USDA Partners to Improve Rural Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in 23 States including Montana

New Partnerships Support More Prosperous Futures for More than 73,000 People

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett visited the state today to announce that USDA is investing more than $124 million (PDF, 155.4 KB) to help rebuild and improve rural water infrastructure in 23 states. Five projects in Louisiana are receiving funding.

“Modern, reliable water infrastructure provides a foundation for economic growth and prosperity,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s partnerships with rural communities underscore Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s commitment to ensuring that rural places have the infrastructure needed to thrive.”

USDA is providing the funding through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

Hazlett announced that the following projects in Louisiana will receive USDA funding:

  • The Poland Water Association, Inc. is receiving a $1 million loan and a $161,000 grant to construct two water wells. The booster station will be restored to service with a new chlorination facility and a pad-mounted natural gas generator to provide emergency power. The office building will be brought into compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act accessibility standard. Radio-read water meters will be installed to improve billing efficiency. The Poland Water Association, Inc. serves 909 customers in Rapides Parish.
  • The Alberta Water System, Inc. will use a $164,000 loan and a $1.5 million grant to construct an additional well. Water meters will be replaced with radio-read meters to reduce water loss. Carbon treatment systems will be added to both booster stations to mitigate disinfection byproducts. Generators will be added to both booster stations to provide emergency power supply. The Alberta Water System serves 1,858 customers in Bienville Parish. Additional funding includes a $30,000 Rural Development Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households grant and a $2,000 contribution from the water system.
  • The Lena Water System, Inc. will receive a $3 million loan to adjust the discharge pressure for the booster stations, construct two water wells and a ground storage tank with booster pumps, and install radio-read meters. The improvements will provide additional production and storage capacity to meet the System’s growing demand. Lena serves 1,185 customers in Rapides Parish.
  • The town of Delcambre will use a $291,000 loan and a $183,000 grant to upgrade water distribution lines that service residents in Vermilion Parish. Funds will also be used to install meters to prevent water loss. Delcambre’s water system serves approximately 762 residential customers and 70 commercial customers. In FY 2015, the project received a $1,722,000 USDA loan and a $1,179,220 USDA grant.
  • The Waterworks District No. 3 – Parish of St. Landry will receive a $500,000 loan to extend water lines under Three Mile Lake to serve the North Wilderness subdivision. The Water District currently serves 154 customers. The project will enable it to extend services to 116 new customers within St. Landry Parish.

Below are examples of other infrastructure projects across the nation that USDA is helping to support.

  • In Nettleton, Miss., the Cason Water District is receiving a $2.1 million loan and a $1.9 million grant to install surface water transmission lines from the Northeast Mississippi Water Supply District to the Cason Water District. A booster station, an elevated storage tank and larger distribution lines will also be installed. This project will correct water supply loss and accommodate future growth. The improvements will provide improved water service to 1,657 customers.
  • McLouth, Kan., is receiving a $1.3 million loan to improve the city’s water infrastructure. The project will replace approximately 9,400 feet of pipe and 4,100 feet of antiquated service line. In addition, 420 old water meters will be replaced with automatic meter readers and control panels at the water treatment facility. The upgrade will serve more than 860 residents.
  • The town of Black Oak, Ark., will use a $687,000 loan and a $1.9 million grant to construct a wastewater collection system for the town and the surrounding rural area. The new collection system will serve 135 residents. Most of the individual septic systems are malfunctioning. A public wastewater system that meets current health and sanitary standards also will be constructed.

The funding that USDA is announcing today will benefit communities in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

In FY 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.8 billion in FY 2017. The bill also directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

MDA to Hold Waste Pesticide Disposal Events in September

Annual events have collected over 586,860 lbs. of waste pesticides

Helena, Mont. – The Montana Department of Agriculture’s annual Pesticide Disposal Events will be held in several locations across Montana during September. The collection events will be held September 18 in Havre; September 19 in Great Falls; September 20 in Bozeman; and September 21 in Columbus.  The annual events have collected more than 586,860 pounds of waste pesticides since it began in 1994.

The program was designed to help individuals dispose of any pesticides that are unusable as originally intended and cannot be used for any other purpose.  This allows participants to dispose of waste pesticides in an environmentally responsible way and helps protect Montana’s ecosystems and groundwater, as well as families, pets, livestock and drinking water.

The department asks that participants pre-register by September 10, 2018, before the collection events, so products can be managed safely and efficiently. Licensed pesticide applicators will receive information and a registration form in the mail. Others with waste pesticides in need of disposal can learn more and register on the program’s website.

