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USDA Designates Four Florida Counties as Primary Natural Disaster Areas

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated four Florida counties as primary natural disaster areas. Producers in Collier, Hendry, Lee and Miami-Dade counties who suffered losses due to Tropical Storm Eta, rain, flooding and wind, may be eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans.

This natural disaster designation allows FSA to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.

Producers in the contiguous Florida counties of Broward, Charlotte, Glades, Martin, Monroe, Okeechobee and Palm Beach are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.

The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is Oct. 12, 2021.

FSA will review the loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster. FSA programs that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish ProgramEmergency Conservation ProgramLivestock Forage Disaster ProgramLivestock Indemnity ProgramOperating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.

Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Official FSA/USDA Release


Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program

AGENCY: Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA.
ACTION: Interim final rule with request for comments.

SUMMARY: This rule establishes a new part specifying the rules and regulations to produce  hemp. This action is mandated by the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946. This rule outlines provisions for the Department of  Agriculture (USDA) to approve plans submitted by States and Indian Tribes for the domestic production of hemp. It also establishes a Federal plan for producers in States or territories of Indian Tribes that do not have their own USDA approved plan. The program includes provisions for maintaining information on the land where hemp is produced, testing the levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, disposing of plants not meeting necessary requirements, licensing requirements, and ensuring compliance with the requirements of the new part.

Effective date: This rule is effective October 31, 2019 through November 1, 2021.

Comment due dates: Comments received by December 30, 2019 will be considered prior to issuance of a final rule. Pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), comments on the
information collection burden must be received by December 30, 2019.

Federal Register: Establishment of a Domestic Hemp Production Program (Website) PDF

2020 Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) Changes

RMA released changes to the Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage Rainfall Index Plan of Insurance for the 2020 crop year via PM-19-049 on August 30, 2019. A summary of the 2020 changes is shown below:
Updated 2020 Crop Provisions, Basic Provisions and Insurance Standards Handbook
o Added Beginning/Veteran Farmer language to the PRF policy and other changes from the 2018 Farm Bill and minor editorial edits
o New policy documents are available on the RMA website
Acceptable Verifiable Records of Insurable Interest in Livestock                         (livestock ownership is a requirement of coverage)
o For the intended use of Grazing, insurable interest in the crop is based on the interest in the
livestock and not the land, specifically the interest in the livestock to be grazed on the insured acres or the insured’s percentage of the value gained of the livestock being grazed on the insured acres
• While not advertised as a change by RMA in the bulletin referenced above, this is the procedure for 2020, which essentially prohibits the rancher who owns Grazing land but does not have an interest in any cattle on that land from taking out a PRF policy with an intended use of Grazing
• See the Handbook in Exhibit 8, A. Insurable Interest and 8, B. Share and Cash Grazing Leases for more information
o Insureds must maintain acceptable verifiable records showing their insurable interest of the
livestock in the state for three years after the end of the crop year
o If requested, those records must be provided and failure to do so will result in no indemnity being due for the crop year in which such failure occurs, and premium is still owed
• Records will be requested for any audits, reviews, or spot-checks required by RMA
o See Section 8, (a) in the crop provisions for what RMA deems acceptable verifiable records
PRF Leases and Determining Share
o RMA is putting a renewed emphasis on PRF leases and determining share, partly due to their recent PRF Program Review
o Added language in the Handbook clarifying share determination and examples of written
documentation of share, including, but not limited to:
• Lease
• Agreement outlining insured interest in insured crop
o Clarified that an FSA578 is NOT acceptable documentation for determining shares
o New Lease Certification Form approved for use by AIPs, but it does not replace the use of an actual lease
Point of Reference
o Point of Reference maps printed from the RMA website are no longer needed with the Application. AIPs can use their own mapping software to provide the Point of Reference, which is now required on the PRF acreage report and must include longitude and latitude coordinates. We will provide more details on our process for incorporating this change into our forms and systems in the coming weeks

Acreage Crossing State Lines
o New language in the policy that states contiguous acreage crossing state lines must be insured in the state where the majority of the insured acres are located, or, separated and insured in the respective states with two points of reference
Native Sod (NS) Requirements Added
o Applicable in the Native Sod states of IA, MN, MT, NE, ND and SD on native sod acreage tilled after December 20, 2018
o NS acreage will have liability based on a 65% Protection Factor and a premium subsidy 50
percentage points less than would otherwise be provided
o These “penalties” are applicable during four cumulative crop years of insurance within the first ten crop years after initial tillage on native sod acreage (2018 Farm Bill rules)
o NS must be tilled before these provisions apply, so if insuring existing NS acreage as Grazing under PRF, there is no impact. If the insured tills NS acreage and then plants back to a perennial grass/forage and insures those acres under PRF, the NS rules come into play

Potential Future Increases in Intense Precipitation Events and Implications for Agriculture

From the USDA-ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory and Southern Plains Climate Hub…  

Intense precipitation is a mixed blessing for agricultural producers. Depending on its timing, severity, and the antecedent environmental conditions, it can bring much needed relief from droughts and strengthen crop and livestock productivity, or it can exacerbate flooding on already saturated ground and decimate harvests. Current and future climate change will affect the nature of intense precipitation events (defined as the highest 10% events in daily precipitation distributions), further challenging the management of agricultural production systems. 

