COVID-19 agriculture updates: April 03 (part 2 of 2)
Just a few bits of information for you this evening:
- All agriculture workers, regardless of age, are considered essential – We received clarification today about whether or not agricultural employees over the age of 65 are ok to travel to your farms and ranches for work. The answer is yes: all agriculture workers, regardless of age are considered essential and should work as long as they feel comfortable working.
- The Commissioner of Agriculture is encouraging Florida agriculture businesses to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. See the attachment called “Paycheck Protection Program” or visit the website (Paycheck Protection Program) for more details. The basics:
- The PPP loans are designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The loans will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and all terms will be the same for all applicants. Information and additional details for prospective borrowers can be found here.
- SBA will forgive PPP loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks, and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. There are no industry restrictions on this program, meaning all agriculture businesses are eligible as long as size standards are met.
- Just an fyi: many agricultural associations are working with FDACS to press the USDA to aid growers in three areas and hope to have results in the very near future:
- An expedited Section 32 purchase, which gives USDA the authority to buy surplus crops and distribute them to child nutrition programs and food banks. See attachments called “Fruit-and-Vegetable-Letter” and “FriedSecSonnyPerdue” to see strong arguments being made on your behalf to the federal government.
- Direct payment to growers based on losses
- A request for USDA to cover losses when PACA claims are filed and the buyer is no longer in business
- PACA is the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/paca). PACA was enacted at the request of the fruit and vegetable industry to promote fair trade in the industry. PACA protects businesses dealing in fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables by establishing and enforcing a code of fair business practices and by helping companies resolve business disputes.
- Farm Bureau and other Associations are working to make sure that livestock farmers are protected. I will be sure to share information about livestock-specific protections and aid when I have information to share.
- Fertilizer and Pesticide licensing – my co-worker, Dr. Marguerite Beckford (Commercial Horticulture Agent in Sarasota County), is working to shift required licensing classes to an on-line format. Please visit this webpage for information: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasotaco/2020/04/03/good-to-grow-spring-update-2020/.
I hope that you are all hanging in there ok. I know that some of you are faring better than others. Please continue to send your questions and updates my way and we will continue to try to find answers and solutions for you.
All best to all of you