There is no charge for the first 200 pounds of material.  Amounts over 200 pounds are assessed at $0.50 per pound. A higher fee may apply to pesticides with dioxins or dioxin precursors.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit agr.mt.gov.

 

Source: Montana Department of Agriculture

Tester Sponsors Bill to Protect Montana Livestock Sellers

Bipartisan SALE Act will Provide Extra Support for Ranchers at the Auction Yard

 

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is working with his colleagues across the aisle to protect Montana ranchers when they go to auction their livestock.

When heading to the auction yard, livestock sellers are dealt the short straw because if a dealer defaults on their payment to a seller, it is the bank who collects the collateral and the seller is left with nothing. That’s why Tester is sponsoring the Securing All Livestock Equitably (SALE) Act to ensure Montana ranchers aren’t left empty-handed if their buyers fail to make a timely payment.

“Montana’s ranchers deserve better,” Tester said. “They shouldn’t be risking their livelihood every time they head to the auction block.  It’s important that both parties put politics aside and work together to fix this broken system to give sellers security when they go to sell their livestock.”

The SALE Act requires all livestock purchased by dealers to be held in trust for the sellers until full payment is received.  It also ensures that the sellers, not the banks, retain the right to the traded assets if the dealer defaults on a payment.

This trust would not apply to small dealers with purchases of less than $250,000 annually and may be waived by written agreement between dealer and seller.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the American Farm Bureau, and the Livestock Marketing Association have all expressed their support for Tester’s legislation.

“The Dealer Statutory Trust is the most commonsense legislation I’ve come across in a long time,” said Joe Goggins, owner of Public Auction Yards and Northern Livestock Video Auction in Billings. “We appreciate Sen. Tester’s support of the bill. It’s only fair and right that the unpaid sellers of livestock have priority over the lenders, and their customers that did not pay for the livestock. It’s also only fair and right that a person who has been paid in good faith during the 90 days prior to a dealer’s filing bankruptcy should not be forced to pay that money to the bankruptcy trustee.”

This bill will provide a much-needed safety net for Montana’s ranchers when taking their livestock to auction.

Tester’s SALE Act is available HERE.

Source: Senator Tester Press Release

First Confirmed Equine Case of West Nile Virus in Montana for 2018

Helena, Mont. – The Montana Department of Livestock has received the first reported cases of equine West Nile Virus in Montana for 2018 in Musselshell and Lake Counties. This follows the detection of the virus in mosquito surveillance pools from Cascade, Hill, and Lewis and Clark Counties. Montana typically sees cases of West Nile Virus through late summer and into fall.

West Nile Virus affects humans, equines, and birds. It is spread through the bites of infected mosquitos; horses cannot transmit the virus directly to people. Detections of the disease in horses and mosquitos in Montana serve as an important reminder for people to take steps to prevent West Nile Virus infection.

“There is no direct treatment for the virus in horses, but vaccination is highly effective in preventing disease. Horses that are vaccinated rarely die or are euthanized because of the disease,” said Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, Assistant State Veterinarian.  “Vaccination is typically administered in the spring but may offer some protection even this late in the season. Work with your veterinarian to determine if your horse could still benefit from vaccination.”

Horse owners should be aware of the typical signs of West Nile Virus which include:

  • Fever, loss of appetite and depression;
  • Incoordination or weakness of the hind limbs;
  • Muscle or muzzle twitching, drooling.

In the meantime, topical insecticides and eliminating standing water may help decrease your horse’s exposure to mosquitos. The mosquitos that carry West Nile Virus are most active at dawn and dusk, so consider keeping your horses off of irrigated pastures and away from water sources during those times of the day.

The mission of the DOL is to control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals. For more information on the department, visit www.liv.mt.gov.

Montana CattleWomen host Ranch Run

CattleWomen host run to highlight the importance of agriculture and land stewardship

Join the Montana CattleWomen for their 4thannual ranch run on Saturday, August 25thin Lennep, Montana. Registration begins at 8 am and the race starts at 9 am.  This scenic  25-mile run is designed to showcase the importance of agriculture and land stewardship to the running community.  The course can be run solo or with a team of 2-5 members.  Parts of the course are challenging so have your teammates read through and choose appropriate leg assignments.  For a team of five, the cost is $35 per person or $50 to run solo. Runners will receive a t-shirt and enjoy a delicious meal, featuring beef, served the Montana CattleWomen at the end of the race. Visit www.themontanaranchrun.com to register.

The course extends through three-multi generation ranches, as well as US National Forest, and runs deep into the heart of the Castle Mountains.  The ranch run has five legs, all approximately five miles long, but the course is such that it can be run solo OR with a team of 2-5 members.  The closest lodging is in Harlowton or White Sulphur Springs or camp at the race site. Teams will need a high-clearance vehicle to drive on the course.  Prizes will be awarded to first, second and third place teams.

