Weekly Food and Farm Policy Overview (6/11/20)

This is a compiled summary of Policy Changes and Announcements (Section 1) and Policy Action Requests (Section 2) that have been submitted online using our standard form or via our email inbox over the past week. Some have been edited for brevity. Section 3 includes links to a broader set of COVID resources and information.

Section 1: Policy Changes/Announcements

Introduced Federal Legislation – The Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the USDA to create a program aimed at increasing nature-based greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions in the agriculture and forestry sectors while helping the agriculture sector gain access to revenue from greenhouse gas offset credit markets. The bill is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Mike Braun of Indiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Read the press release here and summary here

Introduced State Legislation – The Food Pantry Assistance Grant (HB20-1422) was introduced and went through committee earlier this week. Currently, the bill allocates $500,000 in CARES Act funding which must be used by the end of the year. The bill aims to provide grants to food pantries between $2,500 and $20,000 for individual organizational applications and $2,500 and $35,000 for partner organizational grants for the purchase of Colorado agricultural products. The proposed administrator of the grant, including applications, will be the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Approved State Legislation
HB 1343 – Egg-laying Hen Confinement Standards
SB-029 – Cost f Living Adjustment For CO Works Prog 1
SB-090 – Limit Liability For Food Donations To Nonprofits
SB-206 – Pub Assistance Prog Recipient Disqualification

Advanced State Legislation:
HB 1410 – COVID-19-related Housing Assistance
HB 1411 – COVID-19 Funds Allocation For Behavioral Health
HB 1412 – COVID-19 Utility Bill Payment-related Assistance
HB 1413 – Small Bus Recovery Loan Prog Premium Tax Credits
HB 1414 – Price Gouging Amid Disaster, Deceptive Trade Practice
SB-197 – Aligning State And Federal Law On Hemp
SB-205 – Sick Leave For Employees
SB-213 – Alcohol Beverage Retail Takeout & Delivery
SB-217 – Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity
SB-222 – Use CARES Act Money Small Business Grant Program

Lost State Legislation:
SB-216 – Workers’ Compensation For COVID-19

Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – The deadline for PPP applications is coming soon. If you have not applied for a PPP loan yet, do so before June 30, 2020. Also, some PPP rules have been relaxed by Congress including an Extended Maturity Date, wherein borrowers have 5 years (vs 2 years) to repay the remainder of their loan if the entire loan amount is not forgiven. This change is only applicable to loans made on or after June 5, 2020; however, lenders and borrowers with existing PPP loans may extend the maturity terms of pre-existing loans to 5 years. Please note that the loan forgiveness application form, published by the SBA in May, has not yet been updated with these new rules. As of June 6, 2020, the SBA reports that Colorado has received 99,155 approved PPP loans totaling over $10.2 billion dollars. See here for more info.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) – The SBA has spent about $80 billion out of about $365 billion in available EIDL loan funds. Colorado has received about $8,000 per small business in the state, but The Washington Post found that 40% of EIDL funding has gone to just four states: California; Texas; Florida; and New York, and some smaller states with fewer businesses appear to have received a larger share of the money (e.g. Nevada received about $12,200 per small business). Read more here and here. As of June 6, 2020, the SBA reports that Colorado has received 21,649 approved EIDL loans totaling almost $1.6 billion dollars. See here for more info.

Federal Reserve  The rules have been modified for the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program to be more attractive for small and mid-sized companies. Loans range from $250,000 to $300,000,000 at a rate of LIBOR plus 3%. Other changes include increasing the term of each loan option to five years and extending the repayment period for all loans by delaying principal payments for two years. Read more here and here. The Federal Reserve also announced expectations for the unemployment rate to remain above 9% by the end of 2020 and only reach 5.5% in 2022 with a particularly uneven recovery for the travel, leisure, and hospitality industries. Read more here and here.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program (CFAP) Direct Payments Program  USDA Farm Service Agency is offering a series of webinars for ag producers interested in applying to CFAP: Specialty Crops Producers (June 9 at 3:00 p.m. EDT),  Dairy & Non-Specialty Crops Producers (June 11 at 3:00 p.m. EDT); Non-Specialty Crops & Livestock Producers (June 16 at 3:00 p.m. EDT), and  FSA Programs in the Time of Coronavirus (June 18 at 3:00 p.m. EDT). Visit the FSA webinar page to pre-register for webinars. The CFAP Call Center number is 877-508-8364 and the USDA continues to update guidance based on FAQs here. As a reminder, June 22 is the last date to submit additional commodities for consideration into CFAP. Are you a farmer experiencing difficulty with the application process, being met with confusion or resistance from FSA, or encountering any other barriers to application, please let NSAC know here. As of June 8, 2020, the USDA reports that it has expended $1.4B of the $16B program and that Colorado has received $11.8 million (0.8% of total payments). See here for more info.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Child Nutrition Programs – FNS approved an extension for the area eligibility waiver for summer feeding programs in Colorado through the end of August.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) – On June 9th U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued a press release announcing that critical infrastructure meatpacking facilities are operating more than 95% of their average capacity compared to this time last year (beef facilities are operating at 98%, pork facilities at 95%, and poultry facilities at 98% of their capacity compared to the same time last year). Yet others have noted that there is not enough information about outbreaks in plants and there are continued concerns about worker safety. Read more here.

