Coronavirus and COVID-19 Resources

RI State Guidance Documents
for Agriculture

NEW: Phase II and III guidelines for farmer’s markets, on-farm markets and agritourism, and pick-your-own farms 

This guidance is applicable to farmer’s markets, on-farm markets and agri-tourism, where vendors sell food, plants, flowers and/or agricultural, farm or seafood products and farms that have pick-your-own operations. Vendors or operators who sell non-agricultural or non-seafood products (e.g. flea markets, yard sales, other outdoor retail) must follow the guidance for market retail or other applicable guidance available on reopeningri.com.

COVID-19 GUIDANCE: Greenhouses and Garden Centers should follow non-critical retail guidance
COVID-19 GUIDANCE: Farms and On-Farm Deliveries
COVID-19 GUIDANCE: Critical Animal Guidance (includes equestrian)
COVID-19 GUIDANCE: Guidance for Businesses with Seasonal Workers Housed in Communal Living Arrangements 

If you have any questions on the above guidance, please feel free to email director@rifb.org or call the office at 401-385-3339 and we will help you to get answers.

Weekly Local Agriculture/Food and COVID-19 Discussion

Join the RI Division of Agriculture and partner organizations to discuss topical COVID-19 resources, concerns, and other relevant information to support our agricultural sector in this difficulty time.

Calls occur Tuesdays at 1 pm by Zoom, call information is below which stays the same each week.   Notes from previous calls can be found HERE.

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/91833528799

Meeting ID: 918 3352 8799

Dial by your location
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)


Farm Fresh Call for Growers to Participate in
USDA CFAP Farmers to Families

A month in and Farm Fresh RI is currently packing about 750 boxes [ams.usda.gov] that include dairy, cured meat, and produce, each week. Their contract will extend through the year and scale up as there is capacity. This is about 10,000 lbs of mostly local and regional produce each week.

Farm Fresh RI has a lot of flexibility on what is included, and they want to do their best to extend this purchasing to growers of all scales around the area, not just those who can supply hundreds of bunches or pounds of one item at a time. However, the biggest limitation, based on the language in the contact, is that they’re limited to sourcing from growers with a food safety audit (RI GAP).

If you are reading this, you have likely heard of the RI GAP program and know that there is a system in place and support for growers in Rhode Island that may need to undergo a RI GAP audit. We are well into the growing season, but we have developed  a system to facilitate participation in this program for this season.

You can learn more about the RI GAP program by:
1. Visiting The RI Produce Safety Portal
2. Reviewing RI GAP Certification During Covid-19
3. Contacting Ananda Fraser:
Produce Safety Program Coordinator
RI DEM – Division of Agriculture
401-537-8093
Ananda.Fraser@dem.ri.gov


Need to apply for or renew your pesticide license? 

While pesticide license training is normally done cooperatively with URI, DEM will be doing testing only until on-campus classes resume. Testing is available for all pesticide applicator licenses and categories. There is currently no list of dates as of yet, but exams will be scheduled based on demand.   Study material can be made available for pick up at DEM’s Agriculture office.  For more information on how to take your pesticide license test or to get study materials, please contact  Harold.Puckett@dem.ri.gov or Kimberly.Lavoie@dem.ri.gov.


FMCSA Extends Waiver in Response to the
COVID-19 Emergency –

For States, CDL Holders, CLP Holders, and Interstate Drivers Operating Commercial Motor Vehicles

FMCSA has extended, until September 30, 2020, a waiver from certain regulations applicable to interstate and intrastate commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders and to other interstate drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The Agency has initiated this action in response to the President’s declaration of a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b) related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).


Applying for Direct Payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Are you a farmer or rancher whose operation has been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic?

USDA will begin taking applications for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program starting Tuesday, May 26. USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only.  You may call your Rhode Island FSA county office at (401) 828-3120 Ext 2. to schedule an appointment.  Find more information at farmers.gov/cfap.

Click HERE for more information on how to prepare to apply.


Coronavirus Financial Relief Options from SBA

In addition to traditional SBA funding programs, the CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Notice: Paycheck Protection Program has reopened

The Paycheck Protection Program resumed accepting applications July 6, 2020, at 9:00 AM EDT in response to President signing the program’s extension legislation. The new deadline to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan is August 8, 2020. The PPP is an SBA loan that helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.  Farmers can qualify.  Please click the above link or here for more information.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, small business owners in all U.S. states, Washington D.C., and territories are eligible to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance of up to $10,000. This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available following a successful application. This loan advance will not have to be repaid. *SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced that agricultural businesses are now eligible for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs.

SBA Express Bridge Loans

Enables small businesses who currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly.


