USDA Caribbean Update - November 2021 Newsletter

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US Department of Agriculture

USDA Caribbean Newsletter - November 2021

In This Issue:

NRCS Extends FY 2022 Application Cutoff for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Do you want to earn payments to expand conservation activities on your farm? The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is extending the signup period for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) for both conventional and organic farmers. The application cut-off for Period 1 is now Dec. 31, 2021. Learn more…

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USDA St. Croix Delivers FFF Donation to The Collective Collaboration Inc.

USDA St. Croix staff make FFF donation deliver to The Collective Collaboration Inc in Christiansted, St. Croix on 29 Oct 2021.

On Oct. 29, NRCS St Croix Field Office staff made our St. Croix USDA Serviced Center #FedsFeedFamilies food donation delivery to The Collective Collaboration Inc (TCCI) – an NGO to help adults suffering from mental health issues and homelessness in the USVI. St. Croix FSA, NRCS and Rural Development staff donated over 41 pounds of food through FFF. At right, from left to right: Julie Wright (NRCS Outreach Coordinator), Karen Dickinson (TCCI President), Paola Rodriguez-Torres (NRCS Soil Conservationist) and Faye Williams (NRCS Soil Conservation Technician) at the TCCI shelter in Christiansted, St. Croix.

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NRCS Holds FY 2022 Local Working Group Meetings

Acting DC Vivian Vera leads Arecibo area Local Working Group meeting on Oct 21 2021

On Oct. 21 & 27, NRCS Caribbean Area hosted our first FY2022 Local Working Group meetings with partners in the Arecibo and Mayagüez Field Office (FO) areas. Local Working Groups (LWGs) provide recommendations to the District Conservationist and the State Conservationist on local natural resource priorities and criteria for conservation activities and programs. LWGs are composed of agricultural producers; owners/operators of nonindustrial private forest land; agricultural and natural resources professionals; and local community, university, state and federal government representatives.

In Arecibo (above right), Acting District Conservationist Vivian Vera, and Soil Conservationist, Linnette Rosado, gave an overview of NRCS Programs & initiatives, steps to apply for help, the conservation planning process, and Arecibo FO accomplishments & top practices. Luis Cruz-Arroyo, USDA-NRCS Caribbean Director, also addressed questions from the participants. The meeting highlight was a spirited round table discussion about the challenges to applying conservation due to COVID, and feedback on new methods and materials for conservation practices. About 14 farmers, Ag Extension and PR Agriculture Dept. staff participated both remotely and in person at the Centro Comunal Carrizales in Hatillo.


SC Mabel Vega and DC Zulma Garcia meet with partners during the Mayaguez Local Working Group meeting on Oct. 27

Our Mayagüez LWG Meeting was held outdoors the morning of Oct. 27 (right), as part of our continuing COVID19 safety protocols. Mayagüez District Conservationist, Zulma Garcia, and field office staff gave a brief introduction to the agency and provided an overview about the Programs application process, environmental evaluations and conservation practices. Assistant Director for Operations, Frank Velazquez, also helped to answer questions from the participants. The 'round table' meeting allowed participants to identify and express needs or concerns between agencies and partners. About 23 people representing Agricultural Extension Service, Suroeste SWCD, PR Department of Agriculture, PR Land Authority, University of Puerto Rico-Sea Grant, and farmers participated.

“The Local Working Groups are a key component of the agency to ensure that we continue to service the priority resource concerns identified by the local agricultural and environmental community. LWGs allow us to shift priorities, work on new initiatives, and target partnerships, among other functions, and so far, the meetings have met these objectives. We encourage farmers, educational and environmental groups, NGOs, agricultural cooperatives and state and federal government agencies to participate in your respective region,” said Luis Cruz Arroyo, Director for USDA-NRCS in the Caribbean Area.

Our next Caribbean Area Local Working Group meetings will be Nov. 17th for the Caguas and Utuado Field Offices. See the Events, Activities and Deadlines section below for details.

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FSA Encourages Farmers and Ranchers to Vote in County Committee Elections

The 2021 Farm Service Agency County Committee Elections began on Nov. 1, 2021, when ballots were mailed to eligible voters. The deadline to return ballots to local FSA offices, or to be postmarked, is Dec. 6, 2021.

County committee members are an important component of the operations of FSA and provide a link between the agricultural community and USDA. Farmers and ranchers elected to county committees help deliver FSA programs at the local level, applying their knowledge and judgment to make decisions on commodity price support programs; conservation programs; incentive indemnity and disaster programs for some commodities; emergency programs and eligibility. FSA committees operate within official regulations designed to carry out federal laws.

