USDA recently announced the Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant Program, which will provide funding to help small specialty crop producers, food processors, manufacturers, distributors and farmers markets recover costs incurred by responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including for measures to protect workers.
The application period will open in early October. Once open, applicants will have 45 days to apply. Approximately $650 million in funding is available for the PRS grants, which are funded by the Pandemic Assistance provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. PRS will cover activities associated with:
  • Workplace Safety Measures: Workplace safety measures, including, but not limited to, personal protective equipment, sanitizer, hand washing stations, air filters, thermometers, cleaning supplies, or similar items.

  • Market Pivots: Market pivots such as the transition to virtual/online sales costs (online platform development and fees, online marketing, credit card processing fees), supplies, new signage.

  • Retrofitting Facilities: Retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety (plexiglass, walk up windows, heat lamps, fans, tents, propane, weights, tables, chairs).

  • Transportation: Additional transportation costs incurred to maintain social distancing.

  • Worker Housing: Additional worker housing costs incurred to maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining of new or exposed employees.

  • Medical: Unreimbursed costs associated with providing or enabling vaccinations, testing, or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including any paid leave.

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Ken Petersen, Associate Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program

The Specialty Crops Program is excited to announce that two new applications, the Hemp eManagement Platform (HeMP) and the Specialty Crops Integrated Operating Network (SCION) will go live soon. HeMP and SCION will provide a more modern, customer-centric service.
The HeMP application enables hemp producers, states and tribes to submit information regarding license applications and other production information. HeMP connects with the Farm Service Agency data and provides data to law enforcement to conduct compliance activities. Our Domestic Hemp Production Program (DHPP) staff will use HeMP to manage this important work.
SCION modernizes how Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division customers receive inspection and audit services. Applicants will use the applicant portal to set up accounts, submit service requests, obtain inspection and audit results, and billing statements. The SCION September release focuses on processed commodities; future SCION releases (in early 2022) will further add to processed commodity features and serve fresh commodities. SCION will enable applicants to see and use their data in new ways.
The release of both applications is the culmination of years of work by USDA staff and we are excited to have these systems in use! The Specialty Crops Program is excited and proud to be able to provide these valuable tools and services to the agricultural community!

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Rolls Out Specialty Crops Integrated Operating Network (SCION) Sonia Jimenez, Deputy Administrator, Specialty Crops Program

I am thrilled to support the release of new major grant initiatives through the USDA Transportation & Marketing (T&M) Program announced September 9, 2021. The Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant program creates a real opportunity with positive impacts to many in the specialty crops industry, so I wanted to make sure you receive the most current information available. Please review the Pandemic Assistance Grant Program Opportunity below and click on the image at the top of the article to see if you are eligible and start taking steps to apply right away.

During September, the SCP Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division launches phase 1 of the Specialty Crops Integrated Operating Network (SCION), the state-of-the-art information platform replacing outdated legacy systems. This first release covers processed products and the remaining commodities in early 2022. The mobile inspection system works on common devices and functions even without internet connectivity.

SCP also releases the Hemp eManagement Platform (HeMP), enabling hemp producers, states and tribes to submit information for license applications, production information and more. A centralized online hub to allow law enforcement to have data available for enforcement purposes, HeMP makes recordkeeping for you and your business easier, allowing your staff members to apply for licensing, update contact information and track supporting documents on demand.

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For more information, reach out to us on our Contact page.