Federal Engagement Opportunities

2021 Opportunities

Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG) Listening Session – October 6th

The Department is specifically interested in recommendations to improve the application process and eligibility requirements for the Value-Added Producer Grant Program. The program helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities to help process and market new products. This program helps to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities and increase producer income.

USDA is seeking comments on:

  • Ways to measure the economic and market impact of post-harvest activities.
  • Whether USDA should allow applicants to write their business plans without assistance from qualified business consultants.
  • When USDA should set the application deadline.
  • Ways the department can help rural businesses meet food safety requirements and purchase food safety equipment.

USDA will hold a virtual listening session on these topics on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. Interested parties may register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/574045542162812683.

Written comments on proposed changes to the program must be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Oct. 25, 2021. For additional information, see page 47284 of the Aug. 24, 2021, Federal Register.

Investments and Opportunities for Meat and Poultry Processing Infrastructure – Due August 30th

“On July 9, USDA announced it will commit $500 million of USDA’s Build Back Better Initiative funds through the American Rescue Plan to support new competitive entrants in meat and poultry processing. USDA will provide grants, loans, and technical assistance to address concentration within the meat and poultry sectors and relieve supply chain bottlenecks by supporting new meat and poultry processing facilities.”

USDA has issued a Request for Information to solicit public input into its strategy to improve meat and poultry processing infrastructure, and the RFI is now available on regulations.gov and through the Federal Register.

EPA Intention to Revise the Definition of “Waters of the United States”

Learn about the history, development, and importance of the Waters of the United States definition HERE.

EPA has released a “schedule for initial public meetings to hear from interested stakeholders on their perspectives on defining “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act and how to implement that definition as the agencies pursue this process. The agencies are also accepting written recommendations from members of the public and are planning further opportunities for engagement.  Future opportunities will include 10 geographically focused roundtables that will provide for broad, transparent, regionally focused discussions among a full spectrum of stakeholders.”

Download the pre-publication notice.

NIH accepting comments on RFI titled “Improving the Mental Health of Rural People” – Due April 15, 2021

NIH is currently accepting comments to a Request for Information titled, Improving the Mental Health of Rural People.  Given Extension’s vested interest and experience in rural mental health, your insight to this RFI would be exceptionally helpful to the NIH.  For anyone wishing to provide a response to the RFI, please submit electronic comments to the submission website by the April 15 deadline.

USDA Seeks Public Input to Help Create a New Rural Renewable Energy Pilot Program – Due April 29, 2021

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (PL116-260) provided $10 million to USDA to develop a pilot program that provides financial assistance to rural communities to further develop renewable energy. This request for information and the stakeholder listening session seek input to help develop options for the Rural Renewable Energy Pilot Program. The new program will aim to support the Nation’s critical energy needs, and combat climate change while advancing environmental justice, racial equity, and economic opportunity through the use of distributed energy technologies, innovations, and/or solutions.

The stakeholder listening session will be held virtually on Thursday, April 22, 2021, 2 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. EDT. Anyone can RSVP to participate online. 

Public comment is requested on the following topics:

  • Program purposes, goals, metrics, and standards;
  • Eligible applicants, participants, partners including but not limited to communities, residencies, industry, and commercial entities;
  • Eligible technologies including but not limited to generation, storage, controller, and grid;
  • Potential impact of the pilot program and renewable energy systems more broadly on each of the following: environmental justice, racial equity, and economic opportunity; and
  • Options to measure and maximize the benefits of renewable energy systems for environmental justice, racial equity, and economic opportunity in rural areas.

Written comments are encouraged and must be submitted online by April 29, 2021, via the Federal eRulemaking Portal. To submit a comment, visit http://www.regulations.gov and search for the Docket ID RBS–21–Business–0010. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. All comments received will be posted without change and will be publicly available on regulations.gov.

For additional information on the request for information and listening session, see page 16575 of the March 30, 2021, Federal Register.

Request for Public Comment on the Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad – Due April 29, 2021

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. This Executive Order laid out a series of actions for Federal Agencies to take regarding climate change mitigation and resilience, including directing the Secretary of Agriculture to collect stakeholder input on a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy. As part of this process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking input from the public to ensure that relevant information is considered. USDA is interested in your comments in response to the topics, categories and questions shown in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this notice.

Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time April 29, 2021.

Submit comments: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/03/16/2021-05287/notice-of-request-for-public-comment-on-the-executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) seeks comments regarding the development, coordination and implementation of grant programs related to COVID-19 – Due March 31, 2021

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) seeks comments regarding the development, coordination and implementation of grant programs to support food processing, distribution, seafood processing, farmers markets, and producers and other businesses identified in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The legislation directs USDA to use these grant funds to help businesses respond to coronavirus, including for measures to protect workers against COVID-19.

Comments can be submitted through midnight ET on March 31, 2021, via online portal or by email to [email protected]. We welcome feedback from all interested parties, and we appreciate early response. Additional information is available on the AMS website.”

A listening session will be held on March 19th from 2pm-5pm ET. You must register by March 16th to provide oral comments. Register here.

NRCS Seeks Public Comments on Conservation Practice Standards – Due March 24, 2021

“NRCS is seeking public comments on the conservation practice standards listed below. For your comparison, copies of current and proposed/revised versions are shown. The standards are posted in Adobe Acrobat format and may be downloaded and saved to your hard drive. Please add your comments and then email your copy as an attachment  to Jonathan Longenecker or Nancy Ferlow by March 24, 2021.

The following documents require Adobe Acrobat. Should you wish to comment using Microsoft Word, please contact Jonathan Longenecker or Nancy Ferlow to request the file(s) in that format.

Current Connecticut Conservation Practice StandardsProposed Connecticut Conservation Practice Standards
Herbaceous Weed Treatment (2018) – Code 315Herbaceous Weed Treatment (2020) – Code 315
Prescribed Burning (2010) – Code 338Prescribed Burning (2020) – Code 338
Groundwater Testing (2015) – Code 355Groundwater Testing (2020) – Code 355
Riparian Forest Buffer (2010) – Code 391Riparian Forest Buffer (2020) – Code 391
Dam (2011) – Code 402Dam (2020) – Code 402
Grade Stabilization Structure (2017) – Code 410Grade Stabilization Structure (2020) – Code 410
Tree Shrub Site Preparation (2013) – Code 490Tree Shrub Site Preparation (2020) – Code 490
Forage Harvest Management (2010) – Code 511Forage Harvest Management (2020) – Code 511
Forage and Biomass Planting (2010) – Code 512Pasture Hay Planting (2020) – Code 512
Streambank and Shoreline Protection (2011) – Code 580Streambank and Shoreline Protection (2020) – Code 580
Pest Management Conservation System (2010)  – Code 595Pest Management Conservation System (2019) – Code 595
Water Well (2016) – Code 642Water Well (2020) – Code 642
 Dam Diversion (2020) – Code 348
 Drainage Water Management (2020) – Code 554

Information obtained through the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

USDA Seeks Public Input on Guidance Defining Nonindustrial Private Forest Land Eligibility – Due January 19, 2021

  • GOAL: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public input on Nonindustrial Private Forest Land (NIPF) related to technical and financial assistance available through conservation programs of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).”
  • MATERIALS: “NRCS invites input on this technical guidance through January 19, 2021. Electronic comments must be submitted through regulations.gov under Docket ID NRCS–2020–0009. All written comments received will be publicly available on http://www.regulations.gov