Government Programs for Producers

Included in this section is information on Coronavirus Aid, Relief and the CARES Act. In addition you will find information specific to the state of Montana.

USDA

Food Assistance

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will provide $16 billion to support our farmers, ranchers, and consumers.Producers can apply for assistance beginning on May 26, 2020, through their local FSA office. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 28, 2020.Learn more at farmers.gov/cfap.

Direct support for farmers and ranchers available via CFAP includes:

  • CFAP will provide direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted.
  • CFAP will assist producers with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by COVID-19.

USDA evaluated commodity specific losses occurring during the January to April time frame for immediate assistance. In addition, near-term adjustment costs and supply disruptions over the next few months were also evaluated to the extent possible for sectors where prices have declined significantly for additional assistance.

The program is eligible to farmers regardless of size and market outlet, if they suffered an eligible loss. We know that the disruption to markets and demand is significant and these payments will only cover a portion of the impacts on farmers and ranchers.

 

Crop Insurance

Producers can continue to work with their Approved Insurance Providers, or AIPs, on policies, claims, and agreements. Farmers with crop insurance questions or needs should continue to contact their insurance agents about conducting business by telephone or email.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency is working with those insurance providers to provide additional flexibilities in response to COVID-19, including:

  • Enabling producers to send notifications and reports electronically
  • Extending the date for production reports
  • Providing additional time and deferring interest on premium and other payments
  • Authorizing replant self-certification
  • Waiving the witness signature requirement for approval of Assignments of Indemnity
  • Allowing dumped milk to be counted as milk marketings for the Dairy Revenue Protection or actual marketings for the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy programs
  • Allowing phone and electronic transactions for 2021 crop year sales and reporting dates, including options and endorsements
  • Extending the deadline for some perennial crop Pre-Acceptance Inspection Reports
  • Waiving the 2021 crop year inspection requirements for the Nursery and Nursery Value Select programs in certain cases
  • Authorizing AIPs to allow organic producers to report acreage as certified organic, or transitioning to organic, for the 2020 crop year if they can show they have requested a written certification from a certifying agent by their policy’s acreage reporting date.

Electronic Notifications 

Notifications and information may be sent by phone or electronic methods between policyholders and their crop insurance agents to do the following:

  • Written agreement issues, acreage and production reporting, and upcoming sales closing dates (deadlines to buy crop insurance)
  • 2021 Crop Year Sales and Reporting: To make policy elections, such as coverage level, and to report acreage and production
  • Reporting Deadline for Options, Endorsements and Forms: To select options and endorsements occurring for the sales closing, production reporting date and acreage reporting deadline

Notice of the policyholder’s election may be provided over the phone with appropriate documentation of the call or using electronic methods followed by their confirmation of such election in writing (via a signed, or e-signed, form) no later than July 15, 2020.

Production Reporting Dates

For the 2020 crop year, AIPs may accept production reports through the earlier of the acreage reporting date or 30 days after the production reporting date for crops insured under the Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions with a PRD of March 15, 2020, or later. Generally, the PRD for crops insured under the Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions is the earlier of the ARD or 45 days after the cancellation date.

More Time and Deferred Interest on Payments

AIPs are authorized to provide additional time for policyholders to make payment of premium and administrative fees. Interest accrual on premium payments and administrative fees will be waived to the earliest of an additional 60 days from the scheduled payment due date or the termination date on policies with premium billing dates between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020. AIPs are also authorized to provide additional time for policyholders to make payment for Written Payment Agreements due between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020. Payments may be extended up to 60 days from the scheduled payment due date and considered a timely payment.

Replant Self-Certification

For the 2020 crop year only, AIPs are authorized to allow self-certification replant inspections for up to 100 gross acres (before considering share) per unit in lieu of 50 acres.

Authorized crops for self-certification of up to 100 acres for replant include: barley and wheat not covered by the Winter Coverage Endorsement (both initially planted winter and spring crops), buckwheat, canola and rapeseed, corn, dry beans, flax (spring-seeded only), grain sorghum, mustard, oats (spring-seeded only), popcorn (including popcorn revenue), peanuts, safflowers, soybeans, sugar beets, and sunflower seed.

Assignment of Indemnity

AIPs are authorized to waive the witness signature requirement for approval of Assignments through July 15, 2020. The insured’s and creditor’s signature on the Assignment will be required in a pen and ink signature and in the hand of the person whose signature is required or an acceptable electronic (digital) signature in accordance with the AIPs’ established Electronic Business Implementation Plan and applicable RMA procedures.

