Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Farmer Programs Newsletter for October 2, 2020

Hi folks, at the end of a much needed rainy week, here is the Farmer Programs newsletter for October 2, 2020 – there are many new resources, opportunities and events noted here, so look it over carefully! And remember, all of this season’s back issues are archived on the MOFGA website here. Please send inquiries, suggestions, corrections or advice regarding this newsletter to [email protected].

MOFGA's Primary COVID-19 Resource Document for Farmers:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xcWWU7YZcWkEc8mahncJdY3NiERTfZ6SN7IaTjKT1m0/edit

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 regularly -- newest updates are highlighted in yellow. Resources that may be of particular interest to farmworkers are highlighted in green.

 

Events

 

  • Farmer to Farmer Conference is online this year. November 2, 4 and 6, 2020. MOFGA's Farmer to Farmer Conference is known for its intimacy, in-depth treatment of topics and amazing discussions. This year we will go virtual bringing together presentations, panels and breakout groups mixed with farmer-led discussion groups and 1-on-1 video chatting opportunities. Over three afternoons and evenings, there will be virtual farm tours, online exhibitors, community topic sites, custom meet-up opportunities, and we will be hosting a short video contest (1-2 minutes) based on a few prompts we will be sharing out soon! Keynote Speaker: Laura Lengnick, scientist, author, educator and farmer, will explore climate change, resilience and the future of food through the adaptation stories of some of America’s best sustainable and organic farmers and ranchers to share a message of hope in these uncertain times. Registration required, with fees (sliding scale options and scholarships available, and free to JP/MFRP participants, BIPOC farmers, and Veteran farmers).

 

Resources

 

  • Organic Price Report. MOFGA’s second report of the season is now available, dated August 30, 2020. There was not a huge level of participation, but the data we gathered is still useful and relevant for many. Please consider participating in the third and final report, which will be compiled and published by mid-October – submit your data in our Organic Price Report Forms.

  • Emergency Drought Assistance from the USDA Farm Service Agency now available for farms in several Maine counties. As of September 24, there are five counties in Maine (Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset and Washington) that have been designated as eligible for Emergency Loans from the FSA due to the drought this summer. There are several loan programs that are triggered by this designation, including Emergency Livestock Assistance, Non-insurable Crop Assistance, and the FSA Emergency Loans which can be used to restore or replace essential property, pay all or part of production costs associated with the drought, pay essential family living expenses, reorganize the farming operation and/or refinance certain debts. Contact your local FSA office for more information and to apply. You can check the Drought Monitor site for maps and designations by state and county where data is updated weekly.

  • Northeast SARE Farmer Grant Program now open. This annual USDA-funded program provides up to $15,000 to farmers to explore new concepts in sustainable agriculture on production, marketing, labor, farm succession, social capital and other areas through experiments, surveys, prototypes, on-farm demonstrations or other research and education techniques. A free informational webinar will be held on October 6. Applications are available online and are due by Tuesday, November 17, 2020.

  • Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP2) now open. This is a renewed and expanded relief fund from the USDA for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Administered through the FSA, this grant fund is a separate program from the first CFAP program, and has been expanded to include hundreds of crops and livestock products and now covers losses incurred from April 1 to August 31, 2020 (or from April 16 for livestock) where prices, markets, and supply chains have been impacted by the pandemic -- click the link above to access info about eligible commodities, payment rates and calculations. CFAP2 might cover you more than its predecessor as new payment options are available (i.e. the payments are based on your 2019 revenue and no longer require a documented price loss -- so no need for diversified producers to calculate rates using a commodity by commodity approach), and this is likely to be a better fit for smaller and diversified growers whose crops were left out in CFAP1. You can apply to CFAP2 whether or not you applied to the first CFAP program, and be compensated for ongoing market disruptions and assisted with associated marketing costs. Applications are to be filed through your local FSA office and are being accepted now through Friday, December 11, 2020.

  • Maine Economic Recovery Grant - Phase II now open. Administered by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, this new, expanded round of grants is once again using federal CARES Act relief funding to directly alleviate the disruption of operations suffered by Maine’s small businesses and non-profits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This fund is for Maine businesses, including farms, that demonstrate a need for financial relief due to lost revenues caused by the pandemic, allowing an expanded coverage period from January to August 2020 to cover more seasonal businesses that have been impacted. Grants will be distributed based on a demonstrated loss from a business as a prorated percentage of the total losses reported by all qualified applicants. Note: if you applied for this program during Phase I, you can not apply for Phase II until you know you are ineligible from that first round (notifications are being sent out over the next few weeks). Changes to eligibility requirements for this Phase include allowing businesses less than a year old and businesses with up to 250 full-time equivalent employees. A recorded informational webinar from September 23 is available here. Applications will remain open until Friday, October 23, 2020.

