Action Alert - 4/9/2020
This alert was distributed via email to subscribers of the GFB Legislative Team's Action Alert on April 9, 2020.
FARMERS DEEMED ELIGIBLE FOR PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM LOANS
As we shared last week, Congress created a new guaranteed loan program in the Phase 3 bill, the CARES Act, called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). With the release this week of new guidance from the Small Business Administration and U.S. Treasury Department, PPP loans are now available to farms with fewer than 500 employees (and larger farms that meet certain guidelines). Eligible farms can receive a low interest loan based on their average monthly payroll costs. If PPP loan funds are used to pay employees and certain operating expenses, the loan will be eligible for forgiveness after eight weeks. We encourage you to review the information below about PPP, and if you are interested in the program, we encourage you to contact your lender. As always, you can contact Georgia Farm Bureau's (GFB) Public Policy Department with questions.
- PPP Borrower Application Form
With so many questions regarding farmer eligibility for PPP, loan calculations and more, we were pleased to see Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler send a letter to SBA requesting clarification on both the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program with respect to their application to agriculture. In fact, Senator Loeffler’s letter expresses many of the concerns we’ve been sharing directly with her staff the last two weeks, and we are grateful that she continues to hear our concerns and take action. Advocacy efforts such as this are the reason program guidance continues to be released that is favorable to farmers seeking assistance under these programs. For more information on Senator Loeffler's efforts on behalf of Georgia's farmers and small business owners, click here.
As Congress looks to advance future COVID-19 relief legislation, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has requested additional funding for the PPP as well as several technical corrections to improve the program’s assistance for agricultural producers and support non-profit organizations that are working to help farmers and ranchers through this difficult period. As was the case with Senator Loeffler’s letter, AFBF included questions and concerns that GFB Public Policy staff has shared with them the last few days. You can view the AFBF letter to Congress here.
AFBF Market Intel: Paycheck Protection Program Loans Available to Farmers, Regardless of Revenue, Apply Now
SENATOR PERDUE LEADS EFFORTS TO SECURE STABLE SUPPLY OF FARMWORKERS
As you know, Georgia Farm Bureau (GFB) has been working with state and federal partners to ensure a stable supply of farmworkers during the COVID-19 crisis. Though initial reports of embassy and consulate closings created confusion and uncertainty, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have heeded calls from Congress and agriculture associations to streamline and improve the functionality of the H-2A program during this challenging time. GFB was pleased to see these important advocacy efforts continued this week by Georgia Senator David Perdue who led a coalition letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the DOL requesting additional expansions of interview waivers and requirements. Senator Kelly Loeffler joined Senator Perdue in his efforts by signing on to the letter. If you would like to read a copy of the letter, you can access it by clicking here.
AFBF SENDS LETTER TO USDA URGING SWIFT ACTION TO SUPPORT FARMERS DURING PANDEMIC
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has written a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue requesting that all sectors of agriculture be included under CARES coverage. The letter goes on to say, "It is critical that USDA do all in its power to assist growers in every region, of all commodities, to the maximum of its ability."
In the CARES Act, signed into law by President Trump on March 27, Congress approved $14 billion in funds to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation and $9.5 billion to be used at the Secretary’s discretion to assist agricultural producers, including livestock and specialty crop producers. Based on input from state Farm Bureaus, including Georgia Farm Bureau, AFBF compiled a letter of current needs of producers and submitted it to Secretary Perdue last Friday, April 3.
KEMP, DUNCAN, RALSTON ANNOUNCE PLANS TO EXTEND PUBLIC HEALTH STATE OF EMERGENCY
Today Governor Brian P. Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, and House Speaker David Ralston announced plans to extend Georgia's public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Under state law, the Governor may renew the public health state of emergency, which was otherwise set to expire on April 13, 2020. Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston agree it is necessary for the public health emergency to be renewed and will not be requesting a special legislative session, which was tentatively scheduled for April 15, 2020.
"To ensure the health and well-being of Georgians, I will extend the public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020. This measure will allow us to continue to deploy resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our healthcare facilities. We deeply appreciate the hard work of Georgians who are sheltering in place, using social distancing, and helping us flatten the curve. We are in this fight together," said Governor Kemp. "I appreciate Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston continuing to work with us to ensure resources are available to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I thank them for their support of an extended emergency declaration. In these unprecedented times, we ask Georgians for their continued patience and prayers, especially for first responders, law enforcement, and the healthcare workers caring for the medically fragile. They are going above and beyond to keep us all safe, and we will never be able to repay them for their sacrifices."
"We must continue our aggressive fight against COVID-19," said Lt. Governor Duncan. "By extending the public health state of emergency, we can ensure Georgians have access to every available state resource during this crisis. Together, Speaker Ralston and I are working closely with Governor Kemp to do all we can to make sure we are meeting the needs of every Georgian. The General Assembly will continue to remain vigilant and available to assist our citizens in any way possible."