Read More Here

Additional Reading on Rain and Production: Nation’s Wettest 12-Month Period on Record Slows Down 2019 Planting Season

NASS suspends data collection for Honey Bee Colonies survey

Issued July 1, 2019 by the Agricultural Statistics Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s, National Agricultural Statistics Service. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will not collect quarterly data this July for the annual Honey Bee Colonies report, which is still scheduled for release Aug. 1 at 3 p.m. ET. The report will contain data from Jan. 1, 2018 to April 1, 2019. The Honey Bee Colonies report allows the USDA, beekeepers, and other interested parties to compare quarterly losses, additions, and movements and to analyze the data on a state-by-state basis.

Before deciding to suspend data collection, NASS reviewed its estimating programs against mission- and user-based criteria as well as the amount of time remaining in the fiscal year to meet its budget and program requirements while maintaining the strongest data in service to U.S. agriculture. The decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources. NASS will continue to review its federal agricultural statistical programs using the same criteria to ensure timely, accurate, and useful statistics.

This change does not impact the annual Honey program; the latest Honey report was released May 16, 2019. All NASS reports are available available online at

Read the article here.


NASS is the federal statistical agency responsible for producing official data about U.S. agriculture and is committed to providing timely, accurate and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).

Sulfoxaflor – EPA Updates

What is Sulfaxaflor?

Sulfoxaflor is a sulfoximine, a newer insecticide class that was first registered by EPA in 2013. It is effective against pests that are becoming resistant to carbamate, neonicotinoid, organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides.

Sulfoxaflor is an important and highly effective tool for growers that targets difficult pests such as aphids and tarnished plant bugs (lygus). These pests can cause significant economic loss leading several states to request emergency exemptions in recent years. There are few viable alternatives for sulfoxaflor. In many cases, alternative insecticides may be effective only if applied repeatedly, whereas sulfoxaflor typically requires fewer applications resulting in less risk to non-target pests and plants. (Basic Information)

Excerpt from the EPA release dated July 12, 2019…

“Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a long-term approval for the insecticide sulfoxaflor ̶ an effective tool to control challenging pests with fewer environmental impacts. After conducting an extensive risk analysis, including the review of one of the agency’s largest datasets on the effects of a pesticide on bees, EPA is approving the use of sulfoxaflor on alfalfa, corn, cacao, grains (millet, oats), pineapple, sorghum, teff, teosinte, tree plantations, citrus, cotton, cucurbits (squash, cucumbers, watermelons, some gourds), soybeans, and strawberries.”

Full Article Here

Additional Information

Decision to Register New Uses for the Insecticide Sulfoxaflor

To further protect pollinators from potential exposure, EPA requires the following crop specific restrictions:

  • Citrus: Only one application is allowed between 3 days before bloom and until after petal fall per year
  • Ornamentals: Do not make more than one application during bloom. The single application during bloom must not exceed a rate of 0.071 lb ai/acre.
  • Pome Fruit, Stone Fruit, Tree Nuts and Pistachio: Do not apply this product any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.
  • Small Fruit Vine Climbing & Low Growing Berry, Tree Plantations: Do not apply this product any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.

Understanding the Science behind EPA’s Pesticide Decisions

Statement on Sulfoxaflor Section 18 Emergency Exemptions

Citrus/Plant Industry Pest Alert – Lebbeck Mealybug; Grower’s Meeting

Florida Department of Agriculture has announced a pest alert for the Lebbeck Mealybug.

This is an agricultural pest in many parts of the world on a variety of agricultural crops. In Florida, citrus, cotton, ornamentals and tropical plants would all be potential impacted crops.  In citrus growing areas of Jordan, where this insect had been a pest prior to introduction of biological controls, it caused such extensive damage that groves were burned in an effort to eradicate it (Stocks 2013). Losses in citrus groves are mainly due to premature fruit drop. (via pest alert)

The UF/IFAS Highlands County Extension office has announced a Grower Meeting on Thursday, July 18, 2019 at 10:00 AM at the Bert J. Harris Agricultural Center where UF/IFAS Extension Agents, Scientists and representatives from the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry will be on hand to discuss this invasive pest. (Courtesy Florida Citrus Mutual)

March – April Index

The official rainfall index numbers for the March – April have been released. If there are any questions please contact us. For our current policy holders, counties and grids with an active interval during the March – April Interval are linked below.