Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Farmer Programs Newsletter for April 10, 2020

Hi folks,

Here is MOFGA's Farmer Programs Newsletter for the week ending April 10, 2020. During the current coronavirus pandemic, we aim to send this newsletter weekly, as so much is going on and changing. We will likely go down to twice a month when things settle down. Please send inquiries, suggestions, corrections or advice regarding this newsletter to [email protected].


MOFGA's Primary COVID-19 Resource Document for Farmers

The MOFGA Farmer Programs staff has compiled this clearinghouse of almost every topic and issue related to farming during the COVID-19 crisis, with links and information and resources about insurance, employees, farmers' markets, online marketing, loans and grants, etc. We update it several times daily – newest updates are highlighted in bold type.

 

Financial Relief

 

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA). Loans are forgivable if used for continued payroll expenses, and have a very low interest rate (0.5%) with two-year payback for funds used for approved purposes. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has provided some guidance. Reach out to your local lender for an application.

 

Resources

 

  • The FDA has temporarily suspended its enforcement of in-person animal examination and farm visit requirements related to the use of extra-label drug use for treating animal illness. Please see FDA Guidance and related Hoard's Dairyman article.

 

Get on the Map!

 

 

Upcoming Webinars

 

  • MOFGA webinar on labor laws and COVID-19 Friday, April 10 at 3 p.m. FREE. REGISTRATION Limited to 35 participants; please register only if you plan to attend. Join our webinar addressing labor laws on the farm and COVID-19, geared toward established farmers. We will learn about the technicalities of labor law from Steven McKinney, the community outreach and resource planning specialist at the Maine Department of Labor. The focus of the day has shifted to labor laws and COVID-19, but as time allows McKinney will also cover numerous aspects of farm labor, including common mistakes employers make; pay issues; overtime exemptions and times when overtime may have to be paid; child labor restrictions; record keeping; field sanitation requirements; and special rules surrounding housing, labor contractor registration and/or transportation that may apply under the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act and the H-2A program.
  • Weekly Zoom meetings for farmers hosted by UMaine Cooperative Extension, Fridays at 7 p.m. Farmers and others share what is happening on their farm, and what is and isn't working well. This is a chance to chat with others throughout the state to stay connected in these difficult times. Often a guest presents and/or a topic is given. Past meeting notes are archived on its site.

 

Policy

 

  • USDA seeks nominations for NOSB

The USDA invites nominations of qualified people for five open seats on the National Organic Standards Board. The deadline is June 1, 2020. Find more info here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/usda-seeks-nominees-five-seats-national-organic-standards-board

  • Submit your farm stories in support of a bond measure for broadband expansion

The Maine Broadband Coalition is preparing for the upcoming ballot initiative to dedicate $15 million to broadband expansion in Maine. The group hopes to include farmers' voices and stories. The current COVID-19 situation underscores the importance of broadband access for rural communities and farm businesses. Submit your story directly to Maine Broadband Coalition at [email protected].

 

Surveys

 

  • The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) released two national organic surveys on February 18, 2020 – one for certified organic producers and the other for producers transitioning to organic certification. This collaborative effort is part of a USDA-funded project seeking to learn more about the challenges and research priorities of organic farmers and ranchers, and those transitioning land to certified organic production. The survey deadline has been extended from April 1, 2020, to June 1, 2020, to give producers a final opportunity to share their experiences and challenges. During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that farmers and ranchers make their voices heard.
  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension, MCS, and Maine DACF have just launched a survey for Maine's dairy farms, to collect info about what dairy farmers need during the current pandemic. Link to survey here
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