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – The FDA hosted a stakeholder call earlier this week to discuss produce food safety issues, food supply questions, and new relevant guidance related to COVID-19. For “Interim Guidance from CDC and the U.S. Department of Labor regarding Agriculture Workers & Employers” go here. For “Temporary Policy During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Regarding the Qualified Exemption from the Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption” go here. For “Voluntary Reporting of Temporary Closures or Requesting Assistance for FDA-Regulated Food Establishments During COVID-19 Pandemic” go here. For “FDA and USDA Release Recommendations for those in the Food and Agriculture Sector Experiencing Shortages of PPE, Cloth Face Coverings, Disinfectants, and Sanitation Supplies” go here. For a  summary of their guidance for agriculture workers and employers, meat and poultry facilities; and retail food establishments go here.

U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – On June   BLS released its weekly unemployment benefits report showing 1.9 million new claims bringing the total to 42.6 million over the past 11 weeks. Read more here and here

US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) – At the request of Sen. Grassley, the CBO released its analysis on the “Economic Effects of Additional Unemployment Benefits of $600 per Week” to explore the costs and benefits of extending the $600 per week additional unemployment benefit through January 31, 2021, rather than the current planned end date of July 31, 2020. If extended, the CBO expects greater economic output and lower employment in the second half of 2020 and they forecast lower economic output and employment for 2021. Read more here and here. This report was likely spurred by this analysis by the Heritage Foundation.

US Department of Justice (DOJ) – The DOJ filed suit alleging that executives from Colorado-based Pilgrim’s Pride and Georgia’s Claxton Poultry conspired from 2012 to 2017 to rig bids and discounts for broiler chickens offered to grocery chains and cooperatives buying on behalf of restaurants. This was the Justice Department’s first major action amid rising public pressure to crack down on anti-competitive behavior in the highly concentrated meat and poultry industry, but the DOJ has now also subpoenaed four major beef processors for potential price-fixing, because of disparity between the prices of live cattle and retail beef, which widened during the coronavirus pandemic. Read more here and here.

Section 2: Policy Action Requests

Hunger Free Colorado is asking you to contact your Colorado legislators to support HB20-1422 to help Colorado’s food pantries and food banks as they continue to serve our communities and strengthen our local economies. Take action here

The ACLU of Colorado is asking you to contact your Colorado representative and ask them to support the Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Act and demand humane, equitable, and constitutional policing in Colorado communities. Take action here: https://bit.ly/coleia2

ProgressNow Colorado is requesting volunteers to help pass SB-217 legislation against police violence. Please email volunteer@progressnowcolorado.org if you’re interested

The Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network is offering assistance to operators who want to start a new meat plant? New Meat Plant Q & A office hours will be: Monday, June 8th 10-10:30am PST; Monday, June 22nd 10-10:30am PST; Monday, July 6th 10-10:30am PST; and Monday, July 20th 10-10:30am PST. Register via Zoom for any of these dates and bring questions.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture requests that you contact your National Congressperson to request that they join Rep. John Joyce (R-PA) in sponsoring the FARM to TABLE Act that assists our nation’s agricultural suppliers, producers, and transporters. Request that they send questions and their support for this bill to Libby Callaway in Rep. Joyce’s office at Libby.Callaway@mail.house.gov

Section 3: Resources

Have a Policy Change/Announcement (Section 1) or Policy Action Request (Section 2) for the next weekly email? Please submit online using our standard form or via our email inbox by close of business on Tuesday.

Thank you!

6/4/20 - Food and Farm Policy Overview

Weekly Food and Farm Policy Overview (6/4/20)

This is a compiled summary of Policy Changes and Announcements (Section 1) and Policy Action Requests (Section 2) that have been submitted online using our standard form or via our email inbox over the past week. Some have been edited for brevity. Section 3 includes links to a broader set of COVID resources and information.

