What's Up at the USDA Office?

Upcoming Deadlines/Dates
October 31: Organic Certification Cost-Share and Transition/Education Certification Program

Farm Loan Presence in Allamakee County
The USDA/FSA Farm Loan team will have a Loan Officer in our office every Tuesday during normal business hours (8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).  If you would like to visit with the loan officer, feel free to call or stop in.

County Committee (COC) Election
It’s that time of year when FSA begins the process of the county committee election.  This year the election will be for LAA -1, which includes French Creek, Hanover, Makee, Waterloo, Union City, Union Prairie townships.  Essentially the northwest (NW) portion of the county. The nomination period begins June and runs through early August. 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-1 will cast ballots which will be mailed to you in November. These ballots are due back to the FSA office by early December.  The elected member will take office on January 1. Eligible households in these townships should have received an informational postcard.  

New Guide Available for Underserved Farmers, Ranchers
A new multi-agency guide for USDA assistance for underserved farmers and ranchers is now available. If you are a farmer or rancher and are a minority, woman, veteran, beginning, or limited resource producer, you can use this booklet to learn about assistance and targeted opportunities available to you. This includes programs offered through the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency. The guide is also available in Spanish, Hmong, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese on farmers.gov/translations.

CRP Reminders
The primary nesting season ended August 1, so contract-holders can complete and maintenance on CRP without prior approval from their FSA office. Be sure to remember that cosmetic mowing of your CRP acres is always prohibited, as are the establishment of trails through your acres.
Temporary deer stands are only allowed during the hunting season and must be removed immediately once the season is over. 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.

USDA Accepting Applications to Help Cover Costs of Organic, Transitioning Producers
Agricultural producers and handlers who are certified organic, along with producers and handlers who are transitioning to organic production, can now apply for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Organic and Transitional Education Certification Program (OTECP) and Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP), which help producers and handlers cover the cost of organic certification, along with other related expenses. Applications for OTECP and OCCSP are both due October 31, 2022.
OTECP covers:  
• Certification costs for organic producers and handlers (25% up to $250 per category).
• Eligible expenses for transitional producers, including fees for pre-certification inspections and development of an organic system plan (75% up to $750).
• Registration fees for educational events (75% up to $200).
• Soil testing (75% up to $100).  

Meanwhile, OCCSP covers 50% or up to $500 per category of certification costs in 2022.  

This cost share for certification is available for each of these categories: crops, wild crops, livestock, processing/handling and State organic program fees.

Producers can receive cost share through both OTECP and OCCSP. Both OTECP and OCCSP cover costs incurred from October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022.  Producers have until October 31, 2022 to file applications, and FSA will make payments as applications are received.

To apply, producers and handlers should contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) at their local USDA Service Center. As part of completing the OCCSP applications, producers and handlers will need to provide documentation of their organic certification and eligible expenses. Organic producers and handlers may also apply for OCCSP through participating State agencies.

Additional details can be found on the OTECP and OCCSP webpages.

Cover Crops Play a Starring Role in Climate Change Mitigation
On your own land, you’ve probably seen evidence that climate change is happening – things like extreme weather events or changes in growing seasons over the years. America’s rural communities are on the frontlines of climate change, and now is the time for agriculture, forestry, and rural communities to act.

There are various ways to help mitigate the effects of climate change on your land and improve your bottom line at the same time. One very effective way is by planting cover crops.

Cover crops offer agricultural producers a natural and inexpensive climate solution through their ability to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) into soils. But cover crops don’t just remove CO2 from the atmosphere, they also help make your soil healthier and your crops more resilient to a changing climate.

Healthy soil has better water infiltration and water holding capacity and is less susceptible to erosion from wind and water.

Cover crops also trap excess nitrogen – keeping it from leaching into groundwater or running off into surface water – releasing it later to feed growing crops. This saves you money on inputs like water and fertilizer and makes your crops more able to survive in harsh conditions.

USDA’s Cover Crop Support
During the past year, USDA has made several strides to encourage use of cover crops. Earlier this month, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) formed a new partnership with Farmers For Soil Health. We also launched a new Cover Crop Initiative in 11 states through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), targeted $38 million to help producers mitigate climate change through adoption of cover crops.

In fiscal 2021, NRCS provided technical and financial assistance to help producers plant 2.3 million acres of cover crops through EQIP.

We’ve also recognized the importance of supporting cover crops through crop insurance. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently provided $59.5 million in premium support for producers who planted cover crops on 12.2 million acres through the new Pandemic Cover Crop Program. Additionally, RMA recently updated policy to allow producers with crop insurance to hay, graze or chop cover crops at any time and still receive 100% of the prevented planting payment. This policy change supports use of cover crops, which can help producers build resilience to drought. Visit RMA’s Conservation webpage to learn more.

Working together, we can lead the way through climate-smart solutions that will improve the profitability and resilience of producers and foresters, open new market opportunities, and build wealth that stays in rural communities. Our support for cover crops are part of a much broader effort at USDA to address climate change. To learn more, read USDA’s January 18, 2022 news release.

Cover crops are not only good for rural communities, but also for urban areas. Late last year, the NRCS National Plant Materials Center planted cover crops in the urban garden in front of USDA’s Washington, D.C. Headquarters. See how cover crops are also great for the urban farmer or backyard gardener.

To learn more, visit farmers.gov/conserve/soil-health, watch our Conservation at Work video on cover crops, or contact your local USDA Service Center.