Farm Bureau Bank Offering PPP Assistance
to all Farm Bureau Members

The new deadline to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan is August 8, 2020.   Farm Bureau Bank has been working expeditiously with the Small Business Administration (SBA), to launch the Paycheck Protection Program; we are pleased to share that we are now accepting applications. Unlike most financial institutions we are NOT limiting applications to our existing customers and will be accepting applications from Farm Bureau Members. As I’m sure you have heard, this program is very popular, which is creating backlogs at many financial institutions and some banks, like Wells Fargo, are no longer accepting applications. We are here to help your Members get access to this program if they are unable to be served by their local bank.

For more details, please follow this link to the Paycheck Protection Program information sheet. If you have any questions, please give us a call. We will also be sending this information to the insurance organizations in the states where we work with Farm Bureau insurance companies.


Rhode Island Food Policy Council
COVID-19 Links

In response to the spread of COVID-19, the Rhode Island Food Policy Council has aggregated information on available food access and food business resources and opportunities. 


CFAP Webinars for Ag Producers 

Webinar Dates & Topics:

These FSA Webinars are all completed.  Archived webinars may be found at the above link as well as here.


Farm Credit East Resource Hub 

Providing information relevant to Northeast Ag and customers of Farm Credit East.  Includes information regarding the Paycheck Protection Plan, CARES Act basics, tax planning , payroll, webinars and reports on COVID-19.


Unsure How to Transition to Online Ordering
or Working from Home?

Many businesses are struggling to transform their technology to continue operating during the suppression phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.  RI Commerce Corporation has partnered with Rhode Island tech leaders to offer free coaching sessions to make this transformation easier. If you’d like help, get more information here. There is help available to help people set up a home office, transition to work from home, to get a website or even online ordering set up. Please take a look, they have so much to offer!


Rhode Island Farmers: Become an
authorized SNAP retailer

Rhode Island farmers: you can open a new market for your business while helping your less fortunate neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis. Learn how to apply to be an authorized retailer to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly Food Stamp Program) benefits. This will allow you to accept SNAP benefits at your retail farm stand, CSA, and through home delivery. Click here for the Guidebook.


Advice for Ag Transport Across State Lines

At this time, there is no indication farmers are being stopped while performing ag operations across state lines.  However, to be proactive, we are providing the following using the link HERE and from the above title:

Letter for Farms to fill out and carry identifying themselves as critical industry

Letters providing Guidance for Ag operations in all Northeast states.  We advise you carry the letter(s) from any state you are traveling to/through for your farm business.

In addition, please use this link for Interstate Livestock Shipping Requirements


CDC- COVID-19
RIDOH- COVID-19


Official Guidance on Food and Agriculture
as Critical Industry

from the Dept. of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

The link above provides guidance and identifies workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing management functions, among others. The industries they support represent, but are not necessarily limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works.

Printable letter for official guidance (March 28 update).


USDA Issues Emergency Provisions for Milk Dumping and Supply/Demand Flexibility
Due to COVID-19

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is prepared to take actions within the Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO) to facilitate the disposal of milk or provide flexibility to meet increased retail demand due to changes in supply and demand from COVID-19. Actions will initially be for the time period of March-May, as needed. Any requests should be made to the local Market Administrator.


USDA Rural Development takes immediate action to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

• Beginning immediately, through July 31, 2020, USDA Business and Industry Loan Guarantees (B&I) and Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Guaranteed lenders may assist borrowers experiencing temporary cash flow issues by deferring payments for a period no longer than 120 days. The lender must notify The Agency in writing of any payment deferments. Written notification to the Agency will meet the standard for concurrence until July 31, 2020. A response from the Agency is not required. This guidance applies to ALL borrowers that had a current repayment status as of March 1, 2020.

• RBCS intermediary borrowers continue to have authority to service loan portfolios independent of USDA. Intermediary borrowers participating in these programs may approve loan payment deferrals may to their borrowers without USDA approval. These programs are:

 Intermediary Relending Program (IRP)

 Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG)

 Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDL and REDG)

 Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP)

• For existing Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) and Rural Economic Development Loan (REDL) borrowers, the Agency is committed to maintaining well-capitalized intermediary lenders and will work with you on loan servicing requests on a case-by-case basis to make sure you remain a pillar in our rural business communities.

EXTENSION OF APPLICATION DEADLINES

USDA is extending the application window for the following programs:

Rural Business-Cooperative Service

• USDA extended the application deadline for the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) program to no later than April 15, 2020.

• USDA extended the application deadline for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) to April 15, 2020


Local Producers, Farmers Markets Play Important Role in Feeding Population During Coronavirus Crisis

There’s a rush on food and essentials at stores, both large and small. Many shelves are bare but some aisles are still packed, as people pick over what remains after panic-induced hoarding. But the thing to note is the fact that grocery stores are still open, still peddling what they can — though you’ll likely be hard-pressed to find pasta, frozen vegetables, cleaning products, and toilet paper.

So what role can farmers markets and local producers play during the coronavirus pandemic? A big one.