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Small Business Administration Funding Available due to COVID-19 Impacts

Our nation's small businesses are facing an unprecedented economic disruption due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  On Friday, March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the CARES Act, which contains $376 billion in relief for American workers and small businesses.  In addition to traditional SBA funding programs, the CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak.  If you have any questions and concerns please contact the SBA Disaster Customer Service Center at1.800.659.2955.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

BeSure! This Growing Season

 Spring is in the air and the growing season is upon us! This year, BeSure! is back with its second annual national campaign. 

Stakeholders today appreciate how neonicotinoid seed treatments, foliar sprays, soil drenches and granules increase yields and boost revenues, but they are also committed to the importance of protecting bees and other wildlife. This spring, growers and applicators can follow a few simple guidelines to BeSure! they’re using pesticides safely. (For a downloadable / printable version of the tips below, visitGrowingMatters.org/BeSure.) 

For Growers:

  1. Follow directions on the label for appropriate storage, use and disposal practices.
  2. When planting treated seed, use advanced seed flow lubricants that minimize dust.
  3. When planting treated seed, eliminate flowering plants and weeds in and around the field prior to planting. For foliar applications, ensure that sprays are directed away from any flowering plants, follow established buffer zones and calibrate equipment to minimize spray drift.
  4. Before making an application, be aware of any honey bees and hives near the field and communicate with neighboring beekeepers prior to treatment.
  5. Remove and properly dispose of all treated seed. Keep all treated seed out of commodity grain channels.

For Applicators:

  1. Comply with all regulations when using registered pesticide products and ensure proper employee training prior to application.
  2. Apply best management practices when using treated seed, soil drenches or foliar sprays to minimize dust or spray drift. Establish written protocols using best practices to ensure high-quality seed treatment, foliar or field application.
  3. Adopt stewardship documentation for the full life cycle of seed treatment products.
  4. Properly discard any unused product, rinse water or seed treatment by following the label disposal instructions to minimize any potential environmental impact.
  5. Ensure that all required and pertinent neonicotinoid treatment information, consistent with the product label, is conveyed to customers. 

To learn more about best management practices to protect both crops and pollinators while handling neonicotinoid products, visit BeSure!, powered by the Growing Matters coalition and in conjunction with the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), the National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC), the National Corn Growers Association, the American Soybean Association, CropLife America and the Agricultural Retailers Association.

 

Spring cleaning and serving our members daily

As we continue to work diligently to bring you the most up to date information that we can during these uncertain times, we would like to share some of the things we are currently working on.  Spring cleaning is in the air at NWA with our database and items of interest in all of our communications and website.  Our goal is to make things simpler and readily available to our members.  Many things remain the same on our website – including grade standards, food safety guidance, numerous federal updates & initiatives (i.e. H2-A labor, stimulus, etc.), research data and more that help you in many different areas of your business.  Please let us know if you have experienced any issues or have concerns regarding your membership, logging into your account, or updates you would like to see added to our website.  Not yet a member?  Make today the day that you join our family! Attached is our new membership packet.  Or log onto www.watermelon.ag to join today!

Together we will shape the watermelon industry for future generations!
 

H2-A Workforce Disruption Caused by COVID-19

As you are aware, the NWA has been working with a number of other groups and our federal government on the visa process in Mexico to attain as many workers as possible.  We have been working with USDA, DOL, DHS, and the Dept. of State to try to limit the disruption in the H-2A workforce caused by COVID-19. The announcement is located HERE.

The State Department HAS AGREED to take additional steps to increase the processing of H-2A visa holders through consulates around the world.  This change due to COVID-19  will modify and expand the interview waiver eligibility toensure that the majority of H-2A processing can continue.  

Here are some preliminary details:

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security, has authorized consular officers to expand the categories of H-2 visa applicants whose applications can be adjudicated without an in-person interview.  
  • Consular officers can, if they so choose, now waive the visa interview requirement for first-time and returning H-2 applicants who have no potential ineligibility.   
  • This expansion also increases the period in which returning workers may qualify for an interview waiver.  Applicants whose previous visas expired in the last 48 months (increased from 12 months), and who did not require a waiver of ineligibility the last time they applied, do not need to be interviewed in-person if they are applying for the same visa classification as their previous visa.
  • We anticipate the vast majority of otherwise qualified H-2 applicants will now be adjudicated without an interview.

Attached you will find FAQs and a more complete summary.  Guidance can be found on https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/News/visas-news/important-announcement-on-h2-visas.htm and is available at www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a.   Please note: these activities relate to US Consular activities.  Where other countries have travel restrictions or lock down policies in place, embassies generally operate by that local guidance.  This may impact the application of this guidance.  USDA encourages you to monitor the respective embassy’s webpage for most up to date information.

This news is exactly what the doctor ordered, and at a great time too.  There will be more details forthcoming (and some clarity too) in the next few days as we learn of the details and any other developments.

 

What To Do If H2-A Denials or Delays Occur

There are at least a few2 reasons why the possibility of H2-A contracts are not fulfilled on time, partially or at all.  The reasons vary from the lack of follow-ups, visa denials, improper paperwork, and more.   According to our friends in the industry that handle thousands upon thousands of H2-A workers and petitions annually, the typical time frame from the submission of petitions to the arrival time of workers is ‘normally’ two weeks.  If that time frame is delayed, what should you do.

Delays can be for a variety of reasons, while we wait for the arrival of needed workers to do the work at hand.  If a delay or lack of response occurs, we suggest that you follow the steps below:

  • SEND AN EMAIL to the NWA so that we can collect & document the issue.  We will disguise all names and details and only use the over-arching issue with Washington to try to improve the process.
  • IMMEDIATELY CONTACT YOUR U.S. House Representative ‘every time’ you have an issue with the H2-A program.  Your elected representative has direct contacts; they will open up a case to look into a solution for you; and they can help.       
  • Any issues with USCIS or other sources related to the U.S. Government:  log on to this LINK and report the issue to USDA.  USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue has set up the website to learn about issues related to worker needs, and to get involved to solve the issues.  
  • Additionally, you can send an email to [email protected]
 
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