USDA, FDA Announce Formal Agreement to Bolster Coordination and Collaboration

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. announced at the White House a formal agreement aimed at making the oversight of food more efficient and effective by bolstering coordination between the two agencies. The formal agreement outlines efforts to increase interagency collaboration, efficiency, and effectiveness on produce safety and biotechnology activities while providing clarity to manufacturers.

“Today, Commissioner Gottlieb and I signed a formal agreement to promote coordination and the streamlining of capacities and obligations on shared concerns and jurisdiction,” said Secretary Perdue. “Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act and assigned responsibilities to the USDA and the FDA. The USDA has the knowledge and expertise to support the FDA’s work related to farming. We at the USDA have a motto: Do Right, and Feed Everyone. We believe this joint effort will help us move one step closer to that goal.”

The FDA and the USDA have worked closely over the years to oversee the nation’s food supply. The USDA oversees the safety of most meat, poultry, catfish and certain egg products while the FDA has authority over all other foods such as dairy, seafood, produce and packaged foods. The USDA and the FDA are partnering in many key areas, including the implementation of produce safety measures and biotechnology efforts.

“Secretary Perdue and I share a deep commitment to further strengthening our nation’s food safety system in the most effective and transparent way,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “Over the last several months, the Secretary and I have worked closely and identified several areas where we can strengthen our collaboration to make our processes more efficient, predictable, and potentially lower cost to industry; while also strengthening our efforts to ensure food safety. This agreement not only formalizes this ongoing coordination but presents a great opportunity to expand those efforts through better integration and increased clarity to the agriculture and food processing sectors. Our coordination with these sectors plays an integral role in helping to keep our nation’s food supply safe and secure.”

This agreement is the agencies’ newest initiative to expand those efforts and take new steps to streamline regulatory responsibilities and use government resources more efficiently to protect public health. It aims to increase clarity, efficiency and potentially reduce the number of establishments subject to the dual regulatory requirements of the USDA and the FDA. For example, when a facility, such as a canned soup facility, produces both chicken noodle soup and tomato soup, it is currently subject to regulation by both agencies. The agreement tasks both government organizations with identifying ways to streamline regulation and reduce inspection inefficiencies, while steadfastly upholding safety standards for dual-jurisdiction facilities. This can reduce costs on industry and free government resources to better target efforts to areas of risk.

The agreement also commits the USDA and the FDA to identify ways the agencies can better align and enhance their efforts to develop regulatory approaches to biotechnology, as each agency works to fulfill commitments outlined in the September 2016 National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products and the more recent Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Report. These initiatives established a vision for increasing transparency, predictability and efficiency of the regulatory processes for biotechnology products.

The agreement also calls for the FDA and the USDA to enhance their collaboration and cooperation on produce safety activities. The FDA is implementing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which shifts the food safety paradigm from one of reaction to prevention of foodborne illness. Under FSMA, the FDA coordinates with state and/or territorial government agencies, which will conduct most farm inspections under FSMA’s Produce Safety rule.

For more information:

Formal Agreement

FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety

State Produce Cooperative Agreement Program

1999 MOU between the USDA and FDA

Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products

USDA Rural Prosperity Task Force Report

USDA Launches MARS, Delivering Market Data to Agricultural Producers Around the Globe Faster and Easier

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced the launch of a new electronic data platform to deliver market price information to the commodities industry. The new web-based platform, Market Analysis and Reporting Services (MARS), uses state-of-the-art technology to present detailed data sets in a more customer-focused way to better support competitive markets for producers and help stabilize food prices for American families.

“USDA Market News is the most relied upon source of unbiased agricultural market data,” said Greg Ibach, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. “USDA’s on-site market reporters gather, analyze and publish unbiased data all day long to ensure fair food prices for consumers across the country and around the world. The MARS project applies the best data management practices to make that data available when and where farmers, packers and processors need it.”

As Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue promised last summer, USDA staff are using the latest technologies available to deliver the most effective, most efficient, customer-focused service in the federal government. MARS improves the transparency, speed and accuracy of USDA Market News, and facilitates the flow of data from more than 3,600 markets to AMS analysts and ultimately to producers, industry and the public. The new dynamic interface provides data analysts one-stop instant access to agricultural commodity data through a searchable database with the ability to create custom reports, data sets and data visualizations to make large amounts of information more easily understandable in a fraction of the time. Businesses may also utilize the built-in application program interface (API) to use the data to create new uses for the data as customer needs evolve.

