NEWS & ISSUES

USDA to Provide Additional Direct Assistance to Farmers Impacted by the Coronavirus

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced up to an additional $14 billion dollars for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21st and run through December 11, 2020.  “America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Secretary Perdue. “We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations’ farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted.”  Producers can apply for CFAP 2 at USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices. This program provides financial assistance that gives producers the ability to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Producers will be compensated for ongoing market disruptions and assisted with the associated marketing costs.  CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories of commodities – Price Trigger Commodities, Flat-rate Crops and Sales Commodities.

Price Trigger Commodities
Price trigger commodities are major commodities that meet a minimum 5-percent price decline over a specified period of time. Eligible price trigger crops include barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton, and all classes of wheat. Payments will be based on 2020 planted acres of the crop, excluding prevented planting and experimental acres. Payments for price trigger crops will be the greater of: 1) the eligible acres multiplied by a payment rate of $15 per acre; or 2) the eligible acres multiplied by a nationwide crop marketing percentage, multiplied by a crop-specific payment rate, and then by the producer’s weighted 2020 Actual Production History (APH) approved yield. If the APH is not available, 85 percent of the 2019 Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Option (ARC-CO) benchmark yield for that crop will be used.

Flat-rate Crops
Crops that either do not meet the 5-percent price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre. These crops include alfalfa, extra-long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.

Eligibility
There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits when members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. In addition, this special payment limitation provision has been expanded to include trusts and estates for both CFAP 1 and 2.

Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions.

Applying for Assistance
Producers can apply for assistance beginning Sept. 21, 2020. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 11, 2020.  Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap/apply. For existing FSA customers, including those who participated in CFAP 1, many documents are likely already on file. Producers should check with FSA county office to see if any of the forms need to be updated.  Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages with the team at the FSA county office.

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in the office, by phone and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

Housing For The Harvest Program Expands To Kings, Riverside And Tulare Counties, Providing Temporary

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has announced that the counties of Kings, Riverside and Tulare will participate in Housing for the Harvest, a program announced by Governor Gavin Newsom in July to provide temporary hotel housing options for farm and food processing employees to self-isolate if they are COVID-19 positive and do not require hospitalization, or have been exposed and cannot properly self-isolate at home. Six counties are now participating in Housing for the Harvest: Kings, Riverside, Tulare, Santa Barbara, Fresno and San Joaquin.

The state is securing hotel rooms in participating counties, with local governments identifying administrators to manage the program and local community organizations to provide additional services, like meals, wellness checks and in-language assistance. Local administrators will serve as a point of contact for eligible workers. “Counties across the state are stepping up to provide a safe, temporary housing solution to protect agricultural workers who need to isolate,” said CDFA secretary Karen Ross. “These hardworking men and women are on the front lines of the pandemic and it is critical that we protect them, their families, and local communities.”

Housing for the Harvest will ultimately be made available statewide and provide opt-in housing support for any counties or regions that are interested. California has received FEMA approval for this program during the COVID-19 pandemic and will seek federal reimbursement for 75 percent of hotel costs.

Kings County
Kings County has partnered with Kings Community Action Organization (KCAO) to administer Housing for the Harvest as part of Kings Cares. In addition to hotel quarantine support such as transportation, meals, wellness checks and laundry service, Kings County has allocated resources for financial assistance and additional support for family at home.  Farmworkers and food processing workers in Kings County who are in need of these service are urged to visit www.thehealthyharvest.org or www.cosechasana.org or call 559-710-2000. Please note that personal information gathered through this process will be kept confidential. For agricultural business on-site testing scheduling, please visit www.thehealthyharvest.org.

Riverside County

Riverside County’s Department of Housing, Homelessness Prevention and Workforce Solutions has partnered with the local TODEC Legal Center to manage Housing for the Harvest in the county. The Riverside program will include meals, food, transportation and direct financial assistance of $2,000 for each family participating in the program.  Farmworkers or food processing workers in Riverside County who are in need of these services are urged to contact the TODEC Legal Center at (888) 863-3291 or via email at campo@todec.org. Please note that personal information gathered through this process will be kept confidential.

Tulare County

Tulare County’s program will be administered by Proteus, Inc. in coordination with the county’s Community Care Coalition. Through additional efforts of coalition partners, supplemental services are being offered to support families at home. The Central Valley Community Foundation has formed a regional Healthy Harvest program and will provide additional funding for support services and outreach. These partnerships are crucial to ensure needed outreach and investment in local communities.

Farmworkers and food processing workers in Tulare County who are in need of these services are urged to visit www.thehealthyharvest.org or www.cosechasana.org or call 559-710-2000. Please note that personal information gathered through this process will be kept confidential. For agricultural business on-site testing scheduling, please visit www.thehealthyharvest.org. We will continue to update you as more counties come on line.

Kings County Flier (English)
Kings County Flier (Spanish)
Riverside County Flier (English)
Riverside County Flier (Spanish)
Tulare County Flier (English)
Tulare County Flier (Spanish)

Enrollment Live U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol Webinar Sessions for Producers

The U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol is excited to officially move into phase two and is recruiting new U.S. growers for enrollment. The Trust Protocol works to ensure the future of U.S. cotton by helping growers tell their sustainability story and ultimately assure Brands and Retailers that they can purchase U.S. Cotton with even greater confidence, knowing that it is grown more sustainably and verified by third-party audit.

Please note that beginning September 29 and running through October 15, separate sessions will begin for growers in providing information regarding signup for this important program.  The webinars will provide details on why the Trust Protocol is critical in a period of ever greater supply chain scrutiny and how quick and easy it is for growers to join the Trust Protocol.

