • Direct support based on actual losses because of price and disrupted supply chains.
  • Assist with adjustment and added marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply in the 2020 marketing year.

CFAP is available to farmers regardless of size and market outlet, if they suffered an eligible loss. Disruption to markets and demand may be significant and the USDA is already warning that these payments may only cover a portion of the impacts on farmers and ranchers.

PARTICULARLY IF YOU HAVE NOT USED FSA PROGRAMS IN THE PAST, GET READY BY COLLECTING:

  1. Tax Identification Number: TAX ID
  2. Farming Operating Structure: TYPES
  3. Adjusted Gross Income

BE PREPARED TO FILL OUT POSSIBLY THE FOLLOWING SIX (6) FORMS.
DO NOT SEND FORMS WITHOUT FIRST CONTACTING YOUR LOCAL FSA OFFICE

  • CCC-901 (Español) If applicable, this certification reports income from farming, ranching, and forestry, for those exceeding the adjusted gross income limitation ($900,000)
  • CCC-941 (Español) Reports your average adjusted gross income for programs where income restrictions apply.
  • CCC-942 If applicable, this certification reports income from farming, ranching, and forestry, for those exceeding the adjusted gross income limitation ($900,000)
  • AD1026 (Español) Ensures compliance with highly erodible land conservation and wetland conservation
  • AD2047 Provides basic customer contact information
  • SF3881 Collects your banking information to allow USDA to make payments to you via direct deposit

As with all emergency assistance, there will be those that are more prepared then others and getting in line as early as possible is to your advantage.

Contact ATTRA for Help

If you need help contact us here at ATTRA as we are always ready to help.

  1. Call our toll-free ATTRA helpline (U.S. only)
    800-346-9140 (English) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Central Time
    800-411-3222 (Español) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time
  2. Ask online, using the green chat box at the bottom of the ATTRA webpage.
  3. Via email to askanag@ncat.org