This year’s generous sponsors include the Montana Beef Council, The Montana CattleWomen, Northwest Montana Keller Williams Realty, the Montana Stockgrowers Foundation, Montana Land Reliance, Western Ranch Supply, Rabo AgriFinance, Montana T-Bone CattleWomen, the Central Montana CattleWomen, Rangeland Resources Executive Committee, the Montana DNRC.  For more information or any questions, contact Kari Berg Marks at (406) 572-3316 or email at ckmarks@mtintouch.net.

Montana Ranch Honored for Outstanding Environmental Stewardship

The Hahn Ranch, in Townsend, Mont., has been selected as one of six regional honorees of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The award, announced during the 2018 Cattle Industry Summer Business Meeting Aug. 1, 2018, recognizes the operation’s outstanding stewardship and conservation efforts. This year’s regional winners will compete for the national award, which will be announced during the Annual Cattle Industry Convention in New Orleans, La., in February 2019.

Established in 1991 by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to recognize outstanding land stewards in the cattle industry, ESAP is generously sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, McDonald’s, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Cattlemen’s Foundation.

“Cattlemen and women everywhere understand that the land, air and water resources in their care are the cornerstone of their success and they are only stewards of those resources for a short time,” said NCBA President Kevin Kester. “Each of us understands the importance of improving those resources and leaving them better for future generations. This year’s nominees are outstanding examples of what is possible for the beef industry and they serve as an inspiration for producers everywhere to continue improving their stewardship practices.”

Operated by the Hahn family, the Hahn Ranch raises 550 cattle across nearly 28,000 acres of public and private land and has been doing so for nearly a century. Today multiple family members work together on the Hahn Ranch.

“I’m the third generation on the ranch,” Chuck Hahn said, “and my sons are the fourth. The fifth generation is coming up with nieces and nephews.”

With fewer than 12 inches of rain each year, the Hahns have installed more efficient irrigation systems and have added new stock water tanks to allow them to fence their cattle out of riparian zones.

“We’re looking at ways to maintain water quality in those watersheds to maintain a healthy ecosystem and also to do things to improve the streambank health,” said Dusty Hahn, Chuck’s son and the fourth generation on the ranch.

The Hahn family was also part of the restoration of Deep Creek, the Missouri river tributary that crosses the Hahn Ranch. The family worked with private and public partners to install the Montana ditch siphon, rerouting irrigation water under instead of through the creek, reducing sediment issues, improved water flow, and allowed fish to return.

“Immediately after that project was done, we started having fish move up from the Missouri river into Deep Creek here to start spawning,” said Ron Spoon, a fisheries biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

“There’s more grass on the range units due to the rotational grazing system that the Hahns are implementing, getting stock water away from the creeks and the springs so those areas can be left for wildlife with less livestock impacts,” said Justin Meissner, a district conservationist with USDA NRCS.

The Hahn Ranch also grows wheat, barley and hay crops, extending the grazing season to allow for longer rest periods on the range. Additionally, reduced tillage and cover crop rotations have had a positive impact on soil health.

“I want to do things better and leave the land in a better condition than I found it for the next generation who will hopefully take as good or better care of it than we have,” said Dusty.

USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure; $4 Billion Available

Department’s Latest Investments to Benefit 165,000 People in Rural Communities in 24 States

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure.
“USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”
Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.
USDA is providing the funding through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage, and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
Below are a few examples of USDA’s latest investment (PDF, 162 KB) of $164 million for 54 projects nationwide:
  • Wadesboro, N.C., is receiving a $706,000 loan and an $815,000 grant to improve its water distribution system. The town will install 7,000 linear feet of eight- and 12-inch PVC and dip water main, and 11 hydrants and service re-connections. The project will benefit the town’s 2,012 residential users, 84 commercial users, eight industrial users and five institutional users. Wadesboro, population 5,841, is in Anson County.
  • The village of Greenview, Ill., is receiving a $4.9 million loan and a $3.7 million grant to construct a wastewater collection and treatment facility. The system will collect and convey wastewater via a centralized pumping station. Wastewater will be transferred to a contained mechanical treatment system. Treated wastewater will then be released to Grove Creek. This project will alleviate health hazards due to private septic or aeration systems that discharge effluent into drainage fields, causing raw sewage backups in homes during major rainfalls. The new system will serve the town’s 778 residents.
  • In Baudette, Minn., the Wheelers Point Sanitary District is receiving a $300,000 loan and a $638,000 grant to construct a sewer collection system. The District is on the shores of Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River in Lake of the Woods County in northern Minnesota. Homes and businesses in the district have individual septic systems that need to be replaced. If these systems were to fail, the contamination would affect the river and the lake. The state considers this project a priority due to the possibility of environmental contamination. The new system will protect the environment and area waters.
USDA is announcing investments today in Alabama, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
In FY 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.2 billion in FY 2017. The bill also directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety, and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
Source: USDA

USDA Assists Farmers Impacted by Unjustified Retaliation

(Washington, D.C., July 24, 2018) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation. President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets, in the long run, to help American farmers compete globally.  Specifically, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.