On Feb. 2, 2018, Market News information for dairy products will be the first set of data and reports available through MARS followed by Cotton and Tobacco, scheduled for April 2018. Dates for Livestock, Poultry and Grain and Specialty Crops will be announced on the new My Market News website. It is anticipated that all Market News data will be moved to the new system by March 2019. USDA’s existing Market News website will continue to post data until all commodities are available through MARS.

To learn more about MARS, participate in our overview webinar or visit the new My Market News web portal.

Assistance Available to Agricultural Producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program

Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their entire operation. NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018.

While applications for CSP are accepted year-round, applications must be received by March 2, 2018, to be considered for this funding period.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and pollinator and beneficial insect habitat – all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Some of these benefits of CSP include:

  • Improved cattle gains per acre;
  • Increased crop yields;
  • Decreased inputs;
  • Wildlife population improvements; and
  • Better resilience to weather extremes.

NRCS recently made several updates to the program to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These tools also enable producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

Producers interested in CSP are recommended to contact their local USDA service center or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

Source: Montana NRCS News Releases

Perdue Announces USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018 during a town hall at Reinford Farms in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania.

“Since my first day as the Secretary of Agriculture, I’ve traveled to 30 states, listening to the people of American agriculture about what is working and what is not. The conversations we had and the people we came across helped us craft USDA’s Farm Bill and Legislative Principles for 2018,” said Secretary Perdue. “These principles will be used as a roadmap – they are our way of letting Congress know what we’ve heard from the hard-working men and women of American agriculture. While we understand it’s the legislature’s job to write the Farm Bill, USDA will be right there providing whatever counsel Congress may request or require.”

USDA’s 2018 Farm Bill and Legislative Principles:

FARM PRODUCTION & CONSERVATION

  • Provide a farm safety net that helps American farmers weather times of economic stress without distorting markets or increasing shallow loss payments.
  • Promote a variety of innovative crop insurance products and changes, enabling farmers to make sound production decisions and to manage operational risk.
  • Encourage entry into farming through increased access to land and capital for young, beginning, veteran and underrepresented farmers.
  • Ensure that voluntary conservation programs balance farm productivity with conservation benefits so the most fertile and productive lands remain in production while land retired for conservation purposes favors more environmentally sensitive acres.
  • Support conservation programs that ensure cost-effective financial assistance for improved soil health, water and air quality and other natural resource benefits.

TRADE & FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL AFFAIRS

  • Improve U.S. market competitiveness by expanding investments, strengthening accountability of export promotion programs, and incentivizing stronger financial partnerships.
  • Ensure the Farm Bill is consistent with U.S. international trade laws and obligations.
  • Open foreign markets by increasing USDA expertise in scientific and technical areas to more effectively monitor foreign practices that impede U.S. agricultural exports and engage with foreign partners to address them.

FOOD, NUTRITION, AND CONSUMER SERVICES

  • Harness America’s agricultural abundance to support nutrition assistance for those truly in need.
  • Support work as the pathway to self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility for individuals and families receiving supplemental nutrition assistance.
  • Strengthen the integrity and efficiency of food and nutrition programs to better serve our participants and protect American taxpayers by reducing waste, fraud, and abuse through shared data, innovation, and technology modernization.
  • Encourage state and local innovations in training, case management, and program design that promote self-sufficiency and achieve long-term, stability in employment.
  • Assure the scientific integrity of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans process through greater transparency and reliance on the most robust body of scientific evidence.
  • Support nutrition policies and programs that are science-based and data-driven with clear and measurable outcomes for policies and programs.

MARKETING & REGULATORY PROGRAMS 

  • Enhance our partnerships and the scientific tools necessary to prevent, mitigate, and where appropriate, eradicate harmful plant and animal pests and diseases impacting agriculture.
  • Safeguard our domestic food supply and protect animal health through modernization of the tools necessary to bolster biosecurity, prevention, surveillance, emergency response, and border security.
  • Protect the integrity of the USDA organic certified seal and deliver efficient, effective oversight of organic production practices to ensure organic products meet consistent standards for all producers, domestic and foreign.
  • Ensure USDA is positioned appropriately to review production technologies if scientifically required to ensure safety while reducing regulatory burdens.
  • Foster market and growth opportunities for specialty crop growers while reducing regulatory burdens that limit their ability to be successful.

