USDAReminds Virginia Producers to Complete Crop Acreage Reports

RICHMOND, VA, July 1, 2020 – USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) reminds Virginia producers to complete crop acreage reportsby the applicable deadline for their county. Acreage reporting dates vary by crop and by county. Contact your FSA county office for a list of acreage reporting deadlines by crop.

“To make sure you’re eligible for many USDA programs, you need to file an accurate crop acreage report by the applicable deadline,” said Nivin A. Elgohary, State Executive Director in Virginia. “Our FSA staff is standing by to help you with your acreage reports, including providing maps.”

The following acreage reporting dates are applicable in Virginia:

July 15, 2020 - hay/pasture (acreage not enrolled in NAP), corn, cotton, cover crop, CRP, grain sorghum, peanuts, soybeans, tobacco vegetables (acreage not enrolled in NAP) and cover crops.       

Due to the pandemic, FSA has implemented acreage reporting flexibilities. FSA can work with producers to file timely acreage reports by phone, email, online tools and virtual meetings.

FSA county offices in Virginia have provided and will provide maps to producers who have requested along with instructions for completing and returning the maps through either mail, email or through commercially available free and secure online tools such as Box for file sharing and OneSpan for eSignature solutions. After planting is complete, producers must return the signed form certifying their acreage report to the FSA office through mail, email or the Box and OneSpan tools by July 15, 2020.

After completed maps and all acreage reporting information is received, FSA will make software updates and send producers the completed Report of Acreage form (FSA-578) to sign. Producers must return the signed form certifying their acreage report to the FSA office through [mail, email, or Box] by July 15, 2020.

The following exceptions apply to acreage reporting dates:

  • If the crop has not been planted by the acreage reporting date, the acreage must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after planting is completed.
  • If a producer has not timely filed an acreage report, the producer may file the acreage report within 30 days of the acreage reporting date. Because of the pandemic, late fees will be waived if filed within the 30 days.

FSA is also providing additional flexibilities for producers to file on acres with failed crops or crops that were prevented from planting because of extreme weather events. For insured crops, producers who timely filed a prevented planted claim with the reinsurance company but filed a Notice of Loss (CCC-576) form after the deadline will be considered timely filed for FSA purposes. For uninsured crops, producers may start a Notice of Loss by calling their FSA county office.

Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy holders should note that the acreage reporting date for NAP-covered crops is the earlier of the dates listed above or 15 calendar days before grazing or harvesting of the crop begins.

When producers are working with FSA staff – either in-person or virtually – they can also take care of applications for other FSA programs, including the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. A CFAP Call Center is available for producers who would like additional one-on-one support with the CFAP application process. Please call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to help. The CFAP Call Center can provide service to non-English speaking customers. Customers will select 1 for English and 2 to speak with a Spanish speaking employee. For other languages, customers select 1 and indicate their language to the Call Center staff.

Applications can also be submitted for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus for 2018 and 2019 as well as other disaster assistance programs that may be able to assist producers at this time.

For questions, please call your FSA county office. To locate your local FSA office visit farmers.gov/service-center-locator.

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors may also be required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in office, by phone and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

Governor Northam Awards Grants to Brunswick, Lee, Lunenburg, and Rockingham Counties to Support Innovative Agricultural Projects

Funding to help farmers transitioning from tobacco to vegetable production, explore feasibility of sustainable organic waste disposal

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Brunswick, Lee, Lunenburg, and Rockingham Counties will each receive grants from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Planning Grant program to support local agriculture initiatives.

“We are pleased to see localities continue to use AFID Planning Grants to further embed agriculture into their current recovery efforts and long-term economic development plans,” said Governor Northam. “Identifying and supporting local initiatives like these that strengthen and diversify Virginia’s agricultural economy is critical to positioning this vital industry for success in the years to come.”

Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties submitted a joint application for $35,000 in AFID funds to help develop architectural and engineering plans for a proposed large-scale produce processing facility. The facility will be operated by Southside Virginia Vegetable Packing, LLC (SVVP) and provide infrastructure that allows the region’s former tobacco producers to transition to vegetable production. Organic and conventional vegetable crops offer former tobacco farmers a stable and growing market opportunity that leverages existing farmland, labor, and production equipment to maintain and expand their operations. SVVP has seen tremendous growth through its existing fruit and vegetable production, aggregation, and distribution, leading to the need for a larger produce processing facility to meet increasing demand. The AFID Planning Grant award will leverage an additional $90,000 in local funds.

