Other Ag News: COVID Relief Funding Now Available for Farmers Markets, Processors and Underserved Farmers
With farmers pulling long hours at the height of harvest season, and cases of the coronavirus skyrocketing across the country, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will soon be providing additional funding to help many in our food and farm supply chains who were left out of previous aid programs.
Starting on September 23, 2021, USDA will be accepting applications for its Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant Program and will be doling out more than $650 million in aid to food processors, distributors, farmers markets, and producers who have been impacted by the pandemic.
Read on to see if this program is right for you or those in your community. More details can be found at the USDA’s PRS portal.
And most importantly, don’t forget to apply by November 8!
Who is eligible?
PRS funding is available for food processors, distributors, farmers markets, food hubs, and producers that meet the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) “small business” size standards, as well as other non-profit organizations. This includes small-scale diversified and specialty crop producers, produce distribution companies, meat processors and distributors, food hubs, and farmers markets. At the time of writing, AMS’s PRS factsheet lists 501(c)3 nonprofits as being eligible, however USDA intends to clarify in associated application documents that:
Nonprofits include any corporation, trust, association, cooperative, or other organization, not including institutions of higher education, that: (1) Is operated primarily for scientific, educational, service, charitable, or similar purposes in the public interest; (2) Is not organized primarily for profit; and (3) Uses net proceeds to maintain, improve, or expand the operations of the organization.
In other words, nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5) and 501(c)(6) status will also be eligible to apply for PRS funds.
All farmers markets are considered “small”. For all other businesses, check to see if you meet the Small Business criteria here. (Note: you will need to know your 6 digit NAICS code. If you don’t know which NAICS code to select, visit census.gov). Food hubs that sell into multiple market channels (i.e.- wholesale and direct to consumer,) should use the “Merchant Wholesaler, Nondurable Goods” NAICS set of codes. If the food hub is marketing a mix of items (fresh produce, manufactured goods, animal products, etc.), in other words, not just fresh produce, they can either choose the predominant merchant category (e.g., mostly fresh fruit and vegetables,) or apply under “Other grocery and related products”.
More details on eligibility can be found on AMS’s eligibility portal.
How to apply
- If you think you might be eligible for funding, and are interested in applying, first verify your eligibility here.
- If you are eligible, then make sure to register for your DUNS number here to ensure you can receive payments from USDA. While it should only take less than 5 minutes to complete your DUN application, it can take up to 5 business days to receive your DUNS number, so do not wait till the last minute!
- Finally, once you have verified that you are eligible and have applied for your DUNS, click here (after September 23) to complete USDA’s online PRS application by midnight ET on November 8.
What costs are covered?
Costs incurred between January 27, 2020 and December 31, 2021 to respond to and protect workers against the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are eligible for reimbursement. These include costs to:
- Implement workplace safety measures to protect workers against COVID-19 (such as personal protective equipment, thermometers, cleaning supplies, sanitizer, hand washing stations)
- Pivot markets to protect workers against COVID–19 (such as developing online platforms)
- Retrofit facilities for worker and consumer safety (such as installing protective barriers, heat lamps, fans, tents, etc.)
- Provide additional transportation options to maintain social distancing for workers and consumers
- Provide housing that protects workers against COVID-19
- Provide health services to protect workers against COVID-19
Funding requests may range from $1,500 to $20,000. Funding requests can also include staff time associated with keeping workers safe such as, but not limited to, planning and execution of market pivots, like drive through farmers markets, pre-order systems, and online platforms; as well as added staffing for security and crowd management necessary to comply with mask mandates and capacity limits.
For a more detailed list of eligible costs, refer to the Program Information included on AMS’s PRS portal.
Deadline to apply
USDA will begin accepting applications on September 23, 2021. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on November 8, 2021. Funding will not be awarded on a “first come, first served” basis so applicants need not rush to submit their applications. However, USDA will not accept late applications under any circumstances, so it is advisable that applicants submit their applications early if possible.
Stay tuned for additional resources from NSAC and our partners on this new funding opportunity! In the meantime, check out these helpful resources from USDA:
- AMS Pandemic Response and Safety Grant Program (PRS) portal
- AMS Eligible Industry Table
- SBA Small Business Classification Table
If you have questions about applying or obtaining a DUNS number, contact USDA’s Application Help Desk by phone at (301) 238-5550 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The Help Desk hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM ET.