FOOD SAFETY & INSPECTION SERVICES

  • Protect public health and prevent foodborne illness by committing the necessary resources to ensure the highest standards of inspection, with the most modern tools and scientific methods available.
  • Support and enhance FSIS programs to ensure effective regulation and the safety of meat, poultry and processed egg products, including improved coordination and clarity on the execution of food safety responsibilities.
  • Continue to focus USDA resources on products and processes that pose the greatest public health risk.

RESEARCH, EDUCATION & ECONOMICS

  • Commit to a public research agenda that places the United States at the forefront of food and agriculture scientific development.
  • Develop an impact evaluation approach, including the use of industry panels, to align research priorities to invest in high priority innovation, technology, and education networks.
  • Empower public-private partnerships to leverage federal dollars, increase capacity, and investments in infrastructure for modern food and agricultural science.
  • Prioritize investments in education, training and the development of human capital to ensure a workforce capable of meeting the growing demands of food and agriculture science.
  • Develop and apply integrated advancement in technology needed to feed a growing and hungry world.

RURAL DEVELOPMENT               

  • Create consistency and flexibility in programs that will foster collaboration and assist communities in creating a quality of life that attracts and retains the next generation.
  • Expand and enhance the effectiveness of tools available to further connect rural American communities, homes, farms, businesses, first responders, educational facilities, and healthcare facilities to reliable and affordable high-speed internet services.
  • Partner with states and local communities to invest in infrastructure to support rural prosperity, innovation, and entrepreneurial activity.
  • Provide the resources and tools that foster greater integration among programs, partners and the rural development customer.

NATURAL RESOURCES & ENVIRONMENT

  • Make America’s forests work again through proactive cost-effective management based on data and sound science. 
  • Expand Good Neighbor Authority and increase coordination with states to promote job creation and improve forest health through shared stewardship and stakeholder input. 
  • Reduce litigative risk and regulatory impediments to timely environmental review, sound harvesting, fire management and habitat protection to improve forest health while providing jobs and prosperity to rural communities. 
  • Offer the tools and resources that incentivize private stewardship and retention of forest land. 

MANAGEMENT

  • Provide a fiscally responsible Farm Bill that reflects the Administration’s budget goals.
  • Enhance customer service and compliance by reducing regulatory burdens on USDA customers.
  • Modernize internal and external IT solutions to support the delivery of efficient, effective service to USDA customers.
  • Provide USDA full authority to responsibly manage properties and facilities under its jurisdiction.
  • Increase the effectiveness of tools and resources necessary to attract and retain a strong USDA workforce that reflects the citizens we serve.
  • Recognize the unique labor needs of agriculture and leverage USDA’s expertise to allow the Department to play an integral role in developing workforce policy to ensure farmers have access to a legal and stable workforce.
  • Grow and intensify program availability to increase opportunities for new, beginning, veteran, and underrepresented producers.

Source: USDA

USDA Investing Millions in Wildfire Mitigation and Water Quality Projects Through Joint Chiefs’ Partnership

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest nearly $32 million this year to mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality and restore healthy forest ecosystems in 24 states and Puerto Rico.  More than $690,000 of that funding will support the Capital 360 forestry project in Montana.

Since 2013, USDA has invested $176 million in 56 Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership projects, which focus on areas where public forests and grasslands intersect with privately-owned lands.

“Through Joint Chiefs, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with agricultural producers and forest landowners to improve forest health using available Farm Bill conservation programs, and the Forest Service enhances forest health on public lands — stitching together a larger footprint of healthy ecosystems in priority areas,” said Tom Hedt, NRCS acting state conservationist in Montana

Along with mitigating fire risk, Joint Chiefs’ projects work to improve water quality by restoring healthy forests and grasslands.

In Montana, the funding will support the Capital 360 project in the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest. The Capital 360 effort builds on prior successful, smaller-scale fuels reduction projects to improve forest health in the Upper Tenmile Creek watershed and portions of the Prickly Pear, which supply water to Helena and East Helena.

Private woodland owners in these project areas may be eligible for financial assistance from the NRCS to perform forest conservation practices on their land. Contact a local USDA Service Center to learn more.

MSGA applauds appointment of Montana ranchers to national board

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced the appointment of 27 members to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. Two Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) members were among the appointees. Turk Stovall of Billings, Mont. and Katie Cooper of Willow Creek, Mont. will serve three-year terms on the Board.

