Pandemic assistance revenue program deadline for applications on June 2
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — This year’s Central New Jersey Vegetable Growers’ Conference included an update on new and existing assistance programs for farmers offered by USDA offices in the Garden State.
Gabi Grunstein, county executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency for Monmouth, Mercer and Middlesex counties, detailed new products available under the recently passed federal Inflation Reduction Act, a massive spending package approved by Congress. Grunstein and Clare Flanagan spoke about updates from the NRCS, USDA and FSA.
“Under the Inflation Reduction Act, we received additional funding for 2023,” Flanagan said. “You can also sign up for 2024 funding which includes the high tunnel program which a lot of you guys are already involved with.”
Grunstein said the new programs have become available from the USDA in the last few months, including the pandemic assistance revenue program with a deadline for applications coming June 2.
“The first program is the pandemic assistance revenue program, it is for producers who experienced revenue losses in 2020 as compared to 2018 or 2019,” Grunstein said. “So you have to choose which benchmark year you can compare it to, assuming you had less revenue in 2020 than you did in 2018 or 2019.”
Adjustments can be made to show what expected income was for several crops, he said.
“It’s a relatively simple program based on certifications, so you would certify your 2020 revenue and your 2018 or 2019 revenue for us, you sign a piece of paper, and you’re done,” he said.
Given all the severe weather events in New Jersey and other Mid-Atlantic states, “the emergency relief program is similar,” Grunstein said, “and again, we’re looking at eligible revenue except for this program there is a natural disaster trigger so you would have to certify that you had a loss to a specific crop or crops in either 2020 or 2021 and you could apply for both years if it’s applicable. The big caveat with this program is if you receive a payment you can grow a lot of different crops but let’s say your trigger crop is peppers, you will then have to get crop insurance coverage for two years after you receive the payment.” Grunstein added participants are required to obtain Non-Insured Crop Disaster Program (NAP) or crop insurance coverage for the applicable crops benefits were earned for.
Regarding NAP, new and beginning farmers can make adjustments so they are comparing apples to apples between a disaster year and benchmark year, he said.
“All of this is a bit of a record keeping juggling act and there are a lot of deadlines to conform to, but it’s a good tool for risk management,” he said of NAP. The service fee for NAP is $325 for the first two crops or $825 for three or more crops.
“If you’re two county producer, you would max out after buying coverage in two counties,” he said, “and also the fees are waived for women farmers, beginning farmers or people with limited resources and eligible minority or veteran farmers.”
The USDA also offers farmers a tree assistance loan program to replace trees wiped out by high wind or excessive rain events.
“If you have losses to trees on your property, we help pay replacement costs but not for the loss of the trees. For instance, if you have pears in one of our counties you would have to have NAP coverage to cover the loss of the crop, but if you also lost the trees, the tree assistance program can help, and you don’t have to sign up for that in advance of a disaster; it’s not an insurance program, it’s an assistance with replacement program for trees,” Grunstein said.
Grunstein also mentioned most loans are not granted out of the USDA office in Freehold.
“The loan we do work out of this [Freehold] office is called the farm storage facility loan program,” he said, “these are low interest loans for handling and storage of equipment: grain bins, hay storage, cold storage and we’re now doing mobile equipment and box trucks, refrigerated trucks. We do food safety equipment, we do food handling equipment so if you’re interested in any of this, we do have these loans available and rates are locked in based on the months that you are approved in.”