COVID Ag Impact Survey

Clemson Cooperative Extension is inviting you to participate in a research study. The purpose of this research is to collect information on the impacts of COVID-19 on the agricultural industry and understand the effects (positive and negative) on specialty crop and direct marketing farms in South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) is a collaborator on the survey.

Efforts like this allow Clemson Extension to improve the quality of life of all South Carolinians by providing unbiased, research-based information. Extension works to help support South Carolina’s $42 billion agriculture and forestry industries. Any collected data will be used in aggregate form. Survey results may be shared with Extension faculty, staff and / or outside organizations in an effort to further understand the impact COVID-19 has had on South Carolina agriculture.

The survey is voluntary and anonymous. It will take you about 7 minutes to complete the survey. Click here to access the survey.

As always, we appreciate your feedback and participation in Clemson Cooperative Extension programs.

Update to Small Business Administration COVID-19 Related Loans

From the Clemson Extension Agribusiness Team.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has been administering two particular pots of money that businesses have been able to access during the COVID-19 pandemic. These pots of money were first funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and are called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

Originally with the exception of a small carve-out, most of agriculture was not eligible for the EIDL but as long as they met specific criteria they were able to access the PPP. During this time, additional rules and guidance had been released and updated multiple times which has provided additional information as well as confusion and created more questions than may have been answered. Then the money ran out. Over the past week, Congress has been working on an additional appropriation for these two funds through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPPHCEA). On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the amendment and bill and by April 22, 2020, it was sent to the U.S. House. The U.S. House passed the bill on Thursday, April 23, 2020, and sent it on for the President’s signature. The President is expected to sign it on Friday, April 24, 2020.

The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act appropriated additional funds as follows:

  •  $310 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program:
    • As part of the $310 billion, there is a carve-out that created a set-aside for $30 billion of the funds to go directly through “insured depository institutions, credit unions, and community financial institutions” for “community financial institutions, small insured depository institutions, and credit unions”. This means it includes community development financial institutions, and credit unions Institutions that have consolidated assets of less than $10 billion will have the potential to access and lend the $30 billion that has been appropriated for that group of financial institutions.
    • $280 billion of the $310 billion that was appropriated can be accessed through institutions that can service SBA loans and programs as was done through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).
  • $10 billion to the Emergency Injury Disaster Loan:
    o Producers of agricultural enterprises are specifically stated as eligible for EIDL if they meet the definition of small business.
  • The bill also provides funds to be used for health and human services purposes:
    • $75 billion to be used by eligible healthcare providers for healthcare-related expenses or lost revenues due to COVID-19.
    • $25 billion to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19. This allows for research and development, validation, manufacturing, purchasing, and administering of COVID-19 testing.

If you have an interest in being able to access any funds to assist your farm or business that has been affected due to COVID-19 related reasons we recommend you check with your local lending institutions or the Small Business Administration (SBA) NOW! It is expected that the funding that has been appropriated will not last very long.

SBA Link to download pdf of Participating Lenders for PPP:
SBA Link to apply for EIDL

For further information and links about the loans and other COVID-19 related issues please visit the Clemson Extension Agribusiness Team COVID-19 Resources website.

Further information on general agricultural business-related information and farm management can be found at the Clemson Extension Agribusiness Team’s webpage.

Is Your Business Having Cash Flow Problems due to COVID-19?

From Clemson Agribusiness Associate Steve Richards.

The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act has been in the news recently.  You may have heard stories about emergency loans, cash for individuals, and cash for small businesses.  While the details are still being hammered out in Washington, these are some steps you can take right now if your business needs cash*.

  1. Talk to Your Current Lender

Reach out to someone who is familiar with your operation – your current lender.  Many lenders have options available for loan payment deferments, credit limit increases, and possible interest rate reductions.  Your lender is invested in your business and wants to help you succeed.

  1. Apply for a Federal Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Relief Loan

Regulations on this loan option are still being written and loans take several weeks to process.  If you think you need this assistance, apply now.  If you do not like the terms of the assistance, you can always refuse to take it.  To apply for SBA financing, apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gove/ela/.

