July 2021 2021 USDA Caribbean Conservation Update

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US Department of Agriculture

USDA Caribbean Conservation Update  -  July 16, 2020

In This Issue:


June 22, 2021, Caribbean Drought Monitor Map for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has issued a Drought designation for the USVI. For the 2021 program year, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas have met drought ratings that trigger eligibility for livestock disaster assistance. For losses due to drought, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) determines qualifying drought ratings using the U.S. Drought Monitor. Farmers are eligible for FSA Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) payments for 2021 grazing losses due to drought. The deadline to apply for 2021 LFP assistance is Jan. 31, 2022.

Farmers are also eligible for NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) technical and financial assistance to improve climate resiliency. Eligible practices include brush management, firebreaks, livestock watering facilities, irrigation efficiency improvement and water management, prescribed grazing, silvopasture, and soil health improvement practices. Call our St. Croix USDA Service Center at 340-773-9146 for assistance under FSA's Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) and NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Learn more…

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RC Anibal Velazquez describes conservation practices for coffee farms at June 3rd Coffee Farmers Workshop in Ciales, PR.

Beginning June 1, NRCS partnered with the UPR Extension Service and Envirosurvey, Inc. to host a series of workshops for coffee farmers served by our Utuado, Juana Díaz, Mayagüez and San Sebastián Field offices. The workshops presented updated information on the conservation programs available through NRCS, promoted sustainable agricultural production and provided solutions to address the unique conservation problems specific to coffee production. (Above, Resource Conservationist Anibal Velazquez describes conservation practices for coffee farms at the June 3rd Workshop in Ciales.) Over 240 coffee farmers and partners participated in the June workshops. Stay tuned to the NRCS Events webpage for more workshop info!

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Farmers and ranchers have until Aug. 2, 2021, to nominate candidates to serve on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) USVI County Committee. USDA accepts nominations each year in certain Local Administrative Areas (LAAs) for individuals to serve on these locally led committees. This year, FSA is accepting nominations for LAA 3 (St. Thomas, USVI). Agricultural producers who participate or cooperate in a USDA program, and reside in the LAA up for election this year, may be nominated for candidacy for the county committee. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation to FSA, even if they have not applied or received program benefits.

"Committee members play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of the agency and are vital to how FSA carries out disaster programs, as well as conservation, commodity and price support programs," said Mark Carlton, district director for FSA in the USVI. "This is your opportunity to have a say in how federal programs are delivered in your county.” Learn more…

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Are drought conditions affecting your farm? Do you know how the U.S. Drought Monitor relates to USDA and supports farmers in Puerto Rico & the USVI? The U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) is a resource that producers can use to help determine how to best respond and react to a drought as it develops or lingers. The USDM is an online, weekly map showing the location, extent, and severity of drought across the United States. It categorizes the entire country as being in one of six levels of drought. The map is released on Thursdays and shows conditions for the week. USDA uses the Drought Monitor to determine a producer’s eligibility for certain drought assistance programs, like the Livestock Forage Disaster Program. Farm Service Agency uses the Drought Monitor to trigger and “fast track” Secretarial Disaster Designations to provide producers impacted by drought with access to emergency loans that can help with credit needs. Learn more about the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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Female Antillean Mango hummingbird (Anthracothorax dominicus) sips nectar from an Ixora shrub (photo by J. Gilbert Martinez)

Did you know 80% of the world’s flowering plants & more than 30% of the world’s food crops depend on pollinators to reproduce? Pollinators play a crucial role in the reproduction of many plants, including many of the plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine. Animal pollinators, especially honeybees and hummingbirds (right), are critical for producing our food products. But despite their value, many pollinator species are in trouble. In an effort to fight population declines, NRCS is working with private landowners to establish habitat for pollinators through conservation. Find out how YOU can help our pollinators!

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The Farm Service Agency announced that fiscal year 2020 payments for the Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program (RTCP) began on May 28. RTCP helps eligible farmers and ranchers outside the contiguous U.S. to offset a portion of the cost of transporting agricultural products over long distances. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 reauthorized RTCP and allows farmers and ranchers in Alaska, Hawaii and insular areas including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, to recover any costs to transport agricultural commodities or inputs used to produce an agricultural commodity. RTCP payments are calculated based on the costs incurred for transportation of the agricultural commodity or inputs during a fiscal year, subject to an $8,000 per producer cap per fiscal year. Total 2020 claims exceeded available funding so payments to recipients will be reduced by a National payment factor of 0.8. Enrollment for 2021 RTCP began July 9 and will end Sept. 3. Learn more…

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Black Female Urban Farmer looking over her crops

