Author Archives: Dan Olmstead

USDA Announces Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

(Washington, D.C., April 17, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). This new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program will take several actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. President Trump directed USDA to craft this $19 billion immediate relief program to provide critical support to our farmers and ranchers, maintain the integrity of our food supply chain, and ensure every American continues to receive and have access to the food they need.

“The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers. This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.”

  1. CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.
  2. CFAP will use the funding and authorities provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and other USDA existing authorities. The program includes two major elements to achieve these goals.

On top of these targeted programs USDA will utilize other available funding sources to purchase and distribute food to those in need.

  • USDA has up to an additional $873.3 million available in Section 32 funding to purchase a variety of agricultural products for distribution to food banks. The use of these funds will be determined by industry requests, USDA agricultural market analysis, and food bank needs.
  • The FFCRA and CARES Act provided an at least $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases. The use of these funds will be determined by food bank need and product availability.

Further details regarding eligibility, rates, and other implementation will be released at a later date.

Additional Background:

USDA has taken action during the COVID-19 national emergency to make sure children and families are fed during a time of school closures and job losses, as well as increase flexibilities and extensions in USDA’s farm programs to ensure the U.S. food supply chain remains safe and secure.

Feeding Kids and Families

  • USDA expanded flexibilities and waivers in all 50 states and territories to ensure kids and families who need food can get it during this national emergency.
  • USDA is partnering with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver more than 1,000,000 meals a week to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19.
  • USDA authorized Pandemic EBT in Michigan and Rhode Island, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school.
  • USDA expanded an innovative SNAP online grocery purchase pilot program in Arizona and CaliforniaFlorida and Idaho, and DC and North Carolina, in addition to Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Washington.

Actions to Ensure a Strong Food Supply Chain

Whole of Government Response in Rural America

  • USDA released The COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide (PDF, 349 KB), a first-of-its-kind resource for rural leaders looking for federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address this pandemic.
  • USDA opened a second application window (April 14, 2020 to July 13, 2020) for $72 million of funding under the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.
  • USDA Rural Development lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees, and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees.
  • USDA will use the $100 million provided for the ReConnect Program in the CARES Act to invest in qualified 100 percent grant projects.

For all the information on USDA’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic and resources available, please visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.


The New York State IPM Program and Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University are committed to providing ongoing support for NEWA online resources across our entire coverage area during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff and programmers are now working remotely to ensure the models and tools critical to your operation are available throughout the 2020 growing season.

Please contact any time with problems or questions. Our support staff will create a ticket to track your issue until resolution, within the constraints of current remote working requirements.

Readers in New York State should visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) to find guidance and resources for the Ag community.

Visit the CCE EDEN Website

Other resources are also available from Cornell University for agricultural businesses.

Food Production, Processing & Safety Questions

Employment & Agricultural Workforce Questions

Cornell Small Farms Resiliency Resources

Financial & Mental Health Resources for Farmers

Cornell Farmworker Program and (en espanol)

Spanish language video on Corona virus

Save time during the season with a winter weather station checkup

Well-maintained weather stations are the secret to maximizing NEWA as part of a successful crop management strategy. A good maintenance plan provides peace of mind and ensures the best possible information is used to calculate NEWA model results. Checking your machine now means you have time for repairs without the pressure of in-season activities. Read this article to give your unit a complete checkup for the 2020 growing season.

Check Your Surroundings

Barns, windbreaks, equipment and other objects in close physical proximity to your machine can interfere with many sensor measurements, affecting both their precision and accuracy. Shading from a tall tree or building will reduce solar radiation readings, affect ambient temperature, relative humidity, and even windspeed for example. Consider relocating your weather station if you think nearby structures, objects, or permaculture interfere with air flow or sunlight. A minimum distance of 100 ft is a good rule of thumb.

Clean your sensors

  • Anemometer and weather vane. Check that your wind speed and wind direction sensors move freely. If either resists movement or is stuck, consider replacement.
  • Solar radiation. Use a step ladder to closely inspect the sensor. Use a clean damp cloth to remove dirt and debris if necessary. If the protective lens looks opaque, contact your vendor to discuss replacement.
  • Rain gauge. Use a step ladder to closely inspect the rain buck interior. Carefully remove any leaves, spider webs, or other debris commonly found in clogged rain gauge sensors.
  • Temperature/relative humidity. Inspect the solar radiation shield for insect nests or spider webs. These block free airflow to the sensors housed inside. Clear debris with a soft bristle brush if necessary.
  • (Leaf) wetness. Check that the wetness sensor is secured at a 30° angle facing north. Clean debris using a clean damp cloth.
  • Soil sensors. Inspect cords leading from the computer housing to the ground for mechanical or rodent damage. Contact your vendor if parts need replacement.

Look at Your Data

Log into your weather station platform and spend a few minutes looking back at data trends over the past season. Does anything jump out at you or seem unusual? You should be looking at your raw data, either on NEWA or in your vendor’s online platform, to be familiar with how your station data ‘behaves.’ It will be easier to quickly flag issues when they arise in the future.

Know How to Reach Your Vendor

Add your vendor’s support number to Contacts in your phone. If you encounter a problem, don’t put it off. Leave a message with your supplier if their support staff are busy. Rainwise Support is 207.801.4039. Onset Support is 1.800.564.4377.

Don’t wait to get help

Our weather station vendor partners are always ready to help. But if you aren’t sure where to start, want clarification, or think there might be an issue with the NEWA site, you can reach out at any point to the NEWA Help Desk at