The general details of SBA Disaster relief loans:

  • Loan limits: $2,000,000 with collateral; $25,000 without collateral
  • Loan terms: Interest rates of 3.75% fixed and amortization of up to 30 years
  • Recent start-up businesses are eligible, but you must provide profit and loss projections
  • Loans are contingent on a credit check, verification of eligibility, an insurance review, and an estimation of losses.
  1. Contemplate the Impact of Additional Debt

Some of these SBA loan packages may include a debt forgiveness option.  However, you must consider the impact of additional debt on your operation and how that affects your future if this debt is not forgiven.  The Clemson Agribusiness Team is available to help if you need additional agribusiness related resources or assistance: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/agribusiness/

*As always, make these decisions with the assistance of your professional advisors: your accountant, your tax advisor, your attorney, and your management team.

Steve Richards is an Extension Associate with Clemson’s Agribusiness Team who specializes in Management, Finance, and Specialty Crop Marketing.  You can contact Steve at Stricha@clemson.edu

Field Update – 3/23/20

COVID-19 continues to be a major concern for produce farmers and consumers. We’ve put together a new tab labeled “COVID-19 Resources” which includes a number of resources from Clemson, SC Dept. of Agriculture, SC Farm Bureau, and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. Additions are being made regularly, so check back often.

Also, AgriSafe is offering a webinar this afternoon titled “What Ag Producers Need to Know About COVID-19.” If you are interested in participating, click here.

Coastal

Zack Snipes reports, “Amid the COVID-19 outbreak the weather has really helped out our crops here in the Lowcounty.  Strawberries are pushing out with great flavor and size after a break the past few weeks.  Tomatoes are still being planted and look great with the warm sunny weather we have had.  Winter and early spring crops are being harvested and look beautiful right now.  I have seen some brassica fields beginning to bolt with the longer days and warming weather so get them out of the fields soon. If you are having trouble selling produce consider contacting LauraKate McAllister to be put on the SC Dept of Ag “Find Local Farm Fresh Food During COVID-19” list.

Clemson Extension will be posting on social media and the Home Garden Information Center about this webpage so your farm will want to be highlighted there.  Clemson Extension is here to help everyone through this time so feel free to reach out to us.”

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Strawberries are coming along in the Lowcountry. Photo from Zack Snipes.

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Tomatoes are being planted and look good so far. Photo from Zack Snipes.

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “The weather was beautiful last week and crops in the field are developing fast.  Some of our strawberry growers have begun picking. Once yields pick up a little, most are still planning to have U-pick, with some precautions. Early reports are that sales have been good despite concerns that coronavirus would hurt demand.  Spider mites have still been showing up, so keep scouting regularly.  The drier weather last week slowed disease down, but moisture is returning to the forecast this week, so don’t let up on spray programs.”

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Strawberry picking has begun in the midlands. Photo from Justin Ballew.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Started planting Butterbeans and snap beans to beat the heat.  Also planting Squash and other cucurbits from seed.  There aren’t enough strawberries right now to meet the demand as everyone wants the first strawberries.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “Upstate peaches are bursting with blooms and many apple varieties are starting to show silver and even green tip stages. We are excited about the season and are continuing to monitor temperatures. More rain again today.”

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Peach blooms at Bryson’s Orchard in Long Creek, SC.  Photo from Reba Butts.

Field Update – 3/16/20

COVID-19 has become a concern for fruit and vegetable growers, especially those expecting to open U-Pick operations in the coming weeks.  It is unknown at this time how the virus, quarantines, and closures will affect produce sales.  Updates will be shared on the SC Grower each week in regards to this issue.  In the meantime, please take the necessary precautions to protect yourselves, your workers, and customers.

Coastal

Dr. Matt Cutulle reports, “I received a couple samples of the aquatic weed Eurasian Watermilfoil this month from irrigation and other water-filled ditches. This invasive weed has been moving South and can block up waterways. Sonar herbicide is effective against this weed. Draining the ditches and allowing the weed to dry out can reduce the viability of this weed as well.”