Section 1: Policy Changes/Announcements

Introduced State Legislation – Rep. Leslie Herod and Senate President Leroy Garcia introduced The Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Act (SB20-217) to overhaul policing practices in Colorado. The bill can be found here and their press conference can be seen here. Rep. Leslie Herod is asking nonprofits and for-profit organizations and businesses to sign up here and show their support.

Small Business Administration (SBA)  The U.S. Senate voted to pass the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act, which now heads to the President for his signature. The bill makes a number of significant changes to the PPP including: extending the expense forgiveness period from eight weeks to 24 weeks; reducing the payroll ratio requirement to 60 percent; increasing the loan repayment period from two to five years on new loans; allowing payroll tax deferment for PPP recipients; and extending the June 30 re-hiring deadline. More info here.

US Treasury – This past Monday, the Treasury Department released data showing that it disbursed $146 billion in unemployment benefits from March through May. But based on calculations, the Treasury owed about $214 billion over those three months, which means $67 billion (or about 1/3) is unpaid.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program (CFAP) Families Food Box Program – USDA allocated $3B for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program and $1.22B of this has been awarded. The produce company serving the majority of Colorado, C&C Produce, is looking to sub-contract with another vendor to distribute boxes in Colorado. They ask that anyone interested to call C&C directly at 816-241-4425.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program (CFAP) Direct Payments Program – USDA allocated $16B for direct payments to farmers, ranchers and other producers who suffered losses due to COVID. Applications are available (as of May 26th) and will be accepted on a rolling basis. This is a first-come, first-served program. Producers in search of one-on-one support with the application process can call 877-508-8364 or watch a Colorado specific webinar here.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Child Nutrition Programs – USDA FNS released a new memo for “Questions and Answers on the Nationwide Waiver to Extend Unanticipated School Closure Operations through June 30, 2020” which includes a section detailing how community organizations that sponsor programs may serve non-congregate meals via meal delivery. Read more here.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) – USDA RD updated its guidance for rural residents, businesses, and communities affected by COVID-19 here.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – In a joint statement, the FDA and USDA released these recommendations to help address shortages of personal protective equipment, cloth face coverings, disinfectants and sanitation supplies in the food and agriculture industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. EPA also released their own guidance for the agriculture industry.
 
U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – OSHA issued guidance to help agriculture workers during the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance provides specific recommendations for owners and operators. See the press release here and the full guidance here.

Colorado Governor’s Office – Gov. Polis and the COVID Relief Fund today announced the fourth round of grants. This round of funding provided a total of $2.97 million to 145 community-based organizations serving Coloradans who are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In total, 650 grants have been disbursed for a total of $14 million to organizations located in 58 counties and serving all 64 counties. Here are the awardees of the fourth round of grants. The governor also signed an Executive Order replacing the “Safer at Home” order with the “Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors” which you can read here.

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) – 527 free meal sites are open across the state and operating under the summer feeding program. CDE also released a series of scenarios and planning guidance for school and district leaders as they plan for the start of the 2020-21 school year in August here. CDE invites your feedback and ideas for this framework and toolkit here.

Section 2: Policy Action Requests

Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), Feeding America, and Center for American Progress (CAP) are requesting national, state, and community-based organizations sign onto this letter urging Congress and the White House to immediately boost Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and make investments in other critical nutrition programs with proven health and economic impacts. Sign on here by COB June 10.

The National Restaurant Association and a coalition of restaurant industry supply chain partners are urging people to contact their congressional leaders to support the Restaurant and Foodservice Recovery FundRead the Association’s letter and the press release.

Please join LiveWell Colorado and Hunger Free Colorado in taking action on the proposed Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6721/S.3655) which would fund state agencies and their food bank partners, allowing them to buy food directly from small and medium-size farmers who rely on local agricultural food marketing – such as farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants, and farm-to-school programs. Contact Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner here.

Contact your senator and encourage them to support the SB 3785, Farming Support to States Act, to provide vital support for the Colorado Department of Agriculture and its programs to aid in the recovery of Colorado agriculture in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. State departments of agriculture are an essential partner in recovery, but like many state agencies, they face massive cuts that threaten our ability to provide vital services to agriculture. With federal COVID-19 funds, the Colorado Department of Agriculture could provide immediate relief to local producers and make long-standing improvements to Colorado’s food system to build resilience for the future.  In addition, The Colorado Department of Agriculture: has well-established marketing and grant programs and strong relationships with Colorado’s agricultural producers and stakeholders; possesses a deep knowledge of regional needs and has the teams, partnerships, and bipartisan backing in place to administer a relief program quickly, effectively, and efficiently; and uses existing resources to meet the urgent needs of our producers. A few examples of how funding from the Farming Support to States Act could be used in Colorado include: Ensuring our agricultural workforce and our food supply stays safe; Supporting market development for local and regional food systems; Expanding and diversifying food processing and distribution;  Expanding farmer mental health services;  and Funding job workshops, critical food safety training, and more. 

The Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care is asking you to urge your U.S. Congress members to cosponsor HR-6906, the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act which would cover all out-of pocket-costs for those with insurance and would cover all health care costs during the pandemic for those without insurance.

The ACLU of Colorado is asking you to tell your senator to support the Law Enforcement Integrity and Accountability Act and demand humane, equitable, and constitutional policing in Colorado communities. By acting, you will bolster legislators who are champions for police accountability by letting them know they have your support, embolden those who may be nervous to speak up and sway those who are undecided. Take action here

ProgressNow Colorado is requesting that you sign this petition and automatically email your Colorado state senator to support legislation against police violence. Click here to email your state senator.

Section 3: Resources

Have a Policy Change/Announcement (Section 1) or Policy Action Request (Section 2) for the next weekly email? Please submit online using our standard form or via our email inbox by close of business on Tuesday.

Thank you!

5/28/20 - Food and Farm Policy Overview

Weekly Food and Farm Policy Overview (5/28/20)

This is a compiled summary of Policy Changes and Announcements (Section 1) and Policy Action Requests (Section 2) that have been submitted online using our standard form or via our email inbox over the past week. Some have been edited for brevity. Section 3 includes links to a broader set of COVID resources and information.

Section 1: Policy Changes/Announcements

Introduced Legislation  Senator Bennet introduced the Food Supply Protection Act to support small meat processing facilities, infrastructure grants for storage at food banks, and incentivize surplus food purchasing. See the bill here.

Introduced Legislation  Senator Bennet introduced the Small Packer Overtime and Holiday Fee Relief for COVID-19 Act to support small meatpacking plants that are operating longer hours during the pandemic. This legislation would provide funding to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to reduce fees charged to small plants, providing more options for ranchers to harvest their livestock. See the bill here and press release here.

Introduced Legislation  Farming Support to States Act (S.3785) was introduced to provide state departments of agriculture with access to $1 billion in immediate, flexible funding to aid in responding to urgent and emerging issues in the food and agriculture supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has a summary here and here.

Introduced Legislation  The FEMA Empowering Essential Deliveries (FEED) Act (HR 6700) would allow Federal Emergency Management Funds to be utilized to pay restaurants and other small food businesses and nonprofits 100% of the cost to provide prepared meals to families in need.

Small Business Administration (SBA) – The SBA released additional guidance about Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness: the Loan Review Procedures and Related Borrower and Lender Responsibilities here and Loan Forgiveness Requirements here. As of May 23, 2020, the SBA reports that Colorado has received 97,328 approved loans totaling over $10.2 billion dollars. See here for more info.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program (CFAP) Families Food Box Program – USDA allocated $3B for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program and $1.22B of this has been awarded. Many questions have emerged about this program prompting this letter to US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue from Rep Plaskett, Rep Costa, and Rep Fudge.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program (CFAP) Direct Payments Program – USDA allocated $16B for direct payments to farmers, ranchers and other producers who suffered losses due to COVID. Applications are available (as of May 26th) and will be accepted on a rolling basis. This is a first-come, first-served program. Producers in search of one-on-one support with the CFAP application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is apparently a good first step before engaging the team at your county FSA office. A Colorado specific webinar will be provided on Monday, June 1st from 6:00pm to 8:30pm. Register here. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Farm Aid, and the Farmers’ Legal Action Group are also hosting a webinar focused on helping farmer-serving organizations understand the program, assist producers and conduct effective outreach. This is a “TA for TA providers” opportunity on Friday, May 29 at 11a MST. Register here.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Disaster Set-Aside Program –
The USDA FSA broadened the use of the Disaster Set-Aside (DSA) loan provision, normally used in the wake of natural disasters, to allow farmers with USDA farm loans who are affected by COVID-19, and are determined eligible, to have their next payment set aside. In some cases, FSA may also set aside a second payment for farmers who have already had one payment set aside because of a prior designated disaster. For more information go here.

Colorado Governor’s Office – Governor Polis signed executive order D-2020-076 extending the COVID-19 disaster declaration another 30 days, from May 22 to June 21, 2020. The governor also signed executive order D-2020-079 which extends the Safer at Home order through June 1, 2020 and amends the order to allow dine-in meals at restaurants (with restrictions) effective May 27.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) – Per the governor’s executive order, CDPHE released guidance for dine-in service at licensed retail food establishments (i.e. restaurants). Read the guidance here and here.