"The entirety of our state government is working to protect the health and safety of our citizens, and I appreciate the work of our state personnel and first responders during this challenging time," said Speaker David Ralston. "While we have difficult days ahead, we continue to coordinate with both local and federal partners in responding to needs as they arise. As Georgians, we will persevere and emerge stronger on the other side."
GOVERNOR KEMP SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER FOR A SAFE & HEALTHY GEORGIA:
CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE DOCUMENTATION NOT REQUIRED
Last Thursday, April 2, Governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order calling for a statewide shelter-in-place to help combat the spread of COVID-19. Today, he extended the order to go through April 30. In the order, he determined that those who fell under "critical infrastructure" were able to continue working, so long as they followed proper social distancing etiquette. Critical infrastructure, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, includes the food and agriculture sector.
We have had many farmers and allied industry producers inquire as to if they will be required to carry a certificate proving they are part of the critical infrastructure. Today, Governor Kemp released a statement expressing that such documentation will not be required: "We have received recent reports of law enforcement stopping people to ask for a letter authorizing their travel. The Executive Order to Ensure a Safe & Healthy Georgia does not require any worker to carry an authorization letter on Georgia's roads."
EMERGENCY REGULATION REGARDING CONSERVATION USE PROPERTY (CUVA) & FOREST LAND CONSERVATION USE PROPERTY (FLPA)
Pursuant to Governor Kemp's Executive Order dated March 31, 2020, the Department of Revenue, Local Government Services Division has adopted an emergency regulation for Conservation Use Property (CUVA) and Forest Land Conservation Use Property (FLPA).
The emergency regulation extends the application filing deadline for all qualifying property to June 1, 2020, unless the statute provides for a later deadline. This emergency regulation is effective as of April 7, 2020.
To view the official executive order, Department of Revenue Certificate of Administrative Rule filed, and the emergency regulation please visit: Emergency Rule 560-11-17-0.34 & Governor Kemp Executive Order.
To view the 2020 Current Use Values for Georgia Conservation Use (CUVA) Land and Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) Land, click here.
FARM RECOVERY BLOCK GRANT DEADLINE EXTENDED
Last Friday, Commissioner Gary Black announced that the deadline for the Farm Recovery Block Grant program has been extended to April 30. It was originally scheduled to close today.
“We recognize that normal business operations across the state have been disrupted or altered over the past few weeks,” said Commissioner Black. “We want every eligible producer to have an opportunity to complete their application with full confidence, while continuing the critical work of providing food and fiber during these unsettling times.”
Georgia farmers and forest landowners in 95 eligible counties who suffered losses to beef, dairy, fruit and vegetable, pecan, poultry, timber, and uninsured infrastructure are eligible to apply for the recovery program at farmrecovery.com.
SEN. JACK HILL PASSES
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville. He passed away at his office on Monday evening. He was 75. His death is not expected to be a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Hill was sworn into the Senate in 1991. In recent years he served as Senate Appropriations Chair, working with the House Appropriations Chair on the arduous task of passing the state's balanced budget, the only constitutional responsibility of the Georgia General Assembly. You can read more on Sen. Hill and his notable career here.
AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST ESTABLISHES FARMER RELIEF FUND
To help directly support farmers impacted by the current crisis, American Farmland Trust (AFT) is launching a new Farmer Relief Fund. 100% of donations to the fund will go directly to farmers.
AFT’s Farmer Relief Fund will award farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis.
- Initially, eligible applicants include any small and mid-size direct-market producers. These are defined as producers with annual gross revenue of between $10,000 and $1 million from sales at farmers markets and/or direct sales to restaurants, caterers, schools, stores, or makers who use farm products as inputs.
- The application (linked here in both English and Spanish) is simple and easy to complete but includes sufficient detail to ensure AFT is awarding producers that have the greatest needs. Applicants will be asked to estimate their financial loss.
- AFT envisions an initial application round extending until April 23, with grants beginning to be made by May 1.
For more information on the fund and to apply, visit AFT's website by clicking here.
TAKE THE 2020 CENSUS TODAY
If you have not already, please take a moment to take the 2020 Census. This year is the first year that you can take the census online by clicking here. To see how your community is doing in reaching a "complete count" of its citizens, click here.
The census website is safe, secure and confidential. The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
In addition to shaping legislative districts, the census dictates how key funds are distributed. The federal government distributes over $675 billion dollars to states based on the population for healthcare, food, education, and roads. Key programs using census data to drive funding include:
- Federal Medical Assistance Programs (FMAP)
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Medicare Part B
- Highway Planning and Construction
- The Federal Pell Grant Program
- Cooperative Extension Service
Georgia’s rural assistance programs received more than $1.4 billion annually in the federal FY 2016.