The link below will provide a schedule of these webinars and allow you to register.   Also beginning tomorrow, the Trust Protocol is running webinars through September 25 to provide details and help gins and coops in signing up for the Trust Protocol.  Growers are welcome to attend these sessions as well.  Please register to learn more about the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol.   Join us by clicking one of the times below that fits your schedule, and add it to your calendar.

All the information can be found by clicking the button below.

Click Here

Pink Bollworm Program – Silverleaf Whitefly Report 08/24/2020-09/04/2020

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Pink Bollworm Program has released its report for monitoring Silverleaf Whitefly. The program monitored for whitefly and other cotton pests from August 24, 2020 to September 4, 2020.  Whitefly on the increase.  Stay vigilant – NO STICKY COTTON! For the full report, please follow the links below.

Silverleaf Whitefly Monitoring Report
Heat Unit Reports
Statistical Reports
Narrative Report

Advisory

Date:​ September 10, 2020

To:​ Members

From:​ Priscilla Rodriguez, Director of Regulatory Affairs

Subject:​IRS Paid Sick Leave Credit

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The Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) required certain employers to provide employees with up to a combined 12 weeks of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19 through December 31, 2020. The employer benefit included in the FFCRA is a refundable tax credit – Paid Sick Leave Credit for eligible employers with fewer than 500 employees.

In anticipation of receiving the credit eligible employers can funds qualified leave wages and allocable qualified health care expenses and employers share of Medicare taxes on the qualified leave wages to its employees in a calendar quarter by reducing federal tax deposits for that quarter. You must account for the reduction in deposits on the Form 941 for the quarter.

The paid sick leave credit and paid family leave credit are available for eligible employers who pay qualified sick leave wages and/or qualified family leave wages from 4/1/2020 through 12/31/2020.Eligible employers may claim the tax credit if the employee is unable to work or telework due to for qualified reasons related to COVID-19.

Paid Leave Refundable Credit:

• Qualified paid leave provided between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020
• Fully refundable tax credit
• Includes the eligible employer’s share of Medicare tax
• Includes allocable cost of maintaining health insurance coverage
• Qualified Leave Wages are not subject to the employer portion of social security tax

As mentioned, you can claim the paid sick leave credit on the Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Returns, Form 941 for wages, qualified health care expenses and eligible medicare tax by reducing federal employment tax deposits. Be sure to maintain records and documents pertaining to the leave and copies of the form 941. If needed, you may also claim an advanced credit by filing IRS form 7200. For more information, attached is a one pager with additional information on the leave credits and you can find a IRS FAQ on the topic here. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to our office at (559)455-9272.

Note: If you have received the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) you cannot claim the credit for the same wages.

New COVID-19 Employer Tax Credits

URGENT

Due to a combination of a Valley-wide high-wind blowing dust event and ongoing smoke impacts from wildfires burning across the region, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (District) is experiencing highly elevated particulate matter exceedances today, September 8, 2020, with continued high-wind impacts extending into tomorrow, September 9, 2020. As they have in the past, the Air District is asking for the assistance of the agricultural community in responding to this issue by refraining from conducting any dust generating activities that can feasibly be delayed until after the event has subsided. Thank you for your assistance as the Air District attempts to mitigate the impacts from this exceptional event. For more information, contact the District’s Public Outreach Office at (559-230-6000).

Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Grant Framework Open for Comments

Earlier this week, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) has released their Grant Proposal Solicitation Package for comments.  This grant proposal program is aimed at providing financial assistance to Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA’s) for projects that service critically overdrafted basins.  In the initial round of funding, DWR has made available $26 million dollars for GSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plans (GSP).  DWR also plans on a second round of funding being made available in 2022, and expect the funding pool to be $62 million dollars for projects in high and medium priority basins throughout the state.  DWR will be holding a public webinar on September 3rd, 2020 at 10 AM to discuss the grant proposal, and solicit comments from any interested stakeholders.  Attendees can submit public comments during the webinar, and DWR is also accepting comments on the proposed grant document until September 18th.  Please email comments to Kelley List at  SGWP@water.ca.gov.

Legislature Attempts Last Minute $2.5 Billion Energy Tax on Ratepayers

With less than six (6) days to go, the California State Legislature is attempting a “gut and amend” which would impose a $2.5 billion surcharge on electric ratepayers at an amount of $0.005 per kWh through the year 2051. For our members, that equates to $7,000 to $20,000 in additional annual electricity cost depending upon usage! The legislation begins with talking about the more than 500 wildfires this year, yet they admit they were caused by lightning. Nothing in this bill can or will stop lightning from occurring. Furthermore, the more than $2.5 billion raised by this surcharge on our members will be used for things like $50 million for the Air Resources Board to find alternatives for pile burning, $200 million for forest restoration, $300 million to Strategic Growth Council for cooling centers and backup solar power, and $50 million to restore flows in the San Joaquin River. Where’s the connection to lightning caused fires? Association President/CEO Roger Isom stated “It is unacceptable in a year like 2020 to think it is okay to levy $2.5 billion in taxes on the very ratepayers who are keeping Californians employed during this pandemic. Adding $7,000 to $20,000 in annual electricity bills to the businesses in California, who already pay the highest electricity rates in the country, is simply unacceptable. To use these funds for projects like restoring flows in the San Joaquin River, cooling centers and pile burning under the guise of reducing fire risk is inexplicable.” We urge every one of our representatives to oppose yet another tax increase and vote NO on AB 1659.