Adjustments for Dumped Milk

COVID-19 shutdowns have caused disruption in the milk market, and dairy producers are dumping milk as a result. For the 2020 calendar year, RMA is allowing AIPs to count dumped milk toward the milk marketings for the Dairy Revenue Protection or actual marketings for the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy programs regardless of whether the milk was sold. Producers will still have to provide to the AIPs supporting documentation from the cooperative or milk handler verifying the actual pounds dumped and that the milk was dumped.

Deadline Extensions for Perennial Inspections:

  • Florida Citrus Fruit Dollar and Florida Fruit Tree Programs: The deadline is extended to July 15, 2020, from June 14.
  • New Apple Tree Program: AIPs must ensure inspections are completed by July 1, 2020, the date insurance attaches to the crop.
  • Pecan Tree Program: AIPs must ensure inspections are completed by July 1, 2020, the date insurance attaches to the crop.
  • All Other Perennial Crop Policies: The deadline is extended an additional 30 days for applicable perennial crop policies with an inspection deadline due on or before May 30, 2020.

Waiving of Inspection Requirements

RMA is authorizing AIPs to waive the 2021 crop year inspection requirements when an inspection report exists in the policyholder’s file for the Nursery Crop Provisions and Nursery Value Select for the 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020 crop years. For the 2022 crop year, AIPs must inspect those policies that had a crop year 2021 waiver. Nursery Value Select is a new program for the 2021 crop year, with a deadline for signup of May 1, 2020, and insurance attaching on June 1. Normally, any inspections should be conducted in May for insurance to begin, as scheduled, on June 1.

Organic Certification Flexibilities

AIPs may allow organic producers to report acreage as certified organic, or transitioning to organic, for the 2020 crop year if they can show they have requested a written certification from a certifying agent by their policy’s acreage reporting date. In addition, policyholders who have requested but not received an organic certificate, organic plan, or other written documentation must notify their insurance agent within 30 days after the certifying agent informs them of their organic plan or certificate status. The policyholder notification may be made by phone, email, text, or other electronic communication method, and the AIPs must document the policyholder’s notification. Policyholders will be required to either sign digitally at the time of submission or must follow up with properly signed forms no later than July 15, 2020.

Reporting

Acreage reporting is key to eligibility for many USDA programs, including crop insurance, safety net, disaster assistance, farm loan, and conservation programs.

While USDA Service Centers are currently open by phone or virtual appointments only, FSA is still available to work with you on timely filing your acreage report. FSA staff are providing acreage reporting assistance through phone, email, and virtual meetings like Microsoft Teams.

FSA offices and producers are currently using the following methods to obtain maps and finalize signatures on acreage reports completed as a result of information provided on the maps:

  • Through a physical “drop box” located at or near the local USDA Service Center,
  • Electronically via email, or
  • Through mail.

To file a crop acreage report, you need:

  • An FSA map of your farm or ranch and your tract and field numbers,
  • The intended use of your crops,
  • The number of acres of crops you are reporting, and
  • Approximate crop boundaries, planting patterns and dates, irrigation practices, and producer shares, and other information as directed by the local Service Center.

Acreage reporting dates can vary by crop and by county. Contact the FSA office at your local USDA Service Center for details in your county. 

Farm Loan

We recognize that loan-making activities are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, term investments for equipment and livestock, emergency needs, and cash flow, especially in tough times.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency is providing additional flexibilities to provide producers with credit options in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Those include:

  • Where not legally prohibited, FSA will accept FAXed or scanned signatures from customers and lenders.
  • FSA will follow the most current state or local guidance for use of online or virtual notary services.

FSA is currently relaxing the loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need.

Relaxing the Loan Making Process

FSA is relaxing the loan making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. This includes:

