What's Up at the USDA Office?

Upcoming Deadlines/Dates
May 15 – August 1: Primary Nesting Season
June 15: COC Election Ballots Mailed to Producers in LAA 3
July 23: CRP General Signup
August 6: CRP Continuous Signup

County Committee (COC) Election – Please Considering Joining the Allamakee COC!
It’s that time of year when FSA begins the process of the county committee election.  This year the election will be for LAA -3, which includes Center, Iowa, LaFayette, Lansing, Paint Creek, and Taylor townships.  Essentially the NE portion of the county. The nomination period begins June 15 and runs through August 2.  You can nominate yourself or someone else by completing the appropriate form at our office or download it online. Once nominations are finalized, producers who reside in LAA-3 will cast ballots which will be mailed to you on November 1.  These ballots are due back to the FSA office by Dec. 6. The elected member will take office on January 1.  We’ll be getting more information out, posting flyers around town, and folks in these townships received a postcard recently.  

Understanding the U.S. Drought Monitor
Are drought conditions affecting your agricultural operation? The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is a resource producers can use to help determine how to best respond and react to a drought as it develops or lingers. The USDM is an online, weekly map showing the location, extent, and severity of drought across the United States. It categorizes the entire country as being in one of six levels of drought. The map is released on Thursdays and depicts conditions for the week. The USDM provides producers with the latest information about drought conditions where they live, enabling producers to best respond and react to a drought as it develops or lingers. In some cases, the USDM may help a producer make specific decisions about their operation, such as reducing the stocking rate because forage is not growing. For others, it may provide a convenient big-picture snapshot of broader environmental conditions.

The USDM incorporates varying data – rain, snow, temperature, streamflow, reservoir levels, soil moisture, and more – as well as first-hand information submitted from on-the-ground sources such as photos, descriptions, and experiences. The levels of drought are connected to the frequency of occurrence across several different drought indicators. What makes the USDM unique is that it is not a strictly numeric product. The mapmakers rely on their judgment and a nationwide network of 450-plus experts to interpret conditions for each region. They synthesize their discussion and analysis into a single depiction of drought for the entire country.

USDA uses the Drought Monitor to determine a producer’s eligibility for certain drought assistance programs, like the Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Emergency Haying or Grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acres. Additionally, the Farm Service Agency uses the Drought Monitor to trigger and “fast track” Secretarial Disaster Designations which then provides producers impacted by drought access to emergency loans that can assist with credit needs.

New Farmers.gov Features Help You Manage Your USDA Business Online
Last June, NRCS’ Conservation Client Gateway moved to farmers.gov enabling USDA customers to access multiple conservation features through a platform that provides a customer-centric digital experience. Farmers.gov provides a secure, single desktop - and mobile device - accessible authenticated portal for FSA, NRCS and RMA customer - facing features. As we’ve continued to add more content and capabilities, farmers.gov has quickly become the premier online hub for customers to find resources, submit applications and assistance requests, and make connections. Another new feature is coming to farmers.gov to help you manage your USDA business. You’ll now receive an email letting you know that an NRCS document needs your signature, which you can quickly and easily sign online in the portal.

The farmers.gov portal also enables you to:
•  View, upload, download, and e-sign documents.
•  Request financial assistance, including submitting a program application.
•  View and submit conservation requests.
•  View technical references and submit questions.
•  Access information on current and past conservation practices and plans.
•  Report practice completion and request practice certification.
•  View detailed information on all previous and ongoing contracts.
•  Have the authority as an FSA and/or NRCS customer to work in the portal and act on behalf of your active power-of-attorney entitlements and your current authorities for business entities.

These conservation features join several others already available through the farmers.gov portal, including the ability to view farm loan information. We’ll continue to update you about new features as they become available. If you do not have login information for farmers.gov, you can create your login profile, or eAuthentication by following the instructions at farmers.gov/sign-in. The Conservation Features User Guide  gives you step-by-step instructions on how to navigate farmers.gov and the how-to video instructions explain some of the popular features. If you need additional help, personal assistance is available at the farmers.gov Service Desk by selecting the “Help” link located at the top of the all authenticated portal pages and submitting a “Contact Us” request. NRCS field office staff are always available to assist you with your conservation questions and other needs.

USDA Offers Secure New Options for Signing and Sharing Documents Online
Farmers and ranchers working with USDA’s Farm Service Agency or Natural Resources Conservation Service can now sign and share documents online in just a few clicks. By using Box or OneSpan, producers can digitally complete business transactions without leaving their homes or agricultural operations. Both services are free, secure, and available for multiple FSA and NRCS programs. Box is a secure, cloud-based site where FSA or NRCS documents can be managed and shared. Producers who choose to use Box can create a username and password to access their secure Box account, where documents can be downloaded, printed, manually signed, scanned, uploaded, and shared digitally with Service Center staff. This service is available to any FSA or NRCS customer with access to a mobile device or computer with printer connectivity.

OneSpan is a secure eSignature solution for FSA and NRCS customers. Like Box, no software downloads or eAuthentication is required for OneSpan. Instead, producers interested in eSignature through OneSpan can confirm their identity through two-factor authentication using a verification code sent to their mobile device or a personalized question and answer. Once identity is confirmed, documents can be reviewed and e-signed through OneSpan via the producer’s personal email address. Signed documents immediately become available to the appropriate Service Center staff. Box and OneSpan are both optional services for customers interested in improved efficiency in signing and sharing documents with USDA, and they do not replace existing systems using eAuthentication for digital signature. Instead, these tools provide additional digital options for producers to use when conducting business with FSA or NRCS.

USDA Service Center staff are available to help producers get started with Box and OneSpan through a few simple steps. Please visit farmers.gov/service-locator to find your local office and let Service Center staff know you’re interested in signing and sharing documents through these new features. In most cases, one quick phone call will be all that is needed to initiate the process. Visit farmers.gov/mydocs to learn more about Box and OneSpan, steps for getting started, and additional resources for conducting business with USDA online. To learn more about program flexibilities and Service Center status during the coronavirus pandemic, visit farmers.gov/coronavirus.