“We are thrilled to have Turk and Katie represent Montana on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board,” said Errol Rice Executive Vice President of MSGA, “They are proven leaders in Montana and will be excellent advocates for the Beef Checkoff at the national level.”

Stovall and Cooper will be joining MSGA member, Lynda Grande of Columbus, Mont. who is currently serving a three-year term.

The Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board is composed of 99 members, all of whom are beef producers or importers of cattle, beef or beef products. The board is authorized by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985.

USDA Seeks Applications for $10 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants

Funding is available in three focus areas, including grazing lands, organic systems and soil health

BOZEMAN, Mont., Dec. 18, 2017 – USDA is offering grants for innovative ideas for conservation strategies and technologies. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS ) plans to invest $10 million in the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, funding innovative conservation projects in three focus areas: grazing lands, organic systems and soil health. Grant proposals are due Feb. 26, 2018.

“Conservation Innovation Grants play a critical role in developing and implementing new methods to help our customers across the country and here in Montana conserve natural resources, strengthen their local communities, and improve their bottom lines,” said Tom Hedt, NRCS state conservationist in Montana. “Today’s announcement supports our efforts to help producers build economically-strong and resilient farms and ranches by providing producers tools to utilize across their working farmlands.”

The NRCS uses CIG to work with partners to accelerate transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches that address some of the nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns. This year, NRCS is focusing funding in these areas:

  • Grazing Lands: Helping livestock producers make grazing management decisions, encouraging prescribed burning as a grazing management practice, and improving access to conservation planning tools used for developing grazing management plans.
  • Organic Agriculture Systems: Helping organic producers develop innovative cropping and tillage systems, edge-of-field monitoring, crop rotations, and intercropping systems.
  • Soil Health: Supporting both cropping and grazing systems, in a variety of climatic zones, that incorporate soil health management systems for addressing specific resource concerns like nutrients and availability. Evaluating multiple soil health assessment methods to assist in the development of new soil health indicators and thresholds.

 “Every sector of American agriculture has its unique conservation challenges,” said Hedt. “CIG enables USDA to help support new, innovative tools and techniques which have helped U.S. agriculture become the powerhouse we see today, leading the world in both production efficiency and conservation delivery. We encourage groups and individuals in Montana to take advantage of this grant opportunity.”

Potential applicants should review the announcement of program funding available at www.grants.gov, which includes application materials and submission procedures. All U.S.-based entities and individuals are invited to apply, with the sole exception of Federal agencies. Up to 20 percent of CIG funds will be set aside for proposals from historically underserved producers, veteran farmers or ranchers or groups serving these customers.

NRCS is hosting a webinar for potential CIG applicants on Jan. 11, 2018, at 4 p.m. Eastern. Information on how to join the webinar can be found on the NRCS CIG webpage.

CIG is authorized and funded under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Projects can last up to three years. The maximum award amount for any project this year is $2 million.

Since 2004, NRCS has invested nearly $286.7 million in more than 700 projects focused on providing farmers and ranchers new techniques, data and decision-making tools for improving natural resources conservation on their land.

Source: NRCS

Sec. Perdue: U.S. Farm Exports Hit 3rd Highest Level on Record

Climb Eight Percent in FY 2017 to $140.5 Billion

U.S. agricultural exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2017, climbing nearly $10.9 billion from the previous year to the third-highest level on record, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today. As it has done for well over 50 years, the U.S. agricultural sector once again posted an annual trade surplus, which reached $21.3 billion, up almost 30 percent from last year’s $16.6 billion.

“U.S. agriculture depends on trade. It is great to see an increase in exports and we hope to open additional markets to build on this success,” Perdue said.  “I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy.  If American agricultural producers keep growing it, USDA will keep helping to sell it around the world.”

China finished the fiscal year as the United States’ largest export customer, with shipments valued at $22 billion, followed closely by Canada at $20.4 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico reached $18.6 billion, a six-percent gain from last year, while exports to Japan grew 12 percent, to $11.8 billion. Rounding out the top 10 markets were the European Union ($11.6 billion), South Korea ($6.9 billion), Hong Kong ($4 billion), Taiwan ($3.4 billion), Indonesia ($3 billion) and the Philippines ($2.6 billion).