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) – 623 free meal sites are open across the state and operating under the summer feeding program. An extension of the waiver for area eligibility has been requested (but not yet approved) through September 30th. The current waiver is set to expire on June 30th.

Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) – The Colorado Department of Human Services, in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), has received federal approval to administer benefits to about 363,000 school-aged children who are not able to receive meals at school. The benefits are part of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, which will support Colorado families during the COVID-19 epidemic. Children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and enrolled in a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program can get extra food benefits in addition to the grab-and-go meals currently offered at many schools across the state. P-EBT benefits are expected to be delivered in mid- to late June and throughout July in the of amount $5.70 per student per day of school closure. Students already enrolled in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program will receive a lump sum of $279 (49 days of closure at $5.70 a day). A child newly eligible but not previously enrolled will receive the appropriate amount for the month they have been determined eligible for P-EBT. For more information go here or email pebt2020@state.co.us

Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) – Colorado Proud is hosting virtual gatherings to connect industry peers, share complex conversations, and discuss best practices. The next event “Adaptability: How Agriculture Can Succeed in Tough Times” is scheduled for June 3rd from 4-5p. RSVP here

Section 2: Policy Action Requests

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food Policy Networks project invites you to join a webinar on Thursday, May 28 from 10 – 11:15 AM Mountain time to discuss how food policy councils can support food chain workers during COVID-19. The webinar “Building buy-in and taking action” is a roundtable discussion providing examples of how food policy councils are organizing around food chain worker issues.  Speakers include: Winona Bynum, Detroit Food Policy Council Tanya Kerssen, Real Food Media; Colleen McKinney, The Center for Good Food Purchasing; and Beth Spitler, California Food and Farming Network. RSVP here

Join the American Farmland Trust for a webinar on “Where Does Colorado Stand? Findings from Farms Under Threat: The State of the States” on July 9th at 11am MST. We’ll be looking at the spatial and policy scorecard findings and talking through tools available through this report to help planners, land protection practitioners, policymakers, and advocates strengthen and expand agricultural land retention and protection efforts. RSVP here

Section 3: Resources

Have a Policy Change/Announcement (Section 1) or Policy Action Request (Section 2) for the next weekly email? Please submit online using our standard form or via our email inbox by close of business on Tuesday.

Thank you!

5/21/20 - Food and Farm Policy Overview

Weekly Food and Farm Policy Overview (5/21/20)

This is a compiled summary of Policy Changes and Announcements (Section 1) and Policy Action Requests (Section 2) that have been submitted online using our standard form or via our email inbox over the past week. Some have been edited for brevity. Section 3 includes links to a broader set of COVID resources and information.

Section 1: Policy Changes/Announcements

House Legislation – The latest coronavirus response package, The HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), was passed by the House on May 15th with a vote of 208 in favor, 199 opposed. It is now awaiting action by the Senate. Overall, the package includes a number of significant food, nutrition, and agriculture investments. For a title-by-title summary go here or for the full bill go here.

Introduced Legislation – Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6721/S.3655). This bill will bolster the ability of food banks and food assistance programs to meet the needs of food insecure individuals, while also providing additional funding for purchases from small and medium farmers by providing funds directly to States and state agencies and their food-bank partners. Includes funding set-asides to ensure targeted purchases of food from producers who rely on local/regional agricultural food marketing—such as farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants and farm-to-school programs.

Introduced House Legislation – Food Assistance for Kids and Families During COVID-19 Act of 2020 (H.R 6445 /S. 3563). This bill would authorize public-private partnerships between the USDA, authorized retailers and community-based organizations to support food delivery to SNAP users and provide funding to support grocery delivery for program participants who are seniors, immunocompromised individuals and others unable to travel safely to a retail food outlet such as a grocery store or farmers market.

Introduced Legislation – New Markets for State Inspection Meat and Poultry Act (S.2814). This bill would allow meat and poultry products inspected by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines. Currently, there are 27 states with inspection programs “at least equal to” federal meat and/or poultry inspection programs.

Introduced Legislation – Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act (S.3602HR 6683). The bill would forgive USDA FSA direct loan debt up to $250,000 for farmers with adjusted gross income up to $300,000 (over the past 5 years). Unlike many other loan forgiveness programs, this bill would ensure that farmers who receive forgiveness maintain their ability to borrow from FSA in the future, as well as eliminate tax liability for the forgiven debt. See press releases here and here.