Up to $4 million in competitive grants is available to support the development of urban agriculture and innovative production projects. These grants are part of USDA’s broader efforts to support urban agriculture. There are two categories under the Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (UAIP) competitive grant opportunity: Planning Projects and Implementation Projects. A pre-recorded webinar will provide an overview of the grants’ purpose, project types, eligibility and basic requirements for submitting an application. The webinar is posted at farmers.gov/urban. USDA will accept applications on Grants.gov until midnight July 30, 2021. Learn more…

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USDA Rural Development (RD) awarded two communities in Aguas Buenas, PR, a combined $303,000 to modernize their rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure systems. The funds are part of a $307 million allocation granted across the United States and are part of a bipartisan infrastructure framework announced at the end of June. USDA-RD is financing the projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. The two local projects included in the funding round are:

  • Acueducto Madriguera Inc.: awarded $203,000 to make improvements to its community aqueduct damaged by Hurricane María. The community’s electrical infrastructure and road access were also severely damaged, limiting access to maintenance crews. This left the community without electric power for eight months. Grant funds will be used to replace the power generator, repair distribution lines, and replace the transfer switch, pump control panel, and generator room door and window covering to protect the system from the elements. These improvements will help provide safe drinking water for nearly 1,738 residents.
  • Comunidad Coruja Inc.: awarded $100,000 to purchase a 60KV power generator for their primary pump station and a 40KV for their secondary station. Each generator will include a transfer switch, electrical installation, and start-up. The doors will be replaced and mesh panels installed over hole openings in masonry blocks to protect the systems. Upon completion the aqueduct will be better able to provide its 783 clients with safe drinking water during future disasters.

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Each May USDA Civil Rights Advisory Committees (CRACs) celebrate Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. We take this time to recommit ourselves to the ongoing work to ensure equity and opportunity for the AANHPI community at USDA and throughout the U.S., sharing information about our AANHPI communities and celebrating members’ contributions to our culture.

In June, USDA celebrated Caribbean American Heritage Month to recognize the significance of Caribbean people and their descendants in the history and culture of the United States. We also celebrated LGBTQ Pride Month to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. Please take the time to visit the NRCS Caribbean Civil Rights webpage to learn about our diverse communities!

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Saluting NRCS Caribbean Engineers for 2021 Engineers Week

During the week of May 10-16, we celebrated national Engineers Week with a salute to our NRCS Caribbean Engineering Team – Thank you for all your excellent work! Counter clockwise from top left: State Conservation Engineer Yilia Baucage Bou, Alberto Atienza, Rolando Collazo, José Serrano, Yara Ortíz, Gabriel Román, Celys Irizarry, Lisbeth San Miguel Rivera and Lydia E. Collazo!

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July 19, 2021. WCK Creating Resilient Food Systems in the Caribbean Virtual Panel, 3:00 p.m. Register at wck.org/resilience-panel.

July 20, 2021. NRCS Growing Fruits & Vegetables in High Tunnels Virtual Workshop #3 – Strawberries, Grafts and other Innovations in High Tunnels, 1:00 p.m. Register at: https://forms.gle/vCXoLrdxpLsqKqUPA.

July 30, 2021. USDA Urban Agriculture & Innovative Production grant application deadline.

August 2, 2021. FSA USVI County Committee St. Thomas Member Nominations Deadline.

August 2, 2021. USDA-RD Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant program application deadline. Contact Michelle Torres, RD-PR Businesses & Cooperative Program Director, at 787-766-5412 or michelle.torres@usda.gov for program or application info.

August 9, 2021. USDA-RD Socially-Disadvantaged Groups Grant program application deadline.

August 24, 2021. NRCS Puerto Rico Virtual State Technical Committee Meeting, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Contact José Victor Jiménez at 787-766-5132 or jose.jimenez@usda.gov for MicroSoft TEAMS meeting link.

August 26, 2021. NRCS U.S. Virgin Islands Virtual State Technical Committee Meeting, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Contact José Victor Jiménez at 787-766-5132 or jose.jimenez@usda.gov for MicroSoft TEAMS meeting link.

USDA Caribbean Area

654 Ave. Muñoz Rivera
Suite 604
San Juan, PR 00918

Phone: 787-766-5706
Fax: 855-415-2513

USDA Farm Service Agency - Puerto Rico

Wanda Perez 787-294-1610

USDA Farm Service Agency - USVI

Madison Charles 340-773-9146 x100

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Caribbean Area

Julie Wright 340-626-0444

USDA Rural Development - Puerto Rico

Miguel Ramirez 787-766-5708

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.