U.S. bulk commodity exports set a volume record at 159 million metric tons, up 11 percent from FY 2016, while their value rose 16 percent to $51.4 billion. The surge was led by soybean exports, which reached a record 60 million metric tons, valued at $24 billion. Exports of corn, wheat and cotton all grew as well, with the value of cotton exports climbing 70 percent, to $5.9 billion, wheat exports up 21 percent, to $6.2 billion, and corn exports up six percent, to $9.7 billion.

A number of other products saw significant export increases as well. U.S. dairy exports grew 17 percent to $5.3 billion, beef exports were up 16 percent to $7.1 billion, and pork exports rose 14 percent to $6.4 billion. Overall, horticultural product exports increased three percent to nearly $33.9 billion, largely driven by an eight-percent increase in exports of tree nuts, which reached $8.1 billion, the second-highest total on record. Processed food and beverage exports rose two percent to $39.2 billion.

Exports are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than one million American jobs both on and off the farm. USDA continues to work to boost export opportunities for U.S. agricultural products by opening new markets, pursuing new trade agreements, enforcing existing agreements, and breaking down barriers to trade.

Complete FY 2017 (Oct. 2016-Sept. 2017) agricultural export data are available from the Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) database: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/gats/.

USDA Publishes School Meals Rule, Expands Options, Eases Challenges

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today provided local food service professionals the flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation. The new School Meal Flexibility Rule, published today, makes targeted changes to standards for meals provided under USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, and asks customers to share their thoughts on those changes with the Department.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the rule reflects USDA’s commitment, made in a May proclamation (PDF, 123 KB), to work with program operators, school nutrition professionals, industry, and other stakeholders to develop forward-thinking strategies to ensure school nutrition standards are both healthful and practical.

“Schools need flexibility in menu planning so they can serve nutritious and appealing meals,” Perdue said. “Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools, and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements. Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can. These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing.”

This action reflects a key initiative of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to the President’s Executive Order to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens. Other USDA initiatives of this kind will be reflected in the forthcoming Fall 2017 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

The interim final rule published today gives schools the option to serve low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk. Currently, schools are permitted to serve low-fat and non-fat unflavored milk as well as non-fat flavored milk. The rule also would provide this milk flexibility to the Special Milk Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program operators serving children ages 6 and older. States will also be allowed to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students during School Year (SY) 2018-2019.

Schools and industry also need more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals, Perdue said. So instead of further restricting sodium levels for SY 2018-2019, schools that meet the current – “Target 1” – limit will be considered compliant with USDA’s sodium requirements. Perdue again lauded the efforts of school food professionals in serving healthful, appealing meals and underscored USDA’s commitment to helping them overcome remaining challenges they face in meeting the nutrition standards.

“We salute the efforts of America’s school food professionals,” Perdue said. “And we will continue to support them as they work to run successful school meals programs and feed our nation’s children.”

This rule will be in effect for SY 2018-2019. USDA will accept public comments on these flexibilities via www.regulations.govto inform the development of a final rule, which will address the availability of these three flexibilities in the long term.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. Together, these programs comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

Source: USDA

USDA Helps Rural Communities Restore Water Systems Damaged by Disasters

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2017 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced the award of two grants to help rural water and sewer utilities recover from recent and future natural disasters.

“USDA is a strong partner in the long-term recovery of rural communities after a season of devastating hurricanes,” Perdue said. “These grants will provide resources rural communities need to assess damage, develop rebuilding plans and get access to technical assistance and clean water. USDA is standing with these affected communities every step of the way.”

USDA is awarding the National Rural Water Association (NRWA) and the Rural Communities Assistance Partnership (RCAP) each a $500,000 grant. The funding is being provided through the Water and Waste Disposal Technical Assistance and Training Grant program in USDA Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Programs (WEP).

NRWA and RCAP will use the grants to provide training and technical assistance, onsite repairs, and utility management advice for rural water and sewer utilities impacted by disasters. These utilities serve communities that have 10,000 people or less. Many of them have very limited capacity after a catastrophic event to access immediate assistance for assessment and restoration. USDA’s assistance helps these small utilities recover faster and enables first responders, rural citizens and businesses to have access to clean water.

The grants also will be used to help rural utilities apply for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) disaster programs, file insurance recovery claims, and strengthen operations and continuity of service plans in times of emergencies. Technical assistance will include assisting new and returning Rural Development WEP funding recipients to prepare applications for water and waste disposal loans and grants and other financing options to supplement their needs.

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, visitwww.rd.usda.gov.