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Upcoming Deadlines/Dates
April 9: Quality Loss Adjustment Program
May 15: August 1: Primary Nesting Season
July 15: Crop Certification

USDA Offers Disaster Assistance for Producers Facing Inclement Weather
Most of the nation is facing unusually cold weather, as a winter storm moved coast-to-coast over the weekend. Winter storms create significant challenges and often result in catastrophic loss for agricultural producers, especially for those raising livestock, row crops and vulnerable crops like citrus. Despite every attempt to mitigate risk, your operation may suffer losses. USDA offers several programs to help with recovery.

Risk Management
For producers who have risk protection through Federal Crop Insurance or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), we want to remind you to report crop damage to your crop insurance agent or the local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office. If you have crop insurance, contact your agency within 72 hours of discovering damage and be sure to follow up in writing within 15 days. If you have NAP coverage, file a Notice of Loss (also called Form CCC-576) within 15 days of loss becoming apparent, except for hand-harvested crops, which should be reported within 72 hours.

Disaster Assistance
USDA also offers disaster assistance programs, which is especially important to livestock, fruit and vegetable, specialty and perennial crop producers who have fewer risk management options. First, the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybee and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP) reimburses producers for a portion of the value of livestock, poultry and other animals that died as a result of a qualifying natural disaster event – like these winter storms – or for loss of grazing acres, feed and forage. Next, the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) provides cost share assistance to rehabilitate and replant tree, vines or shrubs loss experienced by orchards and nurseries. This complements NAP or crop insurance coverage, which cover the crop but not the plants or trees in all cases. For LIP and ELAP, you will need to file a Notice of Loss for livestock and grazing or feed losses within 30 days and honeybee losses within 15 days. For TAP, you will need to file a program application within 90 days.

Documentation
It’s critical to keep accurate records to document all losses following this devastating cold weather event. Livestock producers are advised to document beginning livestock numbers by taking time and date-stamped video or pictures prior to and after the loss. Other common documentation options include:
• Purchase records
• Production records
• Vaccination records
• Bank or other loan documents
• Third-party certification

Other Programs
The Emergency Conservation Program and Emergency Forest Restoration Program can assist landowners and forest stewards with financial and technical assistance to restore damaged farmland or forests. Additionally, Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers a variety of loans available including emergency loans that are triggered by disaster declarations and operating loans that can assist producers with credit needs.  You can use these loans to replace essential property, purchase inputs such as livestock, equipment, feed and seed, or refinance farm-related debts, and other needs. Meanwhile, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.

Additional Resources
Additional details – including payment calculations – can be found on our NAP, ELAP, LIP, and TAP fact sheets. On farmers.gov, the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool can help you determine program or loan options. While we never want to have to implement disaster programs, we are here to help. To file a Notice of Loss or to ask questions about available programs, contact your local USDA Service Center. All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including those that restrict in-person visits or require appointments because of the pandemic.

Mid-Contract Management (MCM) on CRP Acres
Now that temperatures are starting to feel more like spring, please start thinking about your MCM, if you are scheduled for this year.  Those that are scheduled for this year would have received a packet from our office this past fall detailing what needs to be done.  You do have until May 14, 2021 to complete the work, but now is a good time to start lining up contractors if you haven’t already done so, buy seed if needed, and get equipment ready.  If you have technical questions, need a seeding plan, or contractor list please contact the NRCS office.  Any other questions can be directed to FSA. Once you complete your MCM, please notify the FSA office, sign the FSA-848B form, and provide acceptable evidence (receipts, invoices, etc.) of practice completion to determine proper cost share payment.  

CRP Reminders
The primary nesting season runs from May 15 – August 1.  Please contact the FSA office if you need to perform spot maintenance activities on your CRP acres during this time. Cosmetic mowing of your CRP acres is always prohibited, but you can spot treat areas that are threatened by undesirable vegetation throughout the year. A written request must be made before the County Committee grants approval to conduct maintenance during the nesting season. As a reminder to landowners, volunteer trees and woody vegetation must be controlled and removed from CRP acres. Failure to control undesirable vegetation on CRP can result in financial penalties.

Breaking New Ground
Agricultural producers are reminded to consult with FSA and NRCS before breaking out new ground for production purposes as doing so without prior authorization may put a producer’s federal farm program benefits in jeopardy. This is especially true for land that must meet Highly Erodible Land (HEL) and Wetland Conservation (WC) provisions. Producers with HEL determined soils are required to apply tillage, crop residue and rotational requirements as specified in their conservation plan. Producers should notify FSA as a first point of contact prior to conducting land clearing or drainage type projects to ensure the proposed actions meet compliance criteria such as clearing any trees to create new cropland, then these areas will need to be reviewed to ensure such work will not risk your eligibility for benefits. Landowners and operators complete the form AD-1026 - Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification to identify the proposed action and allow FSA to determine whether a referral to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for further review is necessary.

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