Agriculture Groups Urge COVID-19 Vaccination Prioritization for Farm and Food Workers

As COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed to essential healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, agriculture groups are requesting that frontline food and farm workers be prioritized next.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices agrees. On Dec. 20, it recommended approximately 49 million frontline workers be prioritized in the next phase of vaccinations, including food and agricultural laborers and grocery store employees.

Vaccine distribution is orchestrated on the state level. Gov. Ralph Northam announced Jan. 6 that the Virginia Department of Health is expected to begin vaccinating Phase 1b frontline workers, including food and farm workers, by the end of January.

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USDA Announces $19M in VAPG Funds

USDA Rural Development has announced $19 million is available in FY2021 for the Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) that helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of bio-based, value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the goals of this program.

The deadline for submitting an application to the competitive grant program in March 22, 2021. More details about the program and funding announcement can be found at https://www.rd.usda.gov/…/value-added-producer-grants…

If you are a producer and interested in pursuing VAPG funding and have questions about the application process, contact VA FAIRS- Foundation For Agriculture, Innovation & Rural Sustainability at https://www.vafairs.com/contact-us/

Summary of the Second Round of COVID-19 Relief for Farmers

Ben Rowe, National Affairs Coordinator

Thirty-nine weeks and two days. That’s the length of time that passed between the President signing the CARES Act back in March and signing the “CARES Act extension” bill yesterday. That extreme length of time was no accident. At 5,593 pages, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) is the longest bill that has ever passed Congress, and it happened during a global health pandemic, a Presidential election year, and finally coalesced during a lame-duck session with large bipartisan majorities.

The $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package portion will provide much-needed financial relief for agricultural producers, funding for food assistance programs, enhancements to the Paycheck Protection Program, and funding for enhanced broadband access, as well as additional financial resources for agricultural research and farmer stress assistance programs, among others.

Today’s article will give a high-level overview of each key agricultural provision and wrap up with notes on tax-related provisions that may be of interest. It’s a lengthy article, so I have put each commodity/sector under its own paragraph so you can skim to what’s important to your operation.

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Virginia Farmers Will Help Shape National Farm Bureau Policies

Seven delegates and two alternates from Virginia Farm Bureau Federation will join Farm Bureau producer members from across the nation in shaping policies important to farmers and ranchers during the 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation Virtual Convention.

The event, which will be AFBF’s 102nd consecutive annual convention, will be held Jan. 10-13.

AFBF President Zippy Duval said the top priority in holding the virtual event is the safety of attendees and staff. “Although we are saddened not to meet in person for this convention, we are eager to bring this event safely to farm and ranch homes across the country.”

AFBF anticipates increased attendance because registration for the virtual event is free.

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State Water Control Board Adopts Changes to Poultry Waste Permit

The State Water Control Board adopted final amendments to the Virginia Pollution Abatement (VPA) Regulation and General Permit for Poultry Waste Management at its December 9th meeting.

During the public comment period for the proposed regulatory changes, Virginia Farm Bureau issued an action alert opposing the proposed end-user reporting requirements and new reporting requirements for permitted poultry growers, as well as requesting that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) continue to reject a reporting requirement for the use of litter amendments. Thank you all to all Farm Bureau members who submitted comments or responded to the action alert!

Based on feedback during the public comment period, DEQ staff recommendations related to poultry waste end-user reporting were revised to address concerns that the new requirements would hurt market demand for poultry litter and hinder the transfer of litter from growers to other farmers. The original proposal would have required the end-user to report poultry waste transfer records, land application records, and supporting documents, including soil test reports, field maps, and nutrient management plans. This was modified to instead require the end-user to report poultry waste transfer records, the method used to determine the land application rate, and the county where the waste is being utilized.

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