To be an eligible voter, farmers and ranchers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program. A person who is not of legal voting age but supervises and conducts the farming operations of an entire farm, may also be eligible to vote. A cooperating producer is someone who has provided information about their farming or ranching operation(s) but may not have applied or received FSA program benefits.

Eligible voters in local administrative area 5, who do not receive a ballot can obtain one from their local USDA Service Center. Newly elected committee members will take office Jan. 1, 2022.

In the USVI, the candidates in this year’s election are:

  • Royce Creque is nominated in LAA 5, St. Thomas County, to serve as a committee member for a 3-year term. Creque resides in St. Thomas and has produced kale, bok choy, collards, and dragon fruit along with raising sheep and cattle for 22 years. He is an active member of the VI Territorial Agriculture Group and serves as Co-Chair.

More information on county committees, such as the new 2021 fact sheet, can be found on the FSA website at or at your local USDA Service Center.

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FSA Offers Safety Net Programs for Honeybee Producers

Bees on honeycomb - USDA

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers two programs that have specific safety net benefits for producers of honeybees and honey. The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) help farmers when disasters impact honey production or damage or destroy colonies, hives or honeybee feed.

NAP is designed to reduce financial losses when natural disasters result in lower yields or crop losses, including honey. NAP coverage is equivalent to catastrophic insurance, meaning it covers up to 50 percent of a producer’s normal yield (must have at least a 50 percent loss) at 55 percent of the average market price. The 2018 Farm Bill reinstates higher levels of coverage, from 50 to 65 percent of expected production in 5 percent increments, at 100 percent of the average market price. Producers of organics and crops marketed directly to consumers also may exercise the “buy-up” option to obtain NAP coverage of 100 percent of the average market price at the coverage levels of between 50 and 65 percent of expected production.

The NAP service fee is the lesser of $325 per crop or $825 per producer per administrative county, not to exceed a total of $1,950 for a producer with farming interests in multiple counties. You must apply for NAP coverage by Dec. 1 prior to the year for which you’re seeking coverage.

ELAP covers colony losses, honeybee hive losses (the physical structure) and honeybee feed losses in instances where the colony, hive or feed has been destroyed by a natural disaster or, in the case of colony losses, because of Colony Collapse Disorder. Colony losses must be in excess of normal mortality.

Both the NAP and ELAP programs require you to report the number of colonies you have in production to FSA by Jan. 2, 2022. You must notify FSA within 30 calendar days of changes in the total number of colonies or when honeybees are moved to another county. For both programs, you must notify FSA within 15 calendar days of when a loss occurs or from when the loss is apparent. To learn more about programs for honey and honeybee producers, contact your local USDA Service Center (340-773-9146 in St. Croix) or visit

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USDA Rural Development Awards $23.7 Million Grant to Repair Juncos Landfill

Aerial photo of Juncos landfill showing proposed lateral expansion.

USDA Rural Development (RD) in Puerto Rico has awarded a $23.7 million grant – the largest in the agency’s history – to Juncos Municipality to repair its landfill facilities that were damaged by Hurricane María in 2017.

The Juncos Municipal Solid Waste Landfill receives about 35,105 tons of non-hazardous solid waste per year. But Hurricane María produced such tremendous amounts of waste from October 2017 to December 2018 that it reduced the landfill’s useful life by 20 months.

“As consequence of Hurricane María, the existing cell’s leachate collection system was destroyed, creating a serious health and safety hazard for neighboring communities and placing underground water resources and nearby streams at risk of contamination due to the leachate spillage,” said Luis R. García, acting state director for Puerto Rico.

With this grant, the municipality will build new cells with a geo-membrane liner to trap and contain leachate and manage storm water and methane gas generation. These repairs will extend the landfill’s useful life by 21 years and benefit 350,315 people served by the facility. The grant award stems from supplemental funding appropriated to repair drinking water, sewer, and solid waste disposal systems damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and María. Learn more…

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USDA awards $421K for economic development in Barceloneta and Naguabo

USDA Rural Development (RD) is awarding $421,295 to the towns of Barceloneta and Naguabo to provide placemaking and planning assistance for up to two years to help improve social, cultural, and economic structures for people living in rural communities. The awards are being made under RD’s Rural Placemaking Innovation Challenge (RPIC). In Puerto Rico, RD partnered with Foundation for Puerto Rico and Center for Habitat Reconstruction Inc. to distribute the funding.