“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” Secretary Perdue said.  “The President promised to have the back of every American farmer and rancher, and he knows the importance of keeping our rural economy strong. Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes illegal retaliatory tariffs.  USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations. The programs we are announcing today help ensure our nation’s agriculture continues to feed the world and innovate to meet the demand.”

Background: Of the total unjustified retaliatory tariffs imposed on the United States, a disproportionate amount was targeted directly at American farmers. Trade damage from such retaliation has impacted a host of U.S. commodities, including field crops like soybeans and sorghum, livestock products like milk and pork, and many fruits, nuts, and other specialty crops. High tariffs disrupt normal marketing patterns, affecting prices and raising costs by forcing commodities to find new markets. Additionally, there is evidence that American goods shipped overseas are being slowed from reaching the market by unusually strict or cumbersome entry procedures, which can affect the quality and marketability of perishable crops.  This can boost marketing costs and discount our prices, and adversely affect our producers.  USDA will use the following programs to assist farmers:

  • The Market Facilitation Program, authorized under The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by Farm Service Agency (FSA), will provide payments incrementally to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs. This support will help farmers manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities, and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.
  • Additionally, USDA will use CCC Charter Act and other authorities to implement a Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs.
  • Finally, the CCC will use its Charter Act authority for a Trade Promotion Program administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) in conjunction with the private sector to assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.

Public Input Sought on ESA Reform

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Seek Public Input on Proposed Reforms to Improve & Modernize Implementation of the Endangered Species Act

July 19, 2018

Contact(s):

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Gavin_Shire@fws.gov, 703-358-2649

NOAA Fisheries: Katherine.Brogan@noaa.gov, 301-427-8030


Continuing efforts to improve how the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is implemented, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries today proposed revisions to certain regulations to ensure clarity and consistency. The changes incorporate public input, best science and best practices to improve reliability, regulatory efficiency and environmental stewardship.

“The Trump Administration is dedicated to being a good neighbor and being a better partner with the communities in which we operate. One thing we heard over and over again was that ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate. We are proposing these improvements to produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan. “We value public input and have already incorporated initial public comments we received in response to our notices of intent published in 2017. We encourage the public to provide us additional feedback to help us finalize these rules.”

“We work to ensure effective conservation measures to recover our most imperiled species,” said Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. “The changes being proposed today are designed to bring additional clarity and consistency to the implementation of the act across our agencies, and we look forward to additional feedback from the public as part of this process.”

Several proposed changes relate to section 4 of the ESA, which deals with procedures for listing species, recovery and designating critical habitat (areas essential to support the conservation of a species). First, the agencies propose to revise the procedures for designating critical habitat by reinstating the requirement that they will first evaluate areas currently occupied by the species before considering unoccupied areas. Second, the agencies propose to clarify when they may determine unoccupied areas are essential to the conservation of the species.

While the agencies recognize the value of critical habitat as a conservation tool, in some cases, designation of critical habitat is not prudent. Accordingly, they are proposing a non-exhaustive list of circumstances where they may find that designation for a particular species would not be prudent. The agencies anticipate that such not-prudent determinations will continue to be rare and expect to designate critical habitat in most cases.

The ESA defines a threatened species as one that is likely to become in danger of extinction within the “foreseeable future.” For the first time, the agencies are proposing an interpretation of “foreseeable future” to make it clear that it extends only as far as they can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species’ responses to those threats are probable.

The agencies are also clarifying that decisions to delist a species are made using the same standard as decisions to list species. In both cases, that standard is whether a species meets the established ESA definition of an endangered species or threatened species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is separately proposing to rescind its blanket rule under section 4(d) of the ESA, which automatically conveyed the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species unless otherwise specified. This brings its regulatory approach to threatened species protections in line with NOAA Fisheries, which has not employed such a blanket rule. The proposed changes would impact only future listings or downlistings and would not apply to those species already listed as threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will craft species-specific 4(d) rules for each future threatened species determination that are necessary and advisable for the conservation of the species, as has been standard practice for most species listed as threatened in recent years.

