USDA Seeks Applications for Funding to Increase Access to E-Connectivity/Broadband in Unserved Rural Areas

(WASHINGTON, United States) – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved rural communities.

“E-connectivity is essential to the economic vitality and quality of life in rural communities,” Hazlett said. “Investing in broadband can strengthen rural economic growth and improve critical access to jobs, education, health care and social services.”

USDA is accepting applications through May 14 in the Community Connect program. Grants from $100,000 to $3 million are available to state and local governments, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits and for-profit corporations. Applicants must be able to provide a 15 percent match on the desired grant amount.

The funds must be used to provide broadband service at a minimum rate-of-data transmission of 25 megabits downstream and 3 megabits upstream, which is the speed benchmark that the Federal Communications Commission has officially adopted for broadband connectivity. Awardees must use USDA funding to offer free broadband service to all critical community facilities in their proposed service areas for two years and provide a community center with free broadband service for two years.

Examples of past Community Connect Grant successes include:

Alaska’s Matanuska Telephone Association used a Community Connect grant to expand a fiber network. As a result, web-based content has been developed for an array of local businesses.

Tennessee’s North Central Telephone Cooperative (NCTC) received a grant to offer gigabyte speed internet at reasonable rates. Today, the company provides e-connectivity services such as high-speed broadband, television, security and cloud systems. NCTC was recognized nationally in 2014 when it received a Smart Rural Community Showcase Award.

In North Dakota, the BEK Communications Cooperative used a Community Connect grant to install 462 miles of fiber. The new internet service has many uses, such as enabling Barnes County students to take online courses to qualify for college credits.

For more details on this grant opportunity, see page 11494 of the March 15 Federal Register (PDF, 247 KB).

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.

National Agriculture Day Set for March 20

(DES MOINES, Iowa) – March 20 is National Agriculture Day – a day designated each year by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) to celebrate the accomplishments of agriculture.

This year’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) theme, Agriculture: Food for Life, spotlights the hard work of American farmers, ranchers and foresters who diligently work to provide food, fiber and more to the United States and countries around the world. To ensure a prosperous future for American agriculture, FSA provides continuous support to agriculturalists across the country.

FSA is rural America’s engine for economic growth, job creation and development, offering local service to millions of rural producers. In fiscal year 2017, USDA Farm Loan programs provided $6 billion in support to producers across America, the second highest total in FSA history. FSA also distributed $1.6 billion in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments to over 375,000 Americans to improve water quality, reduce soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

For agricultural producers who suffered market downturns in 2016, USDA is issuing approximately $8 billion in payments under the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs. USDA also continues to provide extensive assistance in response to natural disasters throughout the country, including last year’s hurricanes in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, drought in the northern high plains, wildfires in the west and central plains, floods, tornados, freezes and other catastrophic weather events.

To support beginning farmers and ranchers, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a Memorandum of Understanding with officials from SCORE, the nation’s largest volunteer network of expert business mentors, to support new and beginning farmers. The agreement provides new help and resources for beginning ranchers, veterans, women, socially disadvantaged Americans and others, providing new tools to help them both grow and thrive in agribusiness.

For more information about FSA programs and services, visit https://www.fsa.usda.gov/.

FSA Welcomes Julie Van Waardhuizen Back to the Mahaska County Committee

Oskaloosa, Iowa – The Mahaska County Farm Service Agency (FSA) Office is pleased to announce that Julie Van Waardhuizen has been re-elected to serve a three-year term on the County Committee (COC). The Farm Service Agency is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and provides financial assistance through disaster assistance, conservation, commodity and price support programs, and farm loans.

The national FSA office guides state and county offices in the implementation of farm programs legislated by Congress. Farmers who are eligible for FSA programs nominate and elect representatives in the local community to serve on the local FSA County Committee. This extensive county-based structure provides FSA a unique position from which to serve rural America.

Effective January 1, 2017, Ms. Van Waardhuizen will continue to represent Scott, Jefferson, West Des Moines, East Des Moines, Harrison and Cedar townships. She will continue to serve on the COC with E.T. (“Ted”) Ver Steegh and Gary DeGoey. Committee members help make decisions necessary to administer the programs in the county and provide local input on price support loans and payments,
conservation programs, disaster payments, emergency programs, and payment eligibility

FSA serves the public by providing all farmers and ranchers access and opportunity to participate in their farm programs. Through these activities, FSA supports the USDA mission and helps ensure a healthful, stable, accessible, and affordable food supply. FSA also fosters good land stewardship, which will help preserve our agricultural prosperity for generations to come.

