What's Up at the USDA Office?

September 17: Pandemic Livestock Indemnity Program (PLIP)
October 1: Start of Fiscal Year 2022
October 12: Coronavirus Food Assistance 2 (CFAP2)
October 15: Pandemic Assistance for Timber Harvesters and Haulers

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 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 Disaster Assistance for Producers Facing Inclement Weather
Severe weather events create significant challenges and often result in catastrophic loss for agricultural producers. 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 or for loss of grazing acres, feed and forage. And, the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) provides assistance to producers of grazed forage crop acres that have suffered crop loss due to a qualifying drought.  Livestock producers suffering the impacts of drought can also request Emergency Haying and Grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres.

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.

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 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, 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 like 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.

USDA Supports Military Veteran’s Transition to Farming
Are you a military veteran interested in farming? USDA offers resources to help you:
• Fund Your Operation: USDA’s Farm Service Agency offers a variety of funding opportunities to help agricultural producers finance their businesses. Certain funds are targeted for veterans and beginning farmers and ranchers.
• Conserve Natural Resources: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offers conservation programs and expert one-on-one technical assistance to strengthen agricultural operations now and into the future. Veterans may be eligible for a cost share of up to 90 percent and advance payments of up to 50 percent to cover certain conservation practices.
• Manage Risks: USDA is here to help you prepare for and recover from the unexpected. Veterans who are beginning farmers may be eligible for reduced premiums, application fee waivers, increased insurance coverage, and other incentives for multiple USDA programs that support risk management.

USDA wants to ensure that veterans transitioning to agriculture have the resources needed to succeed. While USDA offices are currently closed to visitors because of the pandemic, Service Center staff continue to work with agricultural producers via phone, email, and other digital tools. To conduct business, please contact your local USDA Service Center. Additionally, more information related to USDA’s response and relief for producers can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus. If you’re a new farmer, you can also reach out to your state Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator.

USDA Offers 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.