Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
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Farmer Programs Newsletter for Sept. 4, 2020

Hi folks! Labor Day weekend is here, and so is the MOFGA Farmer Programs newsletter for Sept. 4, 2020! There's a lot here – please read through it all. And remember, all of this season's back issues are archived on the MOFGA website here. Please send inquiries, suggestions, corrections or advice regarding this newsletter to [email protected].

MOFGA's Primary COVID-19 Resource Document for Farmers:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xcWWU7YZcWkEc8mahncJdY3NiERTfZ6SN7IaTjKT1m0/edit

The MOFGA Farmer Programs staff has compiled this clearinghouse of almost every topic and issue related to farming during the COVID-19 crisis, with links and information and resources about insurance, employees, farmers' markets, online marketing, loans and grants, etc. We update it regularly – newest updates are highlighted in yellow. Resources that may be of particular interest to farmworkers are highlighted in green.

 

Resources

 

Economic Recovery Grant Program. The state of Maine plans to use CARES Act relief funding to help our economy recover from the impacts of the global pandemic by supporting Maine-based businesses and nonprofit organizations through an Economic Recovery Grant Program. The funding originates from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and will be awarded in the form of grants to directly alleviate the disruption of operations suffered by Maine's small businesses and nonprofits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants will be distributed based on a business/organization's demonstrated losses as a prorated percentage of the total losses reported by qualified applicants and are intended to assist in sustaining the viability of Maine businesses and nonprofits, not to replace lost profits. Applications can be found here, and must be completed by Sept. 9, 2020. An informational webinar scheduled for Friday, Sept. 4, will be recorded and made available here.

CFAP expanded and extended till Sept. 11. The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program was recently expanded to include more crops (such as maple syrup, cut flowers and nursery crops), with some pricing adjustments, and the deadline for applications was extended to Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. This program can help farmers cover lost income from price declines or lost crops or sales due to the pandemic. It is administered through the Farm Service Agency (find its info on CFAP here).

Micro-Enterprise Business Grant Program. Administered through Maine's Small Business Development Centers, this new grant program is for businesses with five or fewer employees, with an owner whose income is in the low to moderate range (as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development), and will provide up to $5,000 to cover revenue losses as a direct consequence of COVID-19. Many small farms may be eligible but will need to consult an SBDC advisor to determine and apply.

MCE Cultivator Program. The Maine Center for Entrepreneurs is now taking applications from food, beverage or agriculture companies (including farms) that have a proven value-added product, a scalable business model and are ready to grow and scale up.  Participants are led by a full-time program manager with 20+ years of food industry experience who works directly with member companies to understand your business and closely monitor your needs and progress. This program includes an initial business assessment, action plan, coaching and mentoring, access to consultant support, and industry-focused workshops and events, culminating with a showcase event to an audience of potential investors, business leaders and journalists at the end of the program. This is a 12-month program with $2,500 cost.

Northeast Climate Adaptation Fellowship program. Now taking applications through Oct. 1, 2020, this program is open to commercial farmers in the Northeast U.S. who grow vegetables and/or small fruit and to agricultural advisors who work with vegetable/small fruit farms in this region. The one-year program provides a peer-to-peer curriculum for farmers and advisors, and its framework is designed to integrate climate science with a land manager's knowledge. Participants in the vegetable and fruit program will enhance their knowledge of climate impacts to vegetable and fruit farms in the Northeast, completing the program in pairs (farmers and advisors) to develop personalized farm adaptation plans and outreach materials to share with peers. An informational webinar recorded on July 14, 2020, is available here.

New CSA Infographic and downloadable poster on the MOFGA website! We expanded and updated the information about CSAs (what they are, how they work) after seeing a lot of online traffic looking for such info during the coronavirus outbreak. MOFGA staff and volunteers worked together to produce these promotional and educational materials, which include a small poster that you can print and use – check it out!

Maine's Hire-A-Vet Campaign 2020 virtual job fair. Will you be hiring this fall or winter?  Consider participating in this state-sponsored event to "hire the right veteran ... for the right job ... right now!" Register now to participate in the three-hour online job fair being held on Sept. 15, which also then extends into a 100-day campaign.

Update your farm's listing on the new DACF Real Maine website. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has launched its new site and marketing campaign ("Real Maine," to replace the "Get Real, Get Maine" campaign) to help consumers find Maine agricultural products and events and to promote Maine agriculture. An extensive advertising campaign is going on this summer and fall to promote the brand to the public, raise awareness of Maine agricultural products and to attract traffic to the new website.

Small Bites. Two new posts are available: "Staying Healthy on the Farm" (authored by Polly Shyka) and "Taking Stock" (authored by Abby Sadauckas). These short, informational articles offer practical ideas about stress reduction, improved communication and family well-being written by coaches from UMaine Cooperative Extension's farm coaching team. Farm coaches are available at no cost to work remotely with farmers and farm families.