Foundation for Puerto Rico was awarded $250,000 to provide Naguabo residents with technical assistance and training to create a plan with actionable strategies to design distinctive public spaces, events and revitalization efforts that will contribute to community well-being. The plan will include community-based assessments of critical infrastructure including water, health and emergency services, power utilities, broadband access, and rural ways.

“This project will engage residents, local small business owners, community-based organizations, state government agencies and the municipality of Naguabo to develop Route 191 (Destino 191) Placemaking plan,” Luis R. García, acting state director for USDA Rural Development in Puerto Rico, confirmed.

Meanwhile, the Center for Habitat Reconstruction Inc. was awarded $171,295 to support Barceloneta rural communities in identifying and mapping their assets, challenges, and opportunities. The center will focus on ways communities use vacant and abandoned spaces and will organize planning activities to create placemaking plans, outline communities wide-goals, strategies, and tasks. The assistance will help strengthen and expand partnerships to create and implements the plans.

“These funds will help the communities to improve the economy, social and cultural vitality through innovation, seed grants and expand assets to broadband in rural areas,” García said. Learn more…

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Apply Now for 2022 USDA Farm to School Grants!

USDA expects to award ~$12 million in competitive grants nationwide to eligible entities through the FY2022 Farm to School Grant Program. Each grant helps implement farm to school programs that increase access to local food in Child Nutrition Program (CNP) meals, connect children with agriculture for better health, and inspire youth to consider careers in agriculture. Since the program began in 2013, USDA has awarded nearly $64 million in Farm to School Grants, funding 896 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico, reaching over 22 million students in more than 54,000 schools. Entities can apply for 3 types of grants—Implementation, State Agency, and Turnkey. Learn more…

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Caribe SWCD Delivers Customer-Focused Conservation with Help from NACD Grant

Caribe SWCD team at NACD meeting

The Caribe Soil and Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) diverse clients face some common challenges. As Gelyan Reyes, former district Soil Conservation Technician recently hired by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) explains, “soils in this region tend to be overworked, and chemical fertilizers overused, impacting water quality. Storms, like Hurricanes Irma and Maria, further contribute to soil erosion and landslides.”

With the help of Technical Assistance (TA) grant funding from NACD, the Caribe SWCD provides conservation technical assistance and planning support to producers. The Caribe SWCD also helps producers access funding and implement conservation best management practices through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Learn more about the Caribe SWCD’s efforts in NACD's blog post.

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Civil Rights

Celebrating 2021 Native American Heritage Month

November is Native American Heritage Month! During November, USDA in the Caribbean celebrates and honors the eternal legacy of indigenous Caribbean peoples.

Upcoming Activities, Events & Deadlines

Nov. 17, 2021. Caguas area Local Working Group Meeting, 9:00 a.m. at Gurabo Agricultural Experiment Station.

Nov. 17, 2021. Utuado area Local Working Group meeting, 9:30 a.m. at Bohío Hall on the UPR Utuado campus.

Nov. 17, 2021. PROAAG/ NRCS CSP Webinar (en Español), 6:00 p.m. Register HERE.

Nov. 17, 2021. VI EDA Farmers and Fishermen Loan Program Webinar, 6:00 p.m., Register HERE.

Nov. 18, 2021. Corozal area Local Working Group meeting.

Nov. 19, 2021. San Sebastián area Local Working Group meeting, 9:00 a.m. at Condimento Restaurant, Aguada.

Nov. 22, 2021. USDA Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Program applications due.

Dec. 5, 2021. World Soil Day.

Dec. 31, 2021. CSP 2022 Period 1 Signup Cutoff.

Jan. 11, 2022. WCK Food Producers Network grants for Puerto Rico Farmers & Fishers applications due.


USDA Caribbean

Farm Service Agency (FSA) Puerto Rico
654 Muñoz Rivera Ave., Suite 829
San Juan, PR 00918

Farm Service Agency (FSA) USVI
4401 Estate Sion Farm, Suite 2
Christiansted, VI 00820
340-773-9146 x100

Rural Development (RD) Puerto Rico
654 Muñoz Rivera Ave., Suite 601
San Juan, PR 00918
Rural Development (RD) USVI
4401 Estate Sion Farm, Suite 2
Christiansted, VI 00820
340-773-9146 x102

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
654 Muñoz Rivera Ave., Ste. 604
San Juan, PR 00918-4868

USDA is an Equal Opportunity Provider, Employer and Lender.