• 27 Apr 2020 3:49 PM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)
    Original Source

    Recently enacted federal legislation provides resources and initiatives to assist businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    This guide provides summary information about major provisions that could offer critical support to Hawaii's agriculture industry.

    CLICK FOR GUIDE HERE

  • 17 Apr 2020 8:22 AM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    Original Source of the Article

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

    Office of Legislative Affairs

     

    DHS and USDA Move to Protect American Farmers and Ensure Continued Flow of America’s Food Supply

    Department to Temporarily Amend Certain H-2A Requirements During COVID-19 National Emergency

    The Department of Homeland Security, with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has announced a temporary final rule to change certain H-2A requirements to help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions in lawful agricultural-related employment, protect the nation’s food supply chain, and lessen impacts from the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. These temporary flexibilities will not weaken or eliminate protections for U.S. workers. 

    Under this temporary final rule, an H-2A petitioner with a valid temporary labor certification who is concerned that workers will be unable to enter the country due to travel restrictions can start employing certain foreign workers who are currently in H-2A status in the United States immediately after United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives the H-2A petition, but no earlier than the start date of employment listed on the petition. To take advantage of this time-limited change in regulatory requirements, the H-2A worker seeking to change employers must already be in the United States and in valid H-2A status.

    Additionally, USCIS is temporarily amending its regulations to protect the country’s food supply chain by allowing H-2A workers to stay beyond the three-year maximum allowable period of stay in the United States. These temporary changes will encourage and facilitate the continued lawful employment of foreign temporary and seasonal agricultural workers during the COVID-19 national emergency. Agricultural employers should utilize this streamlined process if they are concerned with their ability to bring in the temporary workers who were previously authorized to work for the employer in H-2A classification. At no point is it acceptable for employers to hire illegal aliens. 

    “This Administration has determined that continued agricultural employment, currently threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic, is vital to maintaining and securing the country’s critical food supply chain. The temporary changes announced by USCIS provide the needed stability during this unprecedented crisis,” said Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf. 

    “USDA welcomes these additional flexibilities provided by the Department of Homeland Security today,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “Providing flexibility for H-2A employers to utilize H-2A workers that are currently in the United States is critically important as we continue to see travel and border restrictions as a result of COVID-19. USDA continues to work with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor and the Department of State to minimize disruption and make sure farmers have access to these critical workers necessary to maintain the integrity in our food supply.”

    The temporary final rule is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. If the new petition is approved, the H-2A worker will be able to stay in the United States for a period of time not to exceed the validity period of the Temporary Labor Certification. DHS will issue a new temporary final rule in the Federal Register to amend the termination date of these new procedures in the event DHS determines that circumstances demonstrate a continued need for the temporary changes to the H-2A regulations.

    The H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to alien workers seeking to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States, usually lasting no longer than one year, for which able, willing, and qualified U.S. workers are not available.

    # # #

    Connect with DHS:
    Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Instagram  |  LinkedIn  |  Flickr  |  YouTube

    U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    www.dhs.gov

  • 15 Apr 2020 9:11 AM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    Original Source of the Article

    UHERO and Chambers of Commerce across Hawaii are partnering to field a new survey to study the economic impact of COVID-19 on Hawaii businesses. The survey is being fielded in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, Kauai Chamber of Commerce, Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, Maui Chamber of Commerce, and Molokai Chamber of Commerce.

    Businesses can click here to take the survey, which measures changes in employment and employee wages, revenue, application rates for U.S. Small Business Administration loans and business outlook.

    “The information from this survey will help UHERO analyze the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown on businesses and households statewide, and to better assess our existing projections,” said UHERO Executive Director Carl Bonham. “This type of geographic and industrially-detailed information is not available from any traditional data source in real time, and it will be invaluable to our ongoing work.”

    “We know that Hawaii businesses are suffering due to COVID-19 impacts. Accurate data on what businesses are experiencing will allow us to shape our continued response and put resources where the Sherry Menor-McNamara, President & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii said. “This survey will also give us a foundation to plan for economic recovery and identify industries that need more assistance. Mahalo to our partners at UHERO for developing this valuable tool.”

    Contact: Philip Garboden at 215-880-7715 or pgarbod@hawaii.edu.

    Businesses Can Take Survey at http://hawaii.surveyshare.com/s/AYAG2AB.

  • 14 Apr 2020 8:44 PM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    Original Source of the Article

    By HNN Staff | April 11, 2020 at 1:33 PM HST - Updated April 11 at 1:33 PM

    HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Agriculture is offering a new emergency relief fund to help farmers, ranchers and food producers.

    Individuals may receive up to $2,000 worth of aid; groups can get up to $10,000.

    The help is coming from $250,000 of the State’s barrel tax fund (Agriculture Development and Food Security Special Fund), which was freed up when the governor signed the March 4 emergency proclamation.

    So far the department has received 333 applications, which equals to a total request amount of $1.2 million.

    “We all need to make sure that our farmers, ranchers and other food producing operations can survive through and eventually recover from this crisis,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.

    “We ask that Hawaii consumers continue to support our local farmers and food producers through direct and indirect sales at farmers’ markets and community-supported agricultural efforts. Buy local, it matters," she added.