“No two species are the same, and so by crafting species-specific 4(d) rules for threatened species, we can tailor appropriate protections using best available science according to each species’ biological needs,” said Sheehan. “By creating a clearer regulatory distinction between threatened and endangered species, we are also encouraging partners to invest in conservation that has the potential to improve a species’ status, helping us work towards our ultimate goal: recovery.”

Under section 7 of the ESA, other federal agencies consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to ensure their actions are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species or result in “destruction or adverse modification” of critical habitat. The proposed rule simplifies and clarifies the definition of “destruction or adverse modification” by removing redundant and confusing language. The proposed rule is not intended to alter existing consultation practice; rather, it seeks to revise and clarify language that was confusing to other federal agencies and the public.

Additional proposed revisions to the consultation regulations will clarify whether and how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries consider proposed measures to avoid, minimize or offset adverse effects to listed species or their critical habitat when conducting interagency consultations and will improve the consultation process by clarifying how biological opinions and interagency submissions should be formulated.

The proposed rules are available here and will publish in the Federal Register in coming days, including detailed information on how the public can submit written comments and information concerning these provisions.

Comments must be received within 60 days of publication. All comments will be posted on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means any personal information provided through the process will be posted.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is a part of the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and our other social media channels.

Nearly $2 Billion Now Available for Eligible Producers Affected by 2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2018 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that agricultural producers affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 now may apply for assistance to help recover and rebuild their farming operations. Sign up begins July 16, 2018, and continues through November 16, 2018.

“Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.”

Additional payments will be issued, if funds remain available, later in the year.

The program, known as the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP) was authorized by Congress earlier this year by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Eligible crops, trees, bushes, or vines, located in a county declared in a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or Secretarial Disaster Designation as a primary county are eligible for assistance if the producer suffered a loss as a result of a 2017 hurricane. Also, losses located in a county not designated as a primary county may be eligible if the producer provides documentation showing that the loss was due to a hurricane or wildfire in 2017. A list of counties that received qualifying hurricane declarations and designations is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/wildfires-and-hurricanes-indemnity-program/index. Eligibility is determined by Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees.

Agricultural production losses due to conditions caused by last year’s wildfires and hurricanes, including excessive rain, high winds, flooding, mudslides, fire, and heavy smoke, could qualify for assistance through the program. Typically, 2017 WHIP is only designed to provide assistance for production losses, however, if quality was taken into consideration under the insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy, where production was further adjusted, the adjusted production will be used in calculating assistance under this program.

Eligible crops include those for which federal crop insurance or NAP coverage is available, excluding crops intended for grazing. A list of crops covered by crop insurance is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Actuarial Information Browser at webapp.rma.usda.gov/apps/actuarialinformationbrowser.

Eligibility will be determined for each producer based on the size of the loss and the level of insurance coverage elected by the producer. A WHIP factor will be determined for each crop based on the producer’s coverage level. Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP factor.

The 2017 WHIP payment factor ranges from 65 percent to 95 percent, depending upon the level of crop insurance coverage or NAP coverage that a producer obtained for the crop. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2017 will receive 65 percent of the expected value of the crop. Insured producers will receive between 70 percent and 95 percent of expected value; those who purchased the highest levels of coverage will receive 95-percent coverage.

Each eligible producer requesting 2017 WHIP benefits will be subject to a payment limitation of either $125,000 or $900,000, depending upon their average adjusted gross income, which will be verified. The payment limit is $125,000 if less than 75 percent of the person or legal entity’s average adjusted gross income is average adjusted gross farm income. The payment limit is $900,000 if 75 percent or more of the average adjusted gross income of the person or legal entity is average adjusted gross farm income.

Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for 2017 WHIP. However, all producers receiving 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase crop insurance and/or NAP, at the 60 percent coverage level or higher, for the next two available crop years to meet statutory requirements. Producers who fail to purchase crop insurance for the next two applicable years will be required to pay back the 2017 WHIP payment.

To help expedite payments, a producer who does not have records established at the local USDA service center are encouraged to do so early in the process. To establish a record for a farm, a producer needs:

  • Proof of identity: driver’s license and Social Security number/card;
  • Copy of recorder deed, survey plat, rental, or lease agreement of the land. A producer does not have to own property to participate in FSA programs;
  • Corporation, estate, or trust documents, if applicable

Once signup begins, a producer will be asked to provide verifiable and reliable production records. If a producer is unable to provide production records, USDA will calculate the yield based on the county average yield. A producer with this information on file does not need to provide the information again.

For more information on FSA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA service center or visit www.farmers.gov/recover/whip.

Source: USDA