Small Business Administration (SBA) – The SBA released the coronavirus Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness application here and said more guidance is forthcoming. Borrowers need to complete the application and submit it to their lender who will assess forgiveness. PPP was designed to help companies and organizations with fewer than 500 employees to keep staff. Applicants received up to $10 million, but at least 75 percent of the money must be put toward payroll costs and the window to use funds is only eight weeks. Forgiveness will be prorated and reduced proportionally based on how many jobs were cut or the amount by which salaries were reduced. If businesses are not seeking forgiveness, the loan has a 1 percent interest rate over two years and no payments are necessary during the first six months. As of May 16, 2020, the SBA reports that Colorado has received 96,285 approved loans totaling over $10B. See here for more info.

Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) – The CDC has released six one-page “decision tool” documents (see links in text) for schoolsworkplacescampschildcare centersmass transit systems, and bars and restaurants as they consider reopening. A full guidance document can also be found here.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program (CFAP) Families Food Box Program – USDA allocated $3B for the Farmers to Families Food Box Program and $1.22B of this has been awarded. Non-profits organizations, schools, Indian Tribal Organizations, and government entities are all eligible to receive and distribute boxes from USDA contracted distributors. If you would like to receive boxes to distribute in your community, USDA suggests that you contact the distributor that has been awarded the contract for your service area. Visit this page to find contact information for contractors in your region. For more information on eligibility as a box distribution site see this FAQ. Liz Kelpis from the USDA shared that another round of CFAP will become available for existing AND new vendors with delivery to start in July. More information to come.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program (CFAP) Direct Payments Program – USDA allocated $16B for direct payments to farmers, ranchers and other producers of eligible commodities who had to destroy products, ship products that they were not paid for, or who experienced declines in prices between January 15 and April 15. For a full list of eligible commodities, go here. Eligible producers will receive 80% of their maximum total loss (not to exceed $250,000 or $750,000 for corporations). Applications will become available and will be accepted on a rolling basis beginning May 26. This is a first-come, first-served program. If you are considering applying, contact your local USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) personnel immediately and start completing the required forms (CCC-901, CCC-941, CCC-942, AD-1026, AD-2047, and SF-3881). Look up your county FSA office here.

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – The Food Bank of the Rockies is able to offer capacity-building opportunities to TEFAP partners through the Families First Cares Act and USDA/FNS Purchased Food Program funds. There is no limit to the amount of funding a site can request. The USDA/FNS and CDHS will review and determine approval for any expenditures over $5,000. Please request amounts over $5,000 if you have needs that these funds can help fill. What would help your program be more efficient? Do you need a large glass front freezer to replace a row of old units? Maybe some pallet jacks or racking?  What would assist your hunger relief program outreach to more clients and create a larger impact on alleviating hunger within your community?  This is your chance to ask for those important items on your program’s wish list.  Click here to download and complete this short request form and email it to Jonelle Addabbo, jaddabbo@foodbankrockies.org Please email Jonelle if you have any further questions.

Colorado Governor’s Office – Governor Polis signed executive order D-2020-070 allocating $1.674 billion in federal funds for COVID-19 relief. Here is one analysis of the reaction so far. The governor also signed executive order D-2020-065 which temporarily allows signature gathering for ballot initiatives by email and mail. This executive order is already facing lawsuits, see here and here

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) – Several summer food program waivers have been extended including: Non-congregate feeding extended through Aug 31; Parent Pick-up extended through Aug 31; Meal time pickup extended through September 30; and Meal pattern flexibility through June 30.

Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) – The state’s Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program has been approved by the USDA and will bring an additional $101M to Colorado. More information to come. Online SNAP is still on track for pilot testing with retailers through May 28. $15M in increased Low-income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) funds will also be extended through the summer.

Section 2: Policy Action Requests

Colorado Working Families Party invites you to the Colorado Senate Forum on Racial Justice hosted online May 30th from 1:00-3:00p. Sign up here

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is asking advocates to contact your Senators and ask them to cosponsor one or more of the following: Farmers Feeding Families – Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6721/S.3655);  Food Assistance for Kids and Families During COVID-19 Act of 2020 (H.R 6445 /S. 3563); New Markets for State Inspection Meat and Poultry Act (S.2814); and/or the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act (S.3602HR 6683).

 

Section 3: Resources

Have a Policy Change/Announcement (Section 1) or Policy Action Request (Section 2) for the next weekly email? Please submit online using our standard form or via our email inbox by close of business on Tuesday.

Thank you!

5/14/20 - Food and Farm Policy Overview

Weekly Food and Farm Policy Overview (5/14/20)

This is a compiled summary of Policy Changes and Announcements (Section 1) and Policy Action Requests (Section 2) that have been submitted online using our standard form or via our email inbox over the past week. Some have been edited for brevity. Section 3 includes links to a broader set of COVID resources and information.