    The review and award process is already underway and fund can be expected later this month.

    The department is also considering deferring rent payments for lessees currently in the state’s agricultural land programs.

    For more information on these programs and other relief efforts, farmers should contact the Department of Agriculture.

  • 08 Apr 2020 10:10 PM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    Senator Schatz's website has a page dedicated to farmers and ag businesses and the CARES Act. Those that qualify can either apply for assistance through the USDA or the SBA PPP loan program (click here to determine eligibility, as you can’t apply for both).

    Here is the letter from HCA President, Christopher A. Manfredi, addressed to Mr. Dave K. Chun addressing the silos between SBA and USDA.


  • 07 Apr 2020 5:26 PM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    Original Source of the Article

    Farmer Relief Fund

    Apply Here

    About the program:

    • AFT’s Farmer Relief Fund will award farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis.
    • Initially, eligible applicants include any small and mid-size direct-market producers. These are defined as producers with annual gross revenue of between $10,000 and $1 million from sales at farmers markets and/or direct sales to restaurants, caterers, schools, stores, or makers who use farm products as inputs.
    • The application (linked to below in both English and Spanish) is simple and easy to complete but includes sufficient detail to ensure AFT is awarding producers that have the greatest needs. Applicants will be asked to estimate their financial loss.
    • AFT envisions an initial application round extending until April 23, with grants beginning to be made by May 1.
    Apply Here (English)
    Apply Here (Spanish)

    Need Assistance?

    If you need help accessing or applying for any farm assistance, email Rachele Lamosao at rachele@hfbf.org.

    Click here for more COVID-19 Resources
  • 07 Apr 2020 5:23 PM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    Original Source of the Article

    Banks and Farm Credit System institutions on Friday began taking applications from farmers and other small businesses for $349 billion in forgivable loans aimed at shoring up the economy during the COVID-19 crisis.

    The Small Business Administration released an interim final rule late Thursday to update and clarify requirements announced earlier in the week for the Paycheck Protection Program. The loans will essentially be grants as long as 75% of the loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs.

    After some initial confusion, farm and banking groups and accounting experts agreed that farms were eligible for the program. 

    RJ Karney of the American Farm Bureau Federation said Friday that after reviewing the interim final rule it appeared clear that farms with fewer than 500 employees would qualify for the program despite SBA's traditional revenue thresholds that would exclude many producers. 

    Farm leaders, banking industry officials and accounting experts said there had been considerable confusion in the countryside about whether farms are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program. Some SBA field offices themselves have been erroneously telling farmers they won't be eligible for PPP assistance, Agri-Pulse was told. 

    Todd Van Hoose, president and CEO of the Farm Credit Council, said the program will be especially valuable to farm operations with year-round employment, including livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers since the loans can’t be forgiven unless most of it is used for payroll costs during the crisis.

    “Our phones have been ringing off the hook” since the program was announced earlier in the week, Van Hoose said. “Demand is going to be very high, and we’re eager to help.”

    SBA made all member institutions of the Farm Credit System eligible to make the loans, he said. 

    The Independent Community Bankers Association had raised some concerns with the program, including the very low interest rate, 0.5%, that SBA initially said would be charged to borrowers if they are not eligible to have the loan forgiven. The interim final rule released Thursday raised the rate to 1%.

    ICBA had said in a letter to SBA and the Treasury Department that the 0.5% rate "would create unacceptable losses for lenders, which have a duty to preserve their good health for the sake of their communities,”

    Brian Kuehl, director of federal affairs for the accounting firm KCoe Isom, also expected there to be broad interest in the program. “You can throw a rock and you’ll hit someone who’s having a hard time in agriculture right now,” Kuehl said.

    SBA officials have not responded to Agri-Pulse’s questions about the program. 

    Under the program, businesses with fewer than 500 employees may qualify for a loan up to $10 million, based on their eight weeks of prior average payroll, plus an additional 25% of that amount. To calculate the loan amount, multiply the average monthly payroll for the past year by 2.25, experts say.

    The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities and at least 75% of the loan is used for payroll. 

    But the value of the program will be limited for some farms because foreign workers, including H-2A visa holders, and independent contractors won’t be eligible for the program. Also, farms who hire most of their workers at harvest would have little payroll costs to apply toward the loan forgiveness. 

    The American Farm Bureau Federation was originally concerned that many farms would be excluded from the program, but Paul Neiffer, an agricultural accounting specialist with CliftonLarsonAllen, said that based on the interim final rule the PPP loans are exempt from revenue thresholds that apply to other forms of SBA assistance.

    "I think the law is pretty clear that revenue does not matter," he said in an email to Agri-Pulse. "It states that borrowers can be small business concerns (which have a revenue component) plus any business concern with less than 500 employees or less than the limit allowed by SBA and it is the greater of these two numbers." Since any businesses with fewer than 500 employees are made eligible the "revenue limits go out the window," he said.

    Much of the confusion around farm eligibility for the program apparently stems from the creation of a second, more conventional loan program, called Economic Injury Disaster Loans, for which farms are not currently eligible. 

