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Assistance programs: Panel explains government assistance programs at annual convention

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Producers and various agriculture personnel met up in Rock Springs Aug. 24-26 for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association’s (WSGA) 2020 Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, themed Providing Stability in a Time of Crisis.

On the first day of the convention, a panel of esteemed individuals held a discussion to help attendees better understand today’s government assistance programs. 

Meat processing

Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) Director Doug Miyamoto kicked off the discussion.

Miyamoto noted one of the most important topics WDA has focused on, in relation to government assistance programs, is surrounding meat processing. 

“Wyoming has a state meat inspection program, but not all states do,” he explained. “About 80 percent of the meat in meat cases throughout the country goes through one of the major four packers, which has caused some interesting problems.” 

In order to put this scale in perspective, Miyamoto provided attendees with some numbers. He explained Wyoming’s state meat inspection program oversaw the processing of 1,219 head of cattle, a cumulative number for all 13 processors statewide.

Comparatively, JBS Swift typically slaughters 5,400 cattle a day.

“There is starting to be some common interest in the U.S. among Departments of Agriculture, the livestock industry and other national and state affiliates to move toward with more local and in-state processing,” Miyamoto said. 

In terms of federal assistance programs, Miyamoto explained WDA has been focused on developing a program to expand the capacity of local processing within the state of Wyoming.  

“We have been working for the past several weeks on what started out as a $10 million allocation of funds. We received preliminary approval from Gov. Mark Gordon, and now we are going through the process on how we can make these expenditures legal and stay within the construct of existing state statutes,” he said. 

Miyamoto went on to explain in its draft phase, the program has money available for existing processors who want to expand their slaughter capacity and for modular, local, trailer-type processing units. 

“We will continue to work on this and see what we can come up with,” he said. “I hope sometime in the next several weeks, we will be able to let producers know what WDA can offer to our livestock industry.” 

Economic injury and disaster loans

Following Miyamoto, Amy Leah and Renee Bender of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) addressed the crowd. 

“Today, we want to raise awareness of the Economic Injury and Disaster Loan (EIDL), available through the SBA,” Bender stated. “This loan provides direct financing to small businesses when they have experienced a physical disaster, such as natural disasters or an economic disaster, such as the current global pandemic we are facing today.” 

Leah noted, as of Aug. 14, SBA has given out 5,062 EIDLs totaling $301,077,000.

Bender explained businesses with 500 or fewer employees are eligible to apply for an EIDL, including businesses involved with ranching, farming and other agriculture-related businesses. 

She also pointed out the EIDL program is still available, and it is not too late for producers and small business owners to apply. 

“Unlike some other loan programs in which one applies for a certain amount of funding, when a business applies for an EIDL, SBA determines the loan amount based on the business’ working capital needs,” she said. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bender said they borrowed out EIDLs ranging from $25,000 to $10 million. However, due to increased demand, SBA will now provide a loan based on a business’ working capital of six months or up to $150,000. 

“The interest rate for an EIDL is 3.75 percent for small businesses with terms of up to 30 years. It really provides low-interest, long-term financing so businesses can focus on other needs,” she explained. “EIDL payments are automatically deferred for one year.” 

Other FSA funding

Lois Van Mark, executive director for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) took the stage to discuss the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

“The exciting thing is, as of Aug. 24, we have distributed $69,102,573.44 to producers across the state of Wyoming under CFAP,” stated Van Mark. “Some of that was crop related, but most likely, nearly 95 percent of it was livestock related.”

Van Mark noted several additions have been made to the newest version of CFAP, including horticulture, aquaculture, specialty crops and all sheep, which was an important and exciting development.  

“It is important to note, if producers haven’t already, they should signup for CFAP because the deadline has been extended through Sept. 11,” she stated. “Those interested can make an appointment with their local FSA office or signup online.” 

In addition to CFAP, Van Mark noted FSA has several other assistance opportunities for producers. 

“It is extremely dry out there. We have a lot of fires and a lot of smoke. We want to let producers know there are some emergency programs available through FSA they should be thinking about right now,” she said. 

One of these programs, according to Van Mark, is the Livestock Forage Disaster Program. She explained counties eligible for the program are those rated D2 on the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), and have been rated this way for eight consecutive weeks.

She also noted areas rated D3 on the USDM are automatically eligible. Eligible counties include Big Horn, Campbell, Converse, Hot Springs, Johnson, Niobrara, Natrona, Sheridan and Washakie.

“Unfortunately, there are some fires burning around the state. FSA also has programs available for fire support, and eligible counties include Johnson, Sheridan, Washakie, Hot Springs, Carbon, Albany, Sweetwater and Sublette,” said Van Mark. 

A few other programs Van Mark discussed were the Emergency Conservation Program available to replace damaged infrastructure such as burnt down fences and the Emergency Livestock Assistance Program available to producers in counties rated D3 on the USDM. According to Van Mark, this program helps producers haul water to livestock.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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