  • Fund-A-Farmer Grant program opens October 1. The Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) has begun a new round of grants of up to $2,500 to eligible livestock and poultry farmers for projects that help them improve pasture, expand animal welfare, and/or build capacity of their operations. Projects can include improvements such as building mobile housing, constructing fences, laying water lines on pasture, and much more. Farmers located in the U.S. who raise beef cattle, bison, broiler chickens, dairy cows, goats, laying hens, pigs, turkeys, and/or sheep may be eligible to apply. Grants will be awarded in February 2021. Applications are due by Tuesday, December 1, 2020.

  • FarmRaise is a new web-based digital platform that connects farmers to funding opportunities (grants, loans, cost-share). Their services are free to use as they match farmers to potential funds through a brief eligibility quiz that you fill out when you sign up. They aim to demystify agricultural finance, eliminate stressful paperwork, and make funding more accessible to producers, and according to their site, believe that “accessible funding will help farmers to not only address their short-term financial needs, but also invest in long-term assets: clean water, clean air, biodiversity, and healthy soils.”

  • Selecting Plants to Support Bees in Maine bulletin. A new fact sheet from UMaine Extension that encompasses the findings of a four-year study of intentional plantings to benefit bee populations. Includes a table of specific plant species, when they bloom, and what types of bees utilize their flowers. This bulletin provides new information about selecting plants for bee gardens in Maine and asserts that improvements to bee habitat can be easily undertaken and are likely to improve pollination around the farm.

  • Safe and Efficient Drying and Curing of CBD Hemp webpage and video. UVM Extension has recently created this new resource for hemp growers, and is encouraging hemp growers to contact them for any further info and technical assistance. They have teamed up with Resource Innovation Institute, Efficiency Vermont, and VT Division of Fire Safety to provide a webinar as part of the UVM Extension NW Crops and Soils Team Hemp series. The recorded webinar (posted on August 10, 2020) focuses on safely and efficiently drying and curing hemp to support customer quality needs.

  • New resources from the Legal Food Hub (a project of the Conservation Law Foundation) are available relating to market pivots and other pandemic related concerns. These legal guides for farmers are concise, easy to understand, and timely. Four of the many new guides include: Running a Farmer Operated Food Hub, Home Delivery of Farm Products, Selling Farm Products Through Online Food Hubs, and Sick and Medical Leave During COVID-19: Rights and Obligations.

  • Greenhouse Plastic Recycling Program. UMaine Extension has set up 16 drop-off sites around the state (including MOFGA in Unity) to accept your used, clean, dry low-density polyethylene #4 (LDPE #4). Disposal is free of charge, and participants must pre-register online or by calling 207-342-5971. The program’s goal is to collect at least one-third of Maine’s annual waste greenhouse plastic, and partner with an end-user who can convert the collected plastic into resin feedstock used in the manufacture of new plastic products. Program runs through Tuesday, December 15, 2020.

  • Small Bites. Three new posts are available: “Discovering Patterns” (authored by Polly Shyka and Leslie Forstadt), “Noticing the Little Things” (authored by Polly Shyka), and “The Benefits of On-Farm Problem Solving” (authored by Abby Sadauckas). These short, informational articles offer practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication and family well-being written by coaches from UMaine Cooperative Extension’s farm coaching team. Farm coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm families.

 

Get on the Map!

 

Maine Seed Garlic Directory. Make sure you get on this list of farms that produce and sell seed garlic. Hosted by the Univ. of Maine Cooperative Extension.

MOFGA's Find Organic and Local Products map now shows farms that sell products on-farm (e.g., via farmstand or preorder), that offer phone/website sales or that offer a CSA option. If you notice an error or would like to make a correction to the map, email [email protected].

Farm and Seafood Products Directory shares alternative ways for customers to obtain products to accommodate for social distancing. To have your farm added to the directory map and spreadsheet, complete the Maine Farm and Seafood Products Directory submission form. Hosted by Univ. of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Maine Food Atlas maps the Maine food system. Hosted by the Maine Network of Community Food Councils.

