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Western COVID-19 updates: Week of March 23

Coronavirus-related updates, reports and statements from California and Arizona ag organizations and government agencies

Here are the latest updates, reports and statements from California and Arizona agricultural organizations and government organizations related to the novel coronavirus.

Calif. USDA centers go virtual

U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Centers are encouraging visitors to take protective measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.  

USDA Service Centers in California will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment.  In the event a Service Center is closed, producers can receive assistance from the closest alternate Service Center by phone. 

The following Service Centers in California are closed. Please contact an alternate Service Center for immediate assistance: 

  • Livermore
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Concord

Producers can find Service Center phone numbers at farmers.gov/service-center-locator.  

FPAC agencies continue to look at the flexibilities to deliver programs on behalf of producers, just as they have in past situations, such as natural disasters. Farmers and ranchers are resilient and FPAC agencies will continue to deliver the farm safety net programs and resource conservation programs that keep American agriculture in business today and long into the future.   

Online services are available to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. Online NRCS services are available to customers through the Conservation Client Gateway. Customers can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance, and electronically sign documents. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in

For the most current updates on available services and Service Center status visit farmers.gov/coronavirus

CDFA extends grant deadline

Due to recent events with COVID-19, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has extended the acceptance period for applications from dairy and livestock operators for its Dairy Digester Research and Development Program (DDRDP) and Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP). The new grant application deadline is 5 p.m. PT, April 27, 2020, which is a 30-day extension.

CDFA’s dairy methane reduction programs provide financial assistance for the installation of dairy digesters and implementation of non-digester-based manure management practices that result in long-term methane emissions reductions and maximize environmental co-benefits on commercial dairy and livestock operations in California. These programs are funded through a $34 million appropriation from California Climate Investments, authorized by the Budget Act of 2019.

Prospective grant applicants are encouraged to visit the DDRDP and AMMP webpages for additional information about the programs and grant requirements.

DDRDP and AMMP are part of California Climate Investments (CCI), a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment–particularly in disadvantaged communities. The Cap-and-Trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution. CCI projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are located within and benefiting residents of disadvantaged communities, low-income communities and low-income households across California. For more information, visit the CCI website at www.caclimateinvestments.ca.gov.

'We'll all get through this'

The California Grocers Association and California Farm Bureau Federation issued a joint statement March 23:

"From the farm to the grocery store, every segment of California’s food distribution system is working conscientiously to fill any gaps and make sure consumers have reliable supplies of safe, affordable food and farm products.

"As all of us come to terms with the impact of COVID-19 and the steps we must take to slow its spread, we have seen surging demand for a number of grocery items. That sudden, unexpected demand meant stores became depleted of some products. But we expect the system to correct itself as we adjust to the demands and ramp up supplies.

"Assuring continued plentiful supplies of food and grocery products will require work, cooperation and patience from everyone along the supply line, including shoppers.

"Farmers and ranchers continue to harvest and ship foods to market as usual. They have adjusted daily activities to keep themselves, their employees and their products safe.

"People on farms and ranches, in packinghouses, processing plants, trucking firms and grocery stores, have been working diligently to harvest, pack, process, ship and stock the food and grocery products we all need. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job, and by working around the clock, we’re catching up with demand.

"Food is plentiful and safe. The supply chain will replenish itself. There’s no need to buy more than you can use. We’ll all get through this, together."

Farm-to-school conference rescheduled

This week's California Farm to School and School Garden Conference in San Diego is being rescheduled for late this summer, organizers say.

The move follows feedback from prospective attendees, and while the new dates will be outside of the traditional school calendar, they'll ensure higher attendance and a more successful event, the organizers explain.

If you are already registered for the event, your tickets are transferable to the new event date. Click here for more information or contact Farm to School program lead Nick Anicich, nicholas.anicich@cdfa.ca.gov.

Official COVID-19 updates

Click here for updates on the virus from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and here for the World Health Organization. The WHO's worldwide coverage map is here.

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