March 2022 USDA Caribbean Update Newsletter

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US Department of Agriculture

USDA Caribbean Update  -  March 2022

In This Issue:


On Saturday, March 26, NRCS staff joined our sister agencies and partners at the International Day of Forests celebration in El Yunque National Forest at the newly-renovated El Portal Visitor's Center. The activity was free of charge and open to all. NRCS team members Lizandra Nieves, Vivian Vera and State Soil Scientist Manuel Matos, along with Este Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) agronomists Nancy Ortiz and Elvin Lebrón, provided information and publications to fair participants at our display table. Lizandra, Manuel and Vivian also presented a Family workshop on soil health and erosion, featuring a rainfall simulator display, and a display of El Yunque's Zarzal soil series, demonstrating the forest soil profile to teach youth about soil profiles and soil health concepts.

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Left to right: Resource Soil Scientist Lizandra Nieves with her soil erosion/ rainfall simulator display; Soil Conservationist Vivian Vera shows a young girl how to “Love the Soil”; SWCD Agronomist Nancy Ortiz interacts with a young family; State Soil Scientist Manuel Matos demonstrates soil erosion processes to fair participants.


No one is more committed to protecting our land and water than our farmers. On March 22, NRCS and FSA celebrated World Water Day by saluting our farmers for Doing More with Less Water. We also celebrated National Ag Day by thanking our farmers for Growing a Climate for Tomorrow. Learn more…

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Daguey Dam, Añasco, PR, damaged by hurricane Maria in Sept. 2017.

President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that USDA is investing more than $166.5 million in 108 infrastructure projects, including one in Puerto Rico, as part of implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). USDA is working with local communities in 23 states, including the Caribbean Area, to invest in new dam and flood prevention projects and in repairs on existing watershed infrastructure, which are all part of USDA’s broader national infrastructure investment. Learn more…

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Anibal Velázquez describes NRCS programs to Mayagüez farmers at Victus PR Ag Outreach Fair, March 3, 2022.

On Thursday, March 3rd Victus Puerto Rico hosted their second “Agricultural Opportunities Fair” so that Mayagüez farmers could learn about available programs and services offered by federal and state entities and agencies to assist their agribusinesses. The fair was held in the facilities of the Pilar Defilló House Museum on Calle Méndez Vigo no. 21. NRCS Soil Conservationist Mabel Vega and Resource Conservationist Anibal Velázquez (standing in photo) delivered presentations and information on NRCS programs to about 22 local farmers.

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farmers market money usda flickr

USDA Rural Development is now accepting applications for grants to help farmers create economic prosperity by maximizing the value of the items they produce through the Value-Added Producer Grants program. The grants help farmers generate new products, create marketing opportunities, and increase their incomes through value-added activities. This year, USDA is offering priority points to projects that advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s key priorities to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, advance equity, and combat climate change. These extra points will increase the funding prospects for projects seeking to address these critical challenges in rural America.

Funding priority will be given to farmers or ranchers who are beginning, military veterans or socially disadvantaged; small and mid-sized family farms or ranches; and farmer or rancher cooperatives. Funding may be used for planning activities or working capital expenses related to producing and marketing a value-added agricultural product. Planning activities may include conducting feasibility studies and developing business plans. Working capital expenses may include costs associated with processing, marketing, advertising, inventory and salaries.

Electronic applications will be accepted via until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 25, 2022. Paper applications must be sent to the State Office where the project is proposed and postmarked and mailed or sent overnight by May 2, 2022. Applications also may be delivered in person or emailed to an RD field office by close of business May 2, 2022. For details contact your local Rural Development office.