 

Webinars

 

  • The Future of Farming: Building Tools for Tech-savvy Farmers online talk. October 5 from 3 to 4 p.m. Hosted by the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at UMaine, this talk will focus on a project co-led by researchers at UMaine Extension and the Climate Change Institute, in collaboration with Maine farmers. Lily Calderwood, Sean Birkel, and Glen Koehler will discuss their progress towards providing crop-specific and site-specific temperature, precipitation, frost and heat-stress warnings, cloud-cover/sunshine, evapotranspiration, and soil moisture forecast and observation values for locations in Maine, and how such crop-specific weather stations can be combined with NOAA gridded weather data to serve farms in Maine. Registration required. Free of charge.

  • New England Women in Livestock Business webinar series. Various dates from October 6 to October 15. Hosted by UNH and UVM Extension, these two-day focus sessions for women livestock producers from New England are to strengthen communication and improve negotiation skills to become an even more effective employer and business manager. During this program, women producers will have the unique opportunity to work closely in small groups with like-minded farmers from around the region and have the chance to partake in a facilitated discussion to help shape the curriculum for the upcoming New England Women in Livestock Business virtual conference which will address risks associated with managing a farm business such as, financial planning, market viability, and farm safety. Pre-registration is required. There are three two-day sessions from which to choose (all in October). Free of charge.

  • NOSB Online Meeting registration and information. The National Organic Standards Board will have a series of meetings from October 20 to October 30, 2020, open to the public and online. During the meetings, the NOSB listens to public comments, discusses agenda items and then votes on recommendations to the secretary in a public forum. The agenda, proposals and discussion documents are now available, as is registration for making public comments during the meetings. Free.

 

Opportunities for Farmer Input

 

  • COVID-19 and Weather-related Challenges for Farmers survey. University of Maine researchers have put together this new survey to better understand the needs of farmers in the face of current, diverse challenges, including COVID-19, climate change and weather variability, and social resources. The responses to this survey will be used to identify areas where agricultural outreach could be improved to better meet these needs. All participants will be entered in a drawing for a $100 Visa gift card. Participation will involve answering questions regarding your priorities as a farmer, your access to certain resources, and aspects of your personal well-being. The survey should take approximately 25 minutes to complete, and responses will remain anonymous. Survey open until Friday, October 30, 2020.

  • Dry Well survey. The Drought Task Force, which is coordinated by the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), currently has this survey up for anyone whose well has recently gone dry. The survey results are used to determine how widespread the problem may be across the state (county by county), and if conditions warrant, what resources and support are needed. The information asked for in the survey is not confidential. Anyone wishing to complete the survey without internet access can call 2-1-1. Note: MEMA has begun to issue disaster declarations for drought in many counties in Maine this fall, and any assistance to farmers will be made available through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

  • Equal Opportunity for All survey. UMaine Extension is seeking demographic information on an optional and anonymous basis, to ensure equal opportunity to all who might benefit from their programs and to document those who are currently being reached by their efforts. This survey is very short and anonymous.

  • Forward Contracts for Maine Farmers survey. ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT TO PARTICIPATE! Sponsored by FarmSmart and CEI, this survey is to determine whether a model of forward contracting can be developed where the risk and return of wholesale buying and selling could be shared among more parties and the problem of mismatched production to supply be stabilized. This 10-minute survey for Maine food producers, distributors, retailers, processors, foodservice companies and investors will gauge interest in a forward contracting arrangement. Results of the survey will show what common ground might exist among these different components. A feasibility report will be shared this fall. Survey will close on Monday, October 5, 2020.

  • Comment Period Open for U.S. Hemp Production Program Rule. The USDA has reopened the public comment period on its Interim Final Rule for domestic hemp production. All stakeholders, including growers, are invited to provide comments, especially those who were subject to the regulatory requirements of the IFR during the 2020 production cycle. Comments must be received by Thursday, October 8, 2020.

  • Dry Bean Production for Regional Markets survey. Cornell University and UVM are conducting this very short poll to help guide research and Extension on dry bean production in the Northeast. Any field crop grower is invited to participate (those that are already growing beans and those that are not) to gauge interest/challenges around dry bean production and help inform upcoming work to support northeastern production and processing of dry beans.

 

Good News Department

 

  • Common Ground virtual edition to extend marketplace to January. A nice article published in early September in MaineBiz. We all know the fair weekend is now past, but the Online Marketplace is open and continues to provide a place for Maine farmers to sell their products online through January 8, 2021! Article written by Maureen Milliken.

 

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