    A coalition of farm groups and a bipartisan group of more than 80 House members from agricultural districts are lobbying SBA to make the 3% EIDL loans available to farms. As of Thursday afternoon, the agency had not rendered a decision. 

    In a letter to SBA on Thursday, the lawmakers said they “were shocked and disappointed that, contrary to Congressional intent, the Small Business Administration singles out farmers and agricultural businesses as ineligible for this program. 

    The lawmakers demanded SBA provide the legal rationale for excluding farms from the program. Farms have been excluded from earlier versions of the program, but the stimulus bill intended to make the new EIDL loans available to farms, the lawmakers and farm groups say. 

    Updated with the interim final rule for the PPP loans. 

    Philip Brasher
    Executive Editor

    More news from www.Agri-Pulse.com.

  • 06 Apr 2020 1:09 PM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    Roll out of the CARE Act and refinement of rules and regulations governing this federal COVID-19 emergency funding iteration #3 continues with the objective of providing relief as quickly and with as limited red tape as possible.  By now you’re likely aware that many online sources of information are available.  Some sources are general while others are targeted.  Mindful of your time and wishing to avoid an overload of information and links you may have already received, the below links might fall in the non-duplicative category.

    COVID-19: Helpful Resources for Food & Agriculture - House Agriculture Committee

    House Agriculture Committee - USDA Resources

    USDA Coronavirus FAQs

    SBA - COVID-19 Relief for Small Business 

    Loans for Nonprofits in the CARES Act

    Hawaii Lenders Serving SBA's Hawaii District

    Paycheck Protection Program Application and FAQs

    Here is the website for those who are tracking the coronavirus pandemic, from the John Hopkins University of Medicine.

    4/2/20: Today the DOL Office of Foreign Labor Certification has issued a second round of COVID-19 related H-2A FAQ.  The Round 2 FAQs address potential issues regarding the H-2A temporary agricultural labor certification program.  View the Round 2 FAQs regarding COVID-19. These, along with other ongoing announcements, are being posted at www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a. Along with these DOL FAQs and State Department’s additional interview waiver flexibilities announced last week, USDA continues to work specifically with DHS on flexibilities related to lawful presence and transfer of workers.

  • 25 Mar 2020 8:34 PM | Alla Kostenko (Administrator)

    The SCA management has issued a statement that the Coffee Expo originally planned to take place in Portland, OR in April is now cancelled. See it below.

    Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and stay healthy!

    SCA Booth Committee
    Hawaii Coffee Association

    ~ ~ ~

    2020 Expo and Re:co Canceled, Both Return in 2021

    After many weeks of discussions with our partners regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on SCA events, today we are sad to announce that the 2020 Re:co Symposium and Specialty Coffee Expo scheduled to take place in Portland in April are now canceled.

    Unfortunately, no other viable dates were available for the show to take place in Portland in 2020. We will be working with the SCA USA Chapter to explore options to hold the final US Coffee Championships of the year at a later date as appropriate. Re:co and Expo will return in April 2021 in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana.

    If you registered to attend or exhibit at Expo 2020, please check your inbox for an email with important information. If you have not received an email, please get in touch with us at 2020reg@sca.coffee (for attendees) or exhibit@sca.coffee (for exhibitors). 

    2021 Dates:

        Re:co Symposium: April 21-22, 2021

        Specialty Coffee Expo: April 23-25, 2021

    I would like to send a heartfelt thank you to every single one of our sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, and volunteers for your patience and understanding over the past few weeks while we negotiated the future of these two events with our partners.

    Many of you have gotten in touch with us, wondering why it has taken so long to announce the cancellation of these two events. As you may know, the Specialty Coffee Expo is the largest specialty coffee event in North America, and in order to make it happen, we engage in contracts with the venue and with over two dozen other partners, including hotels and other local businesses.

    When it became clear that it would not be possible to find new dates for later in the year in Portland, our negotiations with these partners focused on ending these contracts without putting the SCA, a nonprofit association, in danger of legal retribution from these businesses, who are also experiencing similar difficulties amid this crisis. 

    The SCA staff and volunteers who gather at Expo every year are heartbroken that we will not be able to see you in Portland this year, but we look forward to seeing you in New Orleans in April 2021.

    Stay safe and please remember to take a look at the various resources we have been compiling related to the impact of COVID-19 on the coffee industry by visiting sca.coffee/covid19

    Thank you, 

    Yannis Apostolopoulos

    Chief Executive Officer

    Specialty Coffee Association

  • 19 Mar 2014 5:07 PM | Anonymous
    Earlier this year Dr. Scot Nelson of the University of Hawaii received some photos of spotting on coffee leaves and lesions on the branches. This disease was thought to be coffee ringspot virus. However, more in depth testing identifies these symptoms to be that of Emaravirus.

    Dr. Nelson is asking for help from the Hawaii coffee growers to understand the spread of this virus.

    Please see Dr. Nelson's web-page for picture and more details.

    If you have seen these symptoms on your plants or think you might have this virus on your coffee, please contact Dr. Scot Nelson at snelson@hawaii.edu or 808-956-2000.
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