Section 1: Policy Changes/Announcements

Introduced House Legislation – The latest coronavirus response package, The HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), was introduced in the House this past week. Overall, the package includes a number of significant food, nutrition, and agriculture investments. For a title-by-title summary go here or for the full bill go here.

Introduced House Legislation – The WIC Benefit Flexibility During COVID-19 Act (HR 6726) was introduced which would allow states to increase WIC cash value vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables to $35 until Sept. 30, 2020. For more information see the press release here.

Introduced House Legislation – The Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption Act or the PRIME Act (HR 2859) was re-introduced in the House and in the Senate as S.1620. This bill expands the exemption of custom slaughtering of animals from federal inspection requirements specifically to include meat that is prepared exclusively for distribution to restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, grocery stores, or other establishments. For more information see the press release here and the full bill here.

White House – Temporary amendments to visa requirements are expected to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday. These new regulations apply to H-2B visas and will allow certain seasonal workers who are “essential to the US food supply chain” to remain in the country and employed by qualified employers who are concerned other workers will be unable to enter the US.

Small Business Administration (SBA) – Recent communications indicate that SBA EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and EIDL Advance applications are still being accepted only for agricultural businesses. See the press release here, webinar here, step by step tutorial here, or go here for more information. Additional information on both PPP and EIDL for farms is available here

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) – The CFAP (Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program) will release more details about the $16B indirect payments for farmers, ranchers and other producers with losses due to price and market supply chain impacts during this webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET. In related news, the direct relief check cap will be raised from its current $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per farmer. Last Friday AMS announced the first $1.22B in CFAP awards of the $3B for the Food Box Distribution Program (aka Farmers To Families). The list of national awardees can be found here and the list of Mountain Plains Region vendors can be found here. For more information on the additional Section 32 commodity purchases, USDA-AMS is planning for June/July, go here. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has an updated list of all Waivers for Colorado posted here. Lastly, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced a $900,000 grant program for local governments to support Community Compost/Food Waste Reduction Project Cooperative Agreements. For more information see the press release here and webinar here.

Colorado Governor’s Office – Last week Governor Polis released a Proclamation declaring 2020 the Year of Local Food in Colorado. See attached for more detail.

Colorado Attorney General – Attorney General Wiesner Phil Weiser co-signed a letter to the White House with 20 other state attorneys general, asking for immediate action to ensure the health and safety of meat and poultry processing plant employees. See the letter here.

 

Colorado General Assembly – Updated state financial forecasts released this week frame $6.8 billion in needed state budget cuts for the next three years. Budget negotiations which resume in earnest next week will seek to fill a $3.3 billion revenue shortfall this coming fiscal year (starting in July 2020). For more information see the financial forecast here.

Colorado Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – The EOC webinar to support the flexible use of FEMA Public Assistance (PA) dollars in Colorado is coming up next Tuesday. To register to go here. Also the state Logistics team has identified some sources of cleaning supplies and PPE for organizations struggling to procure resources (Disinfectants and Cleaners: hereherehere, and here; for PPE go  herehereherehereherehere, and here)

Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) – P-EBT is still being negotiated with the USDA., but online SNAP will begin testing with pilot retailers at the end of May.

Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) – Commissioner of Agriculture, Kate Greenberg, is soliciting ideas for how the Colorado Department of Agriculture can further support the short and long-term recovery of agricultural producers and workers, food systems, and our non-producer stakeholders. Including the following “Are there federal policies we should be advocating for? Are there state legislative changes that would be helpful? Are there rules and regulations getting in the way of recovery? Is there a need to support new market opportunities?” Please add your feedback here before May 15, 2020.

Section 2: Policy Action Requests

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is asking advocates to encourage Senator Gardner to support the Farmers Feeding Families Act (S.6355) Draft bill here and description here

Hunger Free Colorado is asking for Food Security Organizations to Sign-On Letter to this letter for Colorado’s Governor and General Assembly about several food security programs before 10:00 am, Friday, May 15, 2020.

Hunger Free Colorado is asking you to reach out to your elected officials in Congress to support the HEROES Act (H.R.6800). Go here for more information go here

CommonWealth Kitchen is asking advocates to support hard-hit small business and food systems communities by contacing your Federal legislators about The FEED Act-  A bipartisan bill that would allow Federal Emergency Management Funds to be utilized to pay restaurants and other small food businesses  and nonprofits 100% of the cost to provide prepared meals to families in need and the Saving Our Street Act–  A bill being sponsored by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Senator Kamala Harris that would provide GRANTS of up to $250,000 to small and micro-businesses, and setting aside 75% of the $120B proposal to fund “historically underrepresented businesses including minority-owned and veteran-owned.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is urging institutions using meat from Tyson, JBS, Smithfield, Jenni-O and Cargill to write a letter asking these companies to institute safety protocols to combat COVID 19. See their example letter here and template here

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Food Policy Networks project is seeking feedback from food policy council members and their partners about the new USDA Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education, and Extension (REE) Initiative. Please take a moment to fill out this survey before May 22, 2020.