Lee County and the surrounding region is also experiencing a shift from tobacco to vegetable production. The $20,000 AFID Planning Grant will be used to fund a feasibility study for locating a produce auction in the county. The AFID award will leverage $20,000 in funding from the county and the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to develop a business and marketing plan, identify a suitable site, and create a design for the proposed produce auction facility.

Lastly, Rockingham County is exploring the feasibility of an anaerobic digester to provide the county’s large agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sectors with a sustainable disposal option for their organic waste streams. Anaerobic digesters are an established technology that accepts organic wastes and processes them into useful soil amendments and fertilizers, while also producing a methane bio-gas that can be used locally or sold back to a gas utility. The $20,000 AFID Planning Grant will be matched with local funds and will explore the financial feasibility of such a facility, available waste streams, potential locations, and ownership structures. 

“Embracing innovation and exploring new opportunities in agriculture is key to the growth and prosperity of rural communities,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “Congratulations to Lee County, Rockingham County, and Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties for recognizing the importance of our local agriculture industries and supporting local farmers and producers by creating and expanding new markets to maintain and grow their farms.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which administers the AFID Planning Grant program, accepts applications for the program on a rolling basis. Successful applications demonstrate a clear need, a proposed solution, strong support from local government and the agriculture and forestry community, and the ability to provide matching funds. Additional information about the AFID Planning Grant program is available here. Questions about the program and application process should be directed to Jennifer.Perkins@vdacs.virginia.gov.

Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. Declares Semi-Annual Dividend

KENBRIDGE, VA, June 28, 2021 - Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. (BMBN), the Kenbridge-based hold­ing company for Benchmark Community Bank, recently announced the declaration of a semi-annual dividend of $0.33 per share to holders of common stock of the company.  This dividend is unchanged from the dividend declared in December of 2020.   

The record date for shareholders entitled to payment of the dividend will be the close of business, 4:00 P.M., on July 5, 2021, with payment to occur by July 31, 2021. 

The common stock of Benchmark Bankshares, Inc. trades on the OTC Pink marketplace under the symbol BMBN. Any stockbroker can assist with purchases of the company's stock, as well as with sales of holdings.

Benchmark Community Bank, founded in 1971, is head­quartered in Kenbridge, VA. It is the company's sole subsidiary which oper­ates seventeen banking offices through­out central Southside Vir­ginia and northern North Carolina. Additional information is available at the company’s website, www.BCBonline.com.

McEachin Votes to Expand Access to Basic Reproductive Health Care for Women Veterans

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) voted in favor of the Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act to expand access to basic reproductive health care for women veterans.  

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) grants all women using civilian health insurance access to basic contraceptive services without a co-pay while activity duty servicemembers also have access to contraception without co-pays through TRICARE. However, the VA still requires co-pays for contraception, denying veterans fair access to these essential services.

“Women veterans make incredible sacrifices and risk their lives in service to our country. They should most assuredly have fair access to basic health care services,” said Rep. McEachin (VA-04). “Improved access to reproductive health care leads to better physical and mental health outcomes, which is why I was pleased to vote for this legislation to eliminate burdensome co-pays for servicemembers insured under the VA."

This coverage gap unfairly disadvantages female veterans, who now make up the fastest growing group enrolling in VA health care.  This legislation ensures they receive the same access to contraceptive care as civilian women covered under the ACA and active duty women in the armed forces.

Jackson-Feild Bible Bags for Residents

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services (JFBHS) received a gift of Bible Bags from the members of Gayton Baptist Church in Richmond. The concept of the bags is God’s gift of helping the children transform the awful things from their past into something beautiful for their future, just as these fun bags began with scraps and discarded items which were transformed into something unique and useful!

The effort was started by Anne Hill who is a the mother of an alumnus and a member of JFHBS Board of Directors and Gayton Baptist Church. This effort has grown over time and has been a blessing to her as well as to the children.

The origin of these bags started with Mrs. Hill’s mother who was a prodigious quilter and had oodles of left-over fabric scraps . Ms. Hill also had broken jewelry and other items which seemed to pretty to toss. The bags make use of these unwanted items, just as God uses the unwanted parts of our lives to bless others.

Mrs. Hill has been making Bible bags for five years. She enlists the help of caring others such as members of Gayton Baptist, her hair dresser, bridge group, family, friends, others who learn of the project and want to help with this effort. She wants people to know that that there are caring people who want and do help children learn to manage their mental illness.

Each bag contains a Bible with a printed verse and bookmark with encouraging words to help the children struggling with mental illness. To let them know that others care and God can help them overcome their trauma and help them heal and have a productive and fulfilling life.

Chaplain, The Rev. Dr. Robin Moore, notes that the children love to receive be able to pick out the unique bags that best suit their personal style. The kids love and use them.

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