To learn more information about the programs and services FSA has to offer, contact the Mahaska County Office at (641) 673-3476, Extension 2, or visit FSA online at www.fsa.usda.gov/ia.

Acreage Reporting Deadline Fast Approaching

Oskaloosa, December 6, 2017 – In order to comply with FSA program eligibility requirements, all producers are encouraged to visit the Mahaska County FSA office to file an accurate crop certification report by the applicable deadline.

The following 2018 acreage reporting dates are applicable in Iowa:

  • December 15, 2017            Perennial forage, alfalfa, pasture, & fall-seeded small grains
  • July 15, 2018                      All spring seeded crops, CRP, and cover crops

The following exceptions apply to the above acreage reporting dates:

  1. If the crop has not been planted by the above acreage reporting date, then the
    acreage must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after planting is
  2. If a producer acquires additional acreage after the above acreage reporting date,
    then the acreage must be reported no later than 30 calendars days after purchase
    or acquiring the lease. Appropriate documentation must be provided to the county
  3. If a perennial forage crop is reported with the intended use of green manure, left
    standing, or seed, then the acreage must be reported by July 15th.

A measurement service fee will be charged for crop reports filed after the applicable deadline, unless an exception applies.  Late-filed reports must be filed within one year of the acreage reporting deadline.

For questions regarding crop certification, please contact the Mahaska County FSA office at (641) 673-3476, Extension 2.

FSA Announces Disaster Area in 38 Counties

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Acting Administrator Steven J. Peterson today announced that physical loss loans are available for 10 counties in Iowa, due to four separate disaster events. Farm operators who have suffered major physical losses caused by excessive rain, flash flooding, flooding, hail, high winds, lighting and tornadoes that occurred from June 22 through August 18, 2017, may be eligible for emergency loans.

For the June 22 disaster event, an Administrator’s Physical Loss Notification has been issued for Butler and Franklin counties as the primary damaged area.

Additionally, 10 Iowa counties are contiguous to this designated disaster area, making these producers also potentially eligible for programs based on this designation. The contiguous counties are: Black Hawk, Bremer, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Floyd, Grundy, Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin and Wright.

For the June 28 disaster event, an Administrator’s Physical Loss Notification has been issued for Fremont, Jones, Linn, Marion, Page and Taylor counties as the primary damaged area.

Additionally, 20 Iowa counties are contiguous to this designated disaster area, making these producers also potentially eligible for programs based on this designation. The contiguous counties are: Adams, Benton, Buchanan, Cedar, Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, Iowa, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Lucas, Mahaska, Mills, Monroe, Montgomery, Polk, Ringgold, Union and Warren.

For the Aug. 10 disaster event, an Administrator’s Physical Loss Notification has been issued for Clinton County as the primary damaged area.

Additionally, four Iowa counties are contiguous to this designated disaster area, making these producers also potentially eligible for programs based on this designation. The contiguous counties are: Cedar, Jackson, Jones and Scott.

FSA’s low interest emergency loans may be made available to any applicant with a qualifying loss in the counties named above. Approval is limited to applicants who suffered severe physical losses only.

Physical loss loans may be made to eligible farmers and ranchers to repair or replace damaged or destroyed physical property essential to the success of the agriculture operation, including livestock losses. Examples of property commonly affected include essential farm buildings, fixtures to real estate, equipment, livestock, perennial crops, fruit and nut bearing trees, and harvested or stored crops and hay.

Producers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans for physical losses.

Please contact FSA for more information on loan eligibility and the application process. FSA office information is available at offices.usda.gov. Additional FSA disaster assistance program information is available at disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Emergency Haying and Grazing Released by CRP

Emergency haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage has been authorized for Mahaska County due to a D2 drought designation on the U.S. Drought Monitor.

CRP participants interested in emergency haying or grazing of CRP acreage must first contact their FSA office that administers their CRP contract to discuss options available to them. 

Applicants must meet with NRCS to obtain a modified conservation plan. Farm Owners and/or Operators interested in this emergency release must request written approval from the FSA before any haying or grazing can be granted.

Once approved for emergency haying or grazing, producers may use the CRP acreage for their own livestock or may grant another livestock producer use of the CRP acreage; however, CRP participants are not allowed to sell any hay removed from CRP acreages. Haying is authorized through August 31st and is limited to one cutting. All haying activities must be completed by August 31st and bales removed from the CRP acreage no later than September 15th.
If a CRP contract holder is approved for grazing, then livestock must be removed from the CRP acres by September 30, 2017.
For additional information regarding the emergency release of CRP for haying and
grazing, please contact the Mahaska County FSA office at 641-673- 3476, Extension 2.


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