  • For direct loan applicants, FSA provides two notifications of an incomplete application. These notices give the applicant 20 calendar days and 10 calendar days, respectively, to provide the additional information needed before the application is withdrawn.  FSA loan officials will maintain close communication with applicants who are experiencing difficulties completing application requirements due to complications from COVID-19 and may grant the applicant an extension.
  • Where lien searches cannot be properly completed due to local and state government office closures, applicants may be considered eligible and processing of the loan may continue without a county records search, assuming all other eligibility and loan making criteria can be satisfied.
  • Preparing loan closing documents even if FSA is unable to complete lien and record searches because of closed government buildings. Once those searches are complete, FSA would close the loan.
  • Closing loans if the required lien position on the primary security is perfected, even for loans that require additional security and those filings and recordings cannot be obtained because of closed government buildings.
  • Extending the repayment period of annual operating loans beyond 18 months to help borrowers survive through unique periods of financial difficulty.
  • Use of video conferencing to facilitate loan closings, where notary services are not required.
  • For guaranteed loans, FSA may grant an extension to guaranteed lenders that are unable to provide a complete application within the normal timeframe because of reasons outside of their control caused by COVID-19.  Because each applicant and lender’s circumstances are unique, extensions will be granted on a case-by-case basis.
  • If lenders need to extend credit to a customer that would normally require an FSA guarantee, but the lender is unable to apply for a guarantee due to the various pandemic restrictions in place, FSA will be as flexible as possible when evaluating the test for credit if the lender requests a guarantee on that loan at a later time. The lender would need to clearly document why they were unable to apply for the guarantee with the initial loan due to the coronavirus pandemic situation in their local area.

Given the current uncertainty and extreme volatility of commodity prices, it is difficult to project planning prices for many commodities with a high degree of certainty.  Therefore, FSA will continue the use of commodity planning prices already approved for the current year.  However, customers must be advised of the potential budget, cash flow, and loan impacts if projected prices are unable to be realized.

Servicing Direct Loans

FSA is extending deadlines for producers to respond to application packages for Primary Loan Servicing and Distressed Loan Servicing. Financially distressed and delinquent direct loan borrowers who have been notified of the available loan servicing options will be provided an additional time to:

  • submit a complete application for loan servicing,
  • accept an offer of loan servicing,
  • provide a response to a denial of loan servicing, or
  • request homestead protection.

FSA will temporarily suspend loan accelerations, non-judicial foreclosures, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will make the determination whether to stop foreclosures and evictions on accounts under its jurisdiction.

Servicing Guaranteed Loans

In addition to the existing guaranteed loan servicing options already available within the FSA guaranteed loan program, FSA is offering lenders additional flexibility. This includes:

  • Standard Eligible Lenders (SEL) may certify that they have met all FSA requirements for annual line of credit advances and will not need FSA prior written approval.
  • SEL and Certified Lender Program (CLP) lenders may certify that they have met all FSA requirements for emergency advances and will not need FSA prior written approval.
  • SEL and CLP lenders may certify that they have a feasible plan for additional loans made outside of the guarantee and will not need FSA prior written approval. Loans made under the Small Business Administration’s new Paycheck Protection Program can be made at the lender’s discretion without FSA approval.

Lenders are also encouraged to submit status and default status reports online through the Lender LINC System.  Lenders should contact the FSA office at their local USDA Service Center for questions related to a specific account, or any short-term payment deferral and forbearance consideration.

Commodity Loan

Producers now have more time to repay Farm Service Agency Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL), as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s implementation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020. The loans now mature at 12 months rather than nine, and this flexibility is available for most commodities.

About MALs

Placing commodities under loan provides producers interim financing to meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are lows and allows producers to store production for more orderly marketing of commodities throughout the year.

These loans are considered nonrecourse because the commodity is pledged as loan collateral, and producers have the option of delivering the pledged collateral to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for repayment of the outstanding loan at maturity.

MAL Maturity Extension Eligibility

Effective immediately, producers of eligible commodities now have up to 12 months to repay their commodity loans. The maturity extension applies to nonrecourse loans for crop years 2018, 2019, and 2020. Eligible open loans must be in good standing with a maturity date of March 31, 2020 or later or new crop year (2019 or 2020) loans requested by September 30, 2020. All new loans requested by September 30, 2020 will have a maturity date 12 months following the date of approval.

The maturity extension for current, active loans will be automatically extended an additional three months. Loans that matured March 31 have already been automatically extended. Loans requested after September 30, 2020 will have a term of nine months.

Eligible commodities include barley, chickpeas (small and large), corn, cotton (upland and extra-long staple), dry peas, grain sorghum, honey, lentils, mohair, oats, peanuts, rice (long and medium grain), soybeans, unshorn pelts, wheat, wool (graded and nongraded); and other oilseeds, including canola, crambe, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, sunflower seed, and sesame seed. Seed cotton and sugar are not eligible.

MAL Repayment

Under the new maturity provisions, producers can still repay the loan as they would have before the extension:

  • repay the MAL on or before the maturity date;
  • upon maturity, by delivering or forfeiting the commodity to CCC as loan repayment; or
  • after maturity, and before CCC acquires the farm-stored commodity, by repaying the outstanding MAL principle and interest.

