AG ONE Newsletter August 11, 2020

Dear Reader:

Right now, there are underutilized resources as well as opportunities for the Agricultural Community to provide input to policymakers.  One of the best is a daily report from the PA Department of Agriculture which presents developments in how the state is confronting the coronavirus as well as identifying possible resources. If interested, may I suggest that you contact  RA-agpolicyoffice@pa.gov?  I hope some of these will prove themselves to be useful.

Sincerely, Vince Phillips 

USDA OFFERS ORGANIC CERTIFICATION HELP

USDA’s Farm Service Agency announced that organic producers can apply for Federal funds to assist with up to 50% of costs of receiving and maintaining organic certification through the Organic Certification and Cost Share Program.  Applications for eligible certification expenses paid between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2020, are due on October 31, 2020. Details:

https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/occsp/index?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.

DEP OFFERS ENERGY GRANTS TO FARMERS

The PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is offering grants of 50% (up to $7,000) to firms and farmers that reduce energy costs by $500 or more by adopting practices or acquiring equipment.  Last year, 233 small businesses were awarded grants for their projects. Natural resource protection projects may include planting riparian buffers, installation of streambank fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and investing in agricultural storm water management projects, with the goal of reducing sediment and nutrient loads in our waterways.  Costs incurred between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, are eligible.  Applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis, and will be accepted until fiscal year 2020-21 funds are exhausted or April 12, 2021, whichever occurs first.

All applications must be submitted through the Commonwealth’s Single Application for Assistance. Printed, faxed, and mailed applications are not accepted.

USDA ANNOUNCES NEW SERVICES EVALUATION SURVEY

On August 7, USDA announced a new national survey of 28,000 agricultural producers.  Its purpose is to critique services provided by the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Risk Management Agency.  The survey contains 20 questions.  To take the survey, go to https://www.farmers.gov/survey

HHS PLANS MEDICARE TELEHEALTH PERMANENCE

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing changes to expand telehealth permanently, consistent with the Executive Order on Improving Rural and Telehealth Access. To learn more about the public input CMS is seeking and additional information about the proposed rule read the August 3 press release here. Among other things, the Administration seeks to continue paying for telehealth check-ins to determine whether a person needs a physical visit to receive health care versus doing it remotely. 10.1 million Medicare recipients have availed themselves to use this consultative resource between March and July.  Another set of changes would be to add to the list of telehealth services such as home health care follow up eligible for Medicare payments. CMS is also seeking to simplify physician coding of treatments (saving doctors’ administrative time) and focusing more on chronic conditions.

COVID-19 SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS, PART II

The COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program (https://www.progressfund.org/grants-for-small-businesses/) began receiving applications August 10.  Grants between $5,000 and $50,000 are available for businesses with 25 or fewer employees before March 1.  One of the primary priority categories are businesses located in rural communities with high population loss, low income, and higher than average unemployment.  This grant program is managed by the Progress Fund for the western half of the state.  Contacts:  If north of I-80, call 800-895-1376.  If south of I-80, call 724-216-9160.  August 28 is the end of this grant application period.

HHS LISTS FEDERAL RURAL RESOURCES 

On August 10, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued a list of Federal resources designed for rural communities.  Note the August 19 webinar about the Social Determinants of Health in Rural Communities Toolkit , a newly released toolkit that compiles evidence-based and promising models and resources to support organizations implementing programs that address the social determinants of health in rural communities.  Upcoming Webinar is Wed. Aug. 19, 2020. 1:00 p.m. EDT.  Register here.

CDC’s COVID-19 and Rural Communities  About 46 million Americans live in rural areas and are facing distinctive challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC updated its information on rural communities and their response to the crisis.

Resources Supporting Rural Healthcare Surge Readiness  The COVID-19 Healthcare Resilience Working Group, a partnership with HHS, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies provide support and guidance for healthcare delivery and workforce capacity and protection.  In particular, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) launched the Rural Community Toolbox website, a clearinghouse for funding and resources to support rural leaders in addressing substance use disorder (SUD) and the opioid crisis.  The Community Assessment Tool is especially helpful.

APHIS SEEKS PEST AND DISEASE INPUT

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking feedback on its proposed list of pests and diseases of concern that are likely to pose a high risk to U.S. agricultural and natural resources.  APHIS is publishing the list on its website.  The agency will review comments from the public about the list, including suggestions of pests or diseases that should be added or removed.   Comments may be submitted to APHISPestDiseaseList@usda.gov.

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