 

Get on the Map!

 

Maine Seed Garlic Directory. Make sure you get on this list of farms that produce and sell seed garlic. Hosted by the Univ. of Maine Cooperative Extension.

MOFGA's Find Organic and Local Products map now shows farms that sell products on-farm (e.g., via farmstand or preorder), that offer phone/website sales or that offer a CSA option. If you notice an error or would like to make a correction to the map, email [email protected].

Farm Product and Pickup Directory shares alternative ways for customers to obtain products to accommodate for social distancing. To have your farm added to the directory map and spreadsheet, complete the Maine Farm and Seafood Products Directory submission form. Hosted by Univ. of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Maine Food Atlas maps the Maine food system. Hosted by the Maine Network of Community Food Councils.

 

Recorded Webinars

 

Climate Change and Farming webinar. Wednesday, Sept. 16, 5 p.m. Join us for a discussion about what climate impacts Maine farmers are experiencing and how they are adapting in their growing techniques. Melissa Law, one of the farmers at Bumbleroot Organic Farm, will discuss farming practices for climate resiliency and how to engage in climate activism. Please register ahead of time. Hosted by MOFGA. Free.

NOSB Online Meeting registration and information. The National Organic Standards Board will have a series of meetings from Oct. 20 to Oct. 30, 2020, open to the public and online. During the meetings, the NOSB listens to public comments, discusses agenda items and then votes on recommendations to the secretary in a public forum. The agenda, proposals and discussion documents are now available, as is registration for making public comments during the meetings. Free.

Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Days online conference. Three separate presentations are scheduled for Sept. 11, 18 and 25, hosted by Practical Farmers of Iowa and Sam Hitchcock Tilton. See and discuss new and old weed control equipment, setup and use in both row crops and vegetables. This is their fourth annual event (usually in person), which is the largest devoted to weeding tools. Free.

 

Opportunities for Farmer Input

 

Organic Price Report forms. MOFGA is looking for your price submissions for late August/early September to create the second Organic Price Report of 2020. There are separate, easy-to-use forms for vegetables, fruit, dairy, meat and eggs, herbs, and flowers and decorative squash. After you submit your prices, let us know what you think of these forms; we are still seeking ways to make this really user friendly as well as useful for us all. Here is the first 2020 Organic Price Report.

Let Congress know what you think about the USDA reducing Organic Cost Share payments. The organic certification cost-share program helps organic farms stay in business and stay certified. It is especially important for small and mid-size farms. The program also sustains consumer confidence in the third-party verification of what the organic label means. If the USDA wants organic farms and our regional economies to survive and thrive, it needs to maintain or even increase support and funding during the pandemic. Instead it has reduced funds for organic certification cost share (from 75% to 50%, or $750 max per scope down to $500), despite the fact that Congress clearly set the reimbursement rates at 75 percent in the 2018 farm bill. The reduction is particularly distressing this year when margins are even slimmer than usual as farms are still dealing with the impacts of the pandemic. MOFGA has created an easy way for you to let your federal representatives in Congress know your thoughts on this issue.

Forward Contracts for Maine Farmers survey. Sponsored by FarmSmart and CEI, this survey is to determine whether a model of forward contracting can be developed where the risk and return of wholesale buying and selling could be shared among more parties and the problem of mismatched production to supply be stabilized. This 10-minute survey for Maine food producers, distributors, retailers, processors, foodservice companies and investors will gauge interest in a forward contracting arrangement. Results of the survey will show what common ground might exist among these different components. A feasibility report will be shared this fall.

Comment Period Now Open for NOP's Proposed Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule. The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) proposes amending the USDA organic regulations to strengthen oversight and enforcement of the production, handling and sale of organic agricultural products. The proposed amendments are intended to protect integrity in the organic supply chain and build consumer and industry trust in the USDA organic label by strengthening organic control systems, improving farm-to-market traceability and providing robust enforcement of the USDA organic regulations. Public review and comment is encouraged, from now until October 5, 2020.

 

Good News Department

 

USDA Approves Maine Hemp Production Plans. The USDA recently announced its approval of the state of Maine's hemp production plans, and it appointed the Maine DACF with primary regulatory responsibility for hemp production within its jurisdiction, under the oversight of the USDA Domestic Hemp Production Program. "Approval of our hemp production plan means Maine's growers will have certainty about the expectations and guidelines for hemp cultivation for the coming years," commented DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. Also, note that USDA organic certification is available for Maine producers through MOFGA Certification Services (although our deadline has passed for 2020). Contact MCS for more information.

Maine Farms Make a Stand, an online article in DownEast, recounts how many farms in Maine quickly pivoted this spring and summer to find new and innovative ways to market their products. It includes quotes from Keena Tracy of Little Ridge Farm, as well as MOFGA and MFT's collaborative Maine Local Market Reports. Written by Katy Kelleher.

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