Section 3: Resources

Have a Policy Change/Announcement (Section 1) or Policy Action Request (Section 2) for the next weekly email? Please submit online using our standard form or via our email inbox by close of business on Tuesday.

Thank you!

5/7/20 - Food and Farm Policy Overview

Weekly Food and Farm Policy Overview

This is a compiled summary of Policy Changes and Announcements (Section 1) and Policy Action Requests (Section 2) that have been submitted online using our standard form or via our email inbox over the past week. Some have been edited for brevity. Section 3 includes links to a broader set of COVID resources and information.

Section 1: Policy Changes and Announcements

Small Business Administration (SBA) – SBA announced that new EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and EIDL Advance applications are being accepted, but only for agricultural businesses. See the press release here, webinar here, step by step tutorial here, or go here for more information. Additional information on both PPP and EIDL for farms is available here

US Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Applications closed for the $3B CFAP (Coronavirus Food/Farm Assistance Program) program last Friday. The list of local applicants is expected to become available in the coming week. The USDA Ag Marketing Sevice (AMS) announced $470M in additional Section 32 purchases of select fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, and seafood products. Go here for more information. The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) adopted additional flexibilities for approved insurance providers of organically certified farms. Go here for more information.  The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) also clarified the match requirements on the 2020 Request for Applications (RFA) for the Regional Food Systems Partnership (RFSP) program. Go here for more information. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) also announced $3M in grants for Urban Agriculture and innovative production. Go here or more information.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The EPA has announced a $1 million grant funding opportunity to help local environmental justice communities address COVID-19 concerns faced by low-income and minority communities. Go here for more information.

Colorado Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – The EOC is planning a webinar at 9am on Tuesday, May 19th to help counties understand how to use FEMA Public Assistance (PA) dollars to flexibly support community food needs. The webinar will also provide an overview of how local food systems are responding to COVID and highlight opportunities for local food assistance providers, community food businesses, and other food organizations. Register here.

Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) – CDHS has requested a waiver to allow for online redemption of SNAP benefits in Colorado. Tentative approval has been granted and more information is forthcoming about a phased rollout that will take at least one month. Press release here.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) – CDPHE updated the “Safer at Home” public health order on May 4th. Go here for the full document. This order outlines the requirements for implementing  Safer at Home including details on individual and workplace restrictions.

Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) – CDLE is offering Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) to gig workers, self-employed persons, and independent contractors under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) may also be available for people who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. Go here for more information.

Colorado Department of Education (CDE) – Colorado submitted and received a fresh fruit and vegetable waiver allowing parents and guardians to pick up food for their children from school feeding sites. Go here and here for more information

Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) – Commissioner of Agriculture, Kate Greenberg, is soliciting ideas for how the Colorado Department of Agriculture can further support the short and long-term recovery of agricultural producers and workers, food systems, and our non-producer stakeholders. Including the following “Are there federal policies we should be advocating for? Are there state legislative changes that would be helpful? Are there rules and regulations getting in the way of recovery? Is there a need to support new market opportunities?” Please add your feedback here before May 15, 2020. In addition, Colorado Proud has developed a new website to help people find local products and is featuring different members on the Facebook page every day to promote local products and connect producers and consumers.

Section 2: Policy Action Requests

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is asking farmers and farmers allies to communicate with the USDA to ensure that the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program direct aid support goes to diversified growers. For more information go here

The Farmers Feeding Families Coronavirus Response Act H.R. 6721 was just introduced in the House, and advocates are working on a Senate version now. The Act would direct Federal funding to states for targeted purchases to buy food for food assistance sites from producers who rely on local food markets and have been negatively impacted by COVID. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is asking you to contact your representative and ask them to co-sponsor the Act!

Section 3: Resources

Have a Policy Change/Announcement (Section 1) or Policy Action Request (Section 2) for the next weekly email? Please submit online using our standard form or via our email inbox by close of business on Tuesday.

Thank you!

Colorado Food Task Force COVID-19 Policy Updates

There are frequent and significant policy changes happening that affect the ag and food sector during this unprecedented COVID event. Help us keep our network informed by sharing a policy update, link to provide more information and/or file that gives more details. We will be compiling these updates (Wednesday pm) and sharing weekly on Thursday of each week for the time being.

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