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Eurasian watermilfoil foliage. Photo from Dr. Matt Cutulle.

Zack Snipes reports, “Things are warming up and drying out in the Lowcountry.  Everyone is very busy preparing land and planting.  Tomato planting will continue this week.”

Midlands

Justin Ballew reports, “Last week was mostly warm and sunny and there’s been lots of pine pollen in the air.  Believe it or not, we have some places that are dry and are being irrigated.  We have some ripe strawberries around that are ready to pick and I have been pleasantly surprised with the taste so far.  It won’t be long before U-Pick operations are open.  The dry weather has allowed spider mite populations to pick up and lots of folks have put out miticides.  Be sure to scout regularly and stay on top of sanitation.”

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Sandy soils in the midlands have dried out and these young collards have started to wilt.  Photo from Justin Ballew.

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Strawberry harvest will begin soon in the midlands.  Photo from Justin Ballew.

Sarah Scott reports, “Most peach trees in the middle part of the state are well into bloom if not beyond. A break in the rain has given growers a chance to get into the field and spray for blossom blight as well as begin herbicide sprays in some orchards. There appears to be very little damage from previous cold nighttime temperatures but we will still have to wait to get the full scope until fruit development begins. Vegetable plastic has gone in later than usual due to muddy, wet field conditions. Spring brassicas are being planted and potatoes are still going in as well.

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Peach trees near full bloom.  Photo from Sarah Scott.

Pee Dee

Tony Melton reports, “Hurrying to get greens planted before the rain.  Most sweet potato beds are in.  Picking strawberries, but botrytis is bad because of all the rain and cloudy weather.  Some are looking to start planting butterbeans soon to get ahead of the summer heat.  Soil temperatures are good but, we never know about late frosts.  It looks like we have some thinning of flowers/fruit on peaches with the cold temperatures, however, right now we still have a good crop.”

Upstate

Kerrie Roach reports, “We are starting to see some beautiful peach blooms here in the Upstate. The ‘Belle of Georgia’ blooms are at about 80% in Long Creek as of Thursday. Lots of honeybees were out doing their work.”

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Honeybee foraging peach blooms. Photo from Kerrie Roach.

COVID-19 Protective Measures for U-Pick Farms

From Clemson Food Safety Agent, Chad Carter.  Chad has also distributed these plans (Handwashing_station_instructions-1) for constructing handwashing stations for field workers and U-pick customers. 

As COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) is being monitored across the State of South Carolina, growers have questions as to whether to continue operations, especially at U-Pick farms. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN reports that “While COVID-19 is not known to be a foodborne illness, usual good practice as regards handling of animals and good food hygiene throughout the food chain are essential for public health and will aid in the prevention and control of infectious diseases.”  It is important that growers enforce good personal hygiene policies on farm which include frequent and proper handwashing, not working on or visiting farms when ill, and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends these basic protective measures.

  • Wash your hands frequently

Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub.

Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands. It is important to pay close attention to thoroughly cleaning the entire surface of your hands and paying attention to areas between the fingers, knuckles and the back of your hands.

  • Maintain social distancing

Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.  Remember, that the virus must enter your body through some mechanism for you to become contaminated – that includes being near someone else who is sick or touching your face with contaminated hands.

  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth

Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.

  • Practice respiratory hygiene

Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.

  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.

 

Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider

Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

 

For Additional Information:

WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

FAO: http://www.fao.org/2019-ncov/en/

SCDHEC: https://www.scdhec.gov/health/infectious-diseases/viruses/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

EFSA: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/coronavirus-no-evidence-food-source-or-transmission-route

Cornell Ag Workforce Development: https://agworkforce.cals.cornell.edu/2020/03/12/novel-coronavirus-prevention-control-for-farms/?fbclid=IwAR33L94TtqPQYynR0nHh7VliLGawWaeRCcM_APvei8c2ExtIYEZZWBWjg38