September 2022 USDA Caribbean Update Newsletter

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US Department of Agriculture

USDA Caribbean Update  -  Sept. 2022

In This Issue:


Puerto Rico plantain fields destroyed by hurricane Maria in Sept. 2017.

Secretary Tom Vilsack has directed USDA to aid recovery efforts for Puerto Rico & USVI farmers, ranchers and residents affected by Hurricane Fiona. USDA staff in offices across the country are ready to respond with a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to producers and communities in need.

Hurricane Fiona caused widespread impacts along its path, particularly in Puerto Rico which saw its worst flooding since Hurricane Maria in 2017, and island-wide power outages that continue in many areas.

“Our thoughts are with all of the people affected by this terrible storm, especially in Puerto Rico, which has come so far in recovering from Hurricane Maria,” said Secretary Vilsack. “I want everyone to know that USDA is ready to deliver all the resources we have available to us to assist those in need.” Learn how to get help...

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Soil Con Christian Vargas and ASTC Operations Frank Velazquez survey river damage via drone post hurricane Fiona - 20 Sep 2022.

NRCS has financial and technical assistance available to local Puerto Rico municipalities and agencies for post-Fiona hurricane recovery and life/ property protection through the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program. EWP Program authorities offer NRCS the flexibility to act quickly to help local communities cope with adverse impacts resulting from natural disasters.

EWP requires a disaster declaration by federal or state officials for program assistance to begin. EWP also requires a qualified local sponsor (state government, municipality or Conservation District) to identify impaired watershed sites to be evaluated for eligibility and funding under the program. All funded projects must demonstrate that they reduce threats to life and property; that they are economically, environmentally and socially sound; and they must be designed to acceptable NRCS engineering standards, where applicable. EWP funds may be used for:

  • debris removal from stream channels, road culverts and bridges;
  • reshape and protect eroded streambanks;
  • correct damaged drainage facilities;
  • establish vegetative cover on critically eroding lands; and
  • repair levees and structures.

PR agencies or organizations seeking to sponsor EWP projects should submit a sponsor request letter to NRCS as soon as possible. The cuff-off date for agencies/sponsors to nominate potential hurricane Fiona-damaged sites for EWP Program Recovery assistance is October 31, 2022. Contact NRCS EWP Coordinator Lisbeth San Miguel at 939-208-0931 or, or Caribbean Area State Conservation Engineer Yilia Baucage-Bou at or 787-342-6916 for details.

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climate smart

On Sep. 14 USDA announced a historic investment in partnerships for 70 climate-smart commodities and rural projects, supporting practices that benefit U.S. farmers, markets and our planet, including two projects for Puerto Rico:

  1. NCBA CLUSA - The project will lead a consortium of cooperatives, farmer organizations, and minority serving institutions in Puerto Rico that will offer financial incentives to underserved farmers to adopt climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices for production of coffee and other commodities, building climate-smart markets. Project lead is Cooperative League of the United States of America partnering with Productores de Café de Puerto Rico, University of Puerto Rico, National Co+op Grocers, Fondo de Inversión y Desarrollo Cooperativo, La Liga de Cooperativas de Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Farmers Association, and SustainCERT. Approximate funding ceiling is $15,000,000.
  2. Sustainable Market Approaches for Regenerating Territories with Agricultural Goods in Puerto Rico - The project will support and empower smallholder coffee farmers in Puerto Rico to transition to climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices through identification of viable practices and support for their implementation on farms. The project will also bring greenhouse gas-related benefits and co-benefits throughout the supply chain and develop of a unique Puerto Rican branded climate-smart coffee label and voluntary program. Project lead is Caribbean Regenerative Community Development, Inc. partnering with Gnarly Tree Sustainability Institute, University of Wisconsin, Cafiesencia, DuPuis Group, and the University of Puerto Rico. Approximate funding ceiling is $7,000,000.

Learn more about the program and other projects funded

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Virtual Soil Museum of the Caribbean graphic

Last month NRCS Caribbean signed an agreement with Arte-Suelo-Ser to create The Virtual Soil Museum of the Caribbean. The virtual Soil Museum of the Caribbean aims to nurture the connection between soils and humans through a synergy between sciences and arts and aims to increase appreciation and improve knowledge about soils. This collective effort will also develop educational short films of the representative soils of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and launch the Soil Heritage project, gamification and educational campaign toward domestic tourism with two main routes to appreciate soil diversity within the archipelago of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Partners will develop lesson plans related to soil science topics within the assessment instruments to support educators for elementary, middle, and high school levels to teach about soils through their science classes. Stay tuned for project updates!

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At USDA, we are committed to helping farmers complete loan applications, environmental reviews, and other paperwork free of charge. One-on-one support is available at more than 2,300 USDA Service Centers nationwide. USDA’s Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff are usually co-located at these Service Centers and can help guide farmers to the best USDA assistance based on their unique goals, whether it is loans, conservation programs, or insurance.

Service Center staff can guide farmers through the process of preparing and submitting required paperwork on their own, with no need to hire a paid preparer. Language translation service is available in all USDA Service Centers, so one-on-one assistance with a Service Center employee can be translated in real time for farmers requiring it. And while some program and loan applications do have an administrative fee for filing, there is never a charge for preparation services provided by USDA staff.

Farmers who work with the USDA Service Center can:

  • Establish their farm by registering for a farm number, which is required for USDA programs and assistance.
  • Learn how to meet conservation compliance provisions.
  • Verify eligibility for USDA programs.
  • Discuss their business and conservation goals.
  • Create a conservation plan.
  • Fill out and file loan and program applications.

