What's Up at the USDA Office?

Upcoming Deadlines/Dates
Dec. 15: Fall Seeded Crop Certification Deadline
Jan. 7: Organic and Transition Education Certification Program (FY20, FY21)
March 15: ARCPLC Program Deadline

Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program
Are you a producer or handler of agricultural commodities that are certified organic? Or, are you transitioning your operation to certified organic? You may be eligible for financial assistance to cover expenses paid during the 2020, 2021, and 2022 fiscal years through USDA’s Organic and Transitional Education and Certification Program (OTECP). This new program is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, certified organic and transitional operations faced loss of markets, increased costs, labor shortages, and expenses related to obtaining or renewing their organic certification. Transitional operations also faced the financial challenge of implementing practices required to obtain organic certification without the premium prices associated with certified organic commodities.

OTECP provides up to $20 million to reimburse agricultural producers and handlers who are certified organic and crop and livestock producers who are transitioning to organic for eligible expenses incurred during fiscal years 2020, 2021, and/or 2022. The date ranges for these time periods are:
• Fiscal Year 2020: October 1, 2019 – September 30, 2020
• Fiscal Year 2021: October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021
• Fiscal Year 2022: October 1, 2021 – September 30, 2022

Certification costs for crops, livestock, wild crops, handling, and state fees are eligible for up to 25% reimbursement (not to exceed $250). These payments consider any prior payments received under the Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (OCCSP).

If you are a producer transitioning to organic, up to 75% (not to exceed $750) of your eligible expenses can be reimbursed.  These can include fees for pre-certification inspection, soil testing through USDA NOP, registration fees for educational events, and the development of organic system plans.

You must be a certified operation or a crop or livestock transitional operation at the time of application. Operations with suspended, revoked, denied, or withdrawn USDA organic certifications at the time of application are ineligible for OTECP.

The OTECP application period for program years 2020 and 2021 is November 8, 2021, through January 7, 2022. The application period for program year 2022 will be announced at a later date.

Enrollment Begins for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage Programs for 2022
Agricultural producers can now make elections and enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2022 crop year. The signup period opened Monday, Oct. 18.  These key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) safety-net programs help producers weather fluctuations in either revenue or price for certain crops. Enrollment for the 2022 crop year closes March 15, 2022.

2022 Elections and Enrollment
Producers can elect coverage and enroll in crop-by-crop ARC-County or PLC, or ARC-Individual for the entire farm, for the 2022 crop year. Although election changes for 2022 are optional, enrollment (signed contract) is required for each year of the program. If a producer has a multi-year contract on the farm and makes an election change for 2022, it will be necessary to sign a new contract. If an election is not submitted by the deadline of March 15, 2022, the election defaults to the current election for crops on the farm from the prior crop year.

USDA Offers Options for Signing and Sharing Documents Online
Farmers and ranchers working with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) or Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can now sign and share documents online in just a few clicks. By using Box or OneSpan, producers can digitally complete business transactions without leaving their homes or agricultural operations. Both services are free, secure, and available for multiple FSA and NRCS programs.

Box is a secure, cloud-based site where FSA or NRCS documents can be managed and shared. Producers who choose to use Box can create a username and password to access their secure Box account, where documents can be downloaded, printed, manually signed, scanned, uploaded, and shared digitally with Service Center staff. This service is available to any FSA or NRCS customer with access to a mobile device or computer with printer connectivity.

OneSpan is a secure eSignature solution for FSA and NRCS customers. Like Box, no software downloads or eAuthentication is required for OneSpan. Instead, producers interested in eSignature through OneSpan can confirm their identity through two-factor authentication using a verification code sent to their mobile device or a personalized question and answer. Once identity is confirmed, documents can be reviewed and e-signed through OneSpan via the producer’s personal email address. Signed documents immediately become available to the appropriate Service Center staff.

Box and OneSpan are both optional services for customers interested in improved efficiency in signing and sharing documents with USDA, and they do not replace existing systems using eAuthentication for digital signature. Instead, these tools provide additional digital options for producers to use when conducting business with FSA or NRCS.

USDA Service Center staff are available to help producers get started with Box and OneSpan through a few simple steps. Visit farmers.gov/service-locator to find your local office and let Service Center staff know you’re interested in signing and sharing documents through these new features. In most cases, one quick phone call will be all that is needed to initiate the process. Visit farmers.gov/mydocs to learn more about Box and OneSpan, steps for getting started, and additional resources for conducting business with USDA online.