Market Loan Gains

A Marketing Loan Gain occurs when a MAL is repaid at less than the loan principal. If market gain is applicable during the now-extended loan period, producers can receive a gain on the repayment made before the loan matures.

SBA

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program is a guaranteed loan program administered by the Small Business Administration. The purpose of the program is to support small businesses and help support their payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.

Agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers with 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States are eligible. Farms are eligible if:

  • The farm has 500 or less employees, OR
  • It fits within the revenue-based sized standard, which is on average annual receipts of $1M.

Additionally, farms can qualify for PPP if they meet SBA’s “alternative size standard.” The “alternative size standard” is currently:

  • A maximum net worth of the business not more than $15 million, AND
  • The average net income Federal income taxes of the business for the two full fiscal years before the date of the application be not more than $5 million.

Learn more about PPP and your potential eligibility by visiting usda.gov/coronavirus and sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options.

EIDL

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program advance of up to $10,000 and borrow up to $2 million. This is administered through the Small Business Administration and  will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Loan advances will not have to be repaid.

SBA’s EIDL application portal reopened on May 4, 2020, as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act.

For the first time, agricultural enterprises are now eligible for the disaster assistance from EIDL. As a result of the unprecedented legislation, American farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural businesses will now have access to emergency working capital. These low-interest, long-term loans will help keep agricultural businesses viable while bringing stability to the nation’s vitally important food supply chains.

Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)) are considered for eligibility. Eligible agricultural businesses must have 500 or fewer employees.

In order to help facilitate this important change to EIDL Loan and EIDL Advance assistance eligibility, SBA is re-opening the Loan and Advance application portal to agricultural enterprises only. For agricultural producers that submitted an EIDL loan application through the streamlined application portal prior to the legislative change, SBA will move forward and process these applications without the need for re-applying. All other EIDL loan applications that were submitted prior to April 15 will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis.

For more information, visit sba.gov

State of MT

GTA

**FUNDING FOR MINI-GRANTS IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE**

Mini-Grant Program

The Growth Through Agriculture (GTA) Mini-Grant program is a part of the Montana Growth Through Agriculture Program established by the Montana Legislature to encourage economic and agricultural development through educational, promotional, marketing, travel and other business activities.

All projects will need to demonstrate how they expand Montana agriculture, but given the current public health situation with COVID-19, special attention will be paid to projects that strengthen and expand local food offerings, distribution, and infrastructure.

  • Maximum $2,500 grant for educational, promotional, marketing, travel
  • Maximum $5,000 for other business activities

Review the Mini-Grant background document for details on applying.

Application Deadlines:

  • To be considered for the initial review, applications must be received by April 13, 2020 at 2:00 pm. Applications not received by April 13 will be considered on a rolling basis until May 22, 2020 at 2:00 PM.
  • Click here to apply

Important Dates

DateTimeDeadline/Event
March 27 2:00 p.m.Funding opportunity posted at https://funding.mt.gov/index.do.
April 910:00 a.m.Open Question and Answer Conference Call/Webinar
Join Skype MeetingJoin by phone 406-444-4647 Conference ID: 325438
April 132:00 p.m.Deadline for applications to be considered as part of initial review
April 21 Anticipated announcement of initial funding round awards
May 222:00 p.m.Application deadline at Funding.mt.gov.
May 28 Anticipated announcement of final awards

All times in Mountain Standard Time.


Technical Assistance:


Specialty Crop Block Grant

The Montana Department of Agriculture is pleased to present the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG). The purpose of this program is to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in Montana. For purposes of the program, specialty crops are defined as fruits, vegetables, peas and lentils, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture).

2020 FUNDING OPPORTUNITY – APPLICATION MATERIALS

SCBG Request for Proposals Manual – Read this first

Required Application Forms

Other Reference Items

Submitting a Grant Proposal

All applications must be submitted through fundingmt.org. The instructions below outline the basic procedures of operating the Webgrants system.

Technical Assistance

SCBG Question and Answer Call One:
Thursday, January 30, 2020 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM MST
Call: 406-444-4647
Access code: 1573427#

SCBG Question and Answer Call Two:
Monday, October 14, 2019 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM MST
Call: 406-444-4647
Access code: 1741316#

SCBG Frequently Asked Questions (Updated 12/17/19)