Contact your local USDA Service Center today!

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If you have experienced delays in receiving payments, it may be because you have not filed form CCC-941, Adjusted Gross Income Certification.

If you don’t have a valid CCC-941 on file for the applicable crop year you will not receive payments. All farm operator/tenants/owners who have not filed a CCC-941 and have pending payments should IMMEDIATELY file the form with their recording county FSA office. Farm operators and tenants are encouraged to ensure that their landowners have filed the form.

FSA can accept the CCC-941 for 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Unlike the past, you must have the CCC-941 certifying your AGI compliance before any payments can be issued. Contact your local FSA office today!

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FSA is cleaning up our producer record database and needs your help. Please report any changes of address, zip code, phone number, email address or an incorrect name or business name on file to our office. You should also report changes in your farm operation, like the addition of a farm by lease or purchase. You should also report any changes to your operation in which you reorganize to form a Trust, LLC or other legal entity. 

FSA and NRCS program participants are required to promptly report changes in their farming operation to the County Committee in writing and to update their Farm Operating Plan on form CCC-902To update your records, contact your local USDA Service Center.

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Options Help More Beginning, Small and Urban Producers Gain Access to Credit

Producers can apply for a streamlined version of USDA guaranteed loans, which are tailored for smaller scale farms and urban producers EZ Guarantee Loans use a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved, and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from USDA-approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations.

A new category of lenders will join traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions, in offering USDA EZ Guarantee Loans. Microlenders, which include Community Development Financial Institutions and Rural Rehabilitation Corporations, will be able to offer their customers up to $50,000 of EZ Guaranteed Loans, helping to reach urban areas and underserved producers. Banks, credit unions and other traditional USDA-approved lenders, can offer customers up to $100,000 to help with agricultural operation costs.

EZ Guarantee Loans offer low interest rates and terms up to seven years for financing operating expenses and 40 years for financing the purchase of farm real estate. USDA-approved lenders can issue these loans with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranteeing the loan up to 95 percent.

For more information about the available types of FSA farm loans, contact your local USDA Service Center or visit

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climate smart

USDA announced Aug. 25 that it is investing $121 million in critical infrastructure to combat climate change across rural America. The investments include $111 million for 289 projects to help people living in socially vulnerable communities, including 10 projects in Puerto Rico.

Luis R. García, Acting State Director for USDA Rural Development in Puerto Rico, listed the 10 Puerto Rico projects: Aires y Servicios Contratistas Mecanicos of San Lorenzo, Kefruits LLC of Carolina, Power Comm Inc. of Hatillo, Giacrimar Corporation of Hatillo, Cienaga Dairy LLC of Hatillo, Laboratorio Clinico Lopez LLC, Loyd Sanabria Hernandez of Salinas, Laboratorio Clinico Plaza Oasis of Santa Isabel, Farmacia La Aurora Yauco, and Farmacia Minelly Inc. of Orocovis. Learn more...

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Join USDA in the Caribbean in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 - Oct. 15. This year’s theme - UNIDOS: INCLUSIVITY FOR A STRONGER NATION - invites us to celebrate Hispanic Heritage and to reflect on how great our tomorrow can be if we hold onto our resilience and hope. It encourages us to reflect on all of the contributions Hispanics have made in the past, and will continue to make in the future. It is also a reminder that we are stronger together. Learn more...

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Ricardo Colon, new NRCS Caribbean Assistant State Conservationist for Management & Strategy - Oct 2022

In September 2022, Ricardo was selected as Assistant State Conservationist for Management and Strategy for NRCS Caribbean Area. Ricardo began his career with NRCS in Nov. 2018 as our Caribbean Area State Conservation Biologist. He coordinated the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership; served as a technical contact for several Initiatives, Programs and Agreements; provided biology-related training to NRCS staff and partners; worked with partners to implement conservation on private and public lands and developed new partnerships with entities and academia. This past summer, Ricardo served as Acting State Resource Conservationist in Wyoming, where he supervised a team of 11 specialists, developed new agreements, coordinated training for field staff and closely collaborated with the WY leadership team to accomplish the Agency mission.

Prior to working with NRCS, Ricardo served as a Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) at the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, from 2012. He established a complete biological program for the Refuge and helped manage 1,510 acres of dry forest, wetlands, and offshore cays. He also helped administer Refuge facilities and personnel, performing annual budgets, acquisitions, inventories, contracts, cooperative agreements, and implementing programs like the Youth Conservation Corps, where he supervised seasonal employees and contractors.

Ricardo began his conservation career in 2009 with USFWS in Puerto Rico as a student trainee Biotechnician for Habitat Restoration Programs, where he worked closely with NRCS under an Interagency Agreement for the Río Loco Watershed Initiative. Ricardo was born in Caguas and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science and a Master’s Degree in Bird Ecology from the University of Puerto Rico.

Please join us in congratulating Ricardo on his new position!

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USDA Caribbean


Farm Service Agency (FSA) Puerto Rico
654 Muñoz Rivera Ave., Ste. 829
Hato Rey, 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., Ste. 601
Hato Rey, PR 00918


Rural Development (RD) USVI
4401 Estate Sion Farm, Suite 2
Christiansted, VI 00820

340-773-9146 x102

Natural Resources Conservation Service
654 Muñoz Rivera Ave., Ste. 604
Hato Rey, 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).