Producers are encouraged to call their local FSA office to schedule an appointment to ensure maximum use of their time and to make sure FSA staff is available to tend to their important business needs. Please call your local FSA office ahead to set an appointment and to discuss any records or documentation that might be needed during your appointment. To find your local FSA office, visit:

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Are you a military veteran interested in farming? USDA offers resources to help you:

  • Fund Your Operation: USDA’s Farm Service Agency offers a variety of funding opportunities to help farmers finance their businesses. Certain funds are targeted for veterans and beginning farmers and ranchers.
  • Conserve Natural Resources: USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service offers conservation programs and expert one-on-one technical assistance to strengthen farm operations now and into the future. Veterans may be eligible for a cost share of up to 90 percent and advance payments of up to 50 percent to cover certain conservation practices.
  • Manage Risks: USDA is here to help you prepare for and recover from the unexpected. Veterans who are beginning farmers may be eligible for reduced premiums, application fee waivers, increased insurance coverage, and other incentives for multiple USDA programs that support risk management.

USDA wants to ensure that veterans transitioning to agriculture have the resources needed to succeed. While USDA offices are currently closed to visitors because of the pandemic, Service Center staff continue to work with farmers via phone, email, and other digital tools. Please contact your local USDA Service Center for more information. Additionally, more information related to USDA’s response and relief for producers can be found at If you’re a new farmer, you can also reach out to your state Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coordinator.

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Virgin Islands Conservation District founder, Hans Lawaetz receives Distinguished Service Award on Feb. 15 from NACD President, Michael Crowder.

USDA-NRCS Caribbean Area Director, Luis Cruz-Arroyo, congratulates Virgin Islands Conservationist, Hans Lawaetz, on his Distinguished Service Award presented during the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) 76th NACD Annual Meeting national service awards ceremony in Orlando, FL, on Feb. 15.

Mr. Lawaetz was honored for his service as a conservation leader in the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) for over 50 years. Lawaetz spear-headed the founding of the Virgin Islands Conservation District (VICD) in 1965 and served in a variety of roles with the VICD for over 40 years, including helping to pass the “Earth Change Law” which mandates permits before any earth movement occurs with heavy machinery and review permits for over a decade.

“NRCS congratulates Hans Lawaetz on this national recognition for his years of distinguished service furthering conservation in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the wider Caribbean and the nation,” said Director Cruz. “Hans is truly a national treasure and is well-deserving of this national recognition for his decades of conservation leadership.”

The NACD Distinguished Service Award recognizes someone who has made significant contributions to the conservation of natural resources. For more information about the NACD visit Photos provided by NACD.

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New NRCS Caribbean District Conservationists Michelle Catoni and Linnette Rosado and new Executive Assistant Arelys Roldan.

Left to right: New NRCS Caribbean District Conservationists Michelle Catoni and Linnette Rosado and new Executive Assistant Arelys Roldan.

NRCS Caribbean Area is proud to welcome two new District Conservationists for our Arecibo (Linnette Rosado) and Utuado (Michelle Catoni) Field Offices. Both Michelle and Linette bring more than 10 years of experience in conservation across many landscapes, along with leadership in civil rights. We also welcome Arelys Roldan, the new Executive Assistant for NRCS. Arelys comes from the Federal prison system and has a lot of experience on administrative functions. Welcome to NRCS ladies!

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At NRCS, we are very proud of the women who make up our workforce. For Women's History Month we recognize our co-workers who always demonstrate the strength, capacity and intelligence needed to achieve their goals. Join us in celebrating Women in Conservation. Learn more…

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April 7, 2022. International Institute of Tropical Forestry Connect to Your Library Webinar, 10:00 a.m. (English) & 1:00 p.m. (Spanish). To register, visit (English session) and (Spanish session).

April 13. RCPP 2022 application submission deadline.

April 19-20, 2022. 3rd Caribbean Climate Change [virtual] Conference: Promoting Climate Resilience in Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands.

April 22, 2022. El Yunque Friends Earth Day Celebration. 6:30 p.m. El Portal de El Yunque, Rio Grande, PR.

April 29, 2022. CSP and EQIP 2022 Period 2 Signup Cutoff date.

May 17, 2022. NRCS Puerto Rico State Technical Committee Meeting, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

May 19, 2022. NRCS USVI State Technical Committee Meeting, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

USDA Caribbean Area

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) PR & USVI
654 Muñoz Rivera Ave., Ste. 604
San Juan, PR 00918-4868


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).