I have been waiting to write the 2020 review, to make sure it was actually gone.
2020 was the year that turned everything upside down and added stress to every part of our lives. Last year was a busy year for MGGC as we tried to make sure the greenhouse industry was not negatively affected by the COVID-19 virus and the closing of almost everything. Our retail outlets were closed for a while by the Governor and that is when MGGC went to work with a communications plan to put pressure on the state to allow the sales of greenhouse goods and products. Thanks to the hard work of our members around the state on tv, radio, and newspapers telling their plans of how to operate and still keep employees and customers safe, we were able to get our retail businesses open within 3 days! The response from the public was tremendous and most of the MGGC members were able to have a very good year. The Michigan Department of Treasury was trying to charge sales tax to one of our members for a new greenhouse structure, so we went to work to educate the department on what the law says about this. MGGC hired an attorney to fight the Michigan Department of Treasury for our members and establish once and for all that greenhouse structures are agriculture and are not subject to sales tax. Our attorney reminded the Department of Treasury what the law states and they dropped their request for sales tax to be paid. Another big win for the greenhouse industry! When the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were offered by the Federal government, MGGC made sure all of our members were kept up to speed on what was being offered and how to participate in the forgivable loans for their business. I was able to work directly with Senator Stabenow’s office to make sure that greenhouses were added to the specialty crops in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), as they were not listed in the original CFAP legislation. We were successful in getting greenhouses added within a month, so the dollars were available to be applied for by our members. This was an opportunity for greenhouses to make up some of the added costs for the PPE protections they had to supply to their workers. MGGC was also able to help our members find PPE when it was getting difficult to access enough supplies for their workers. The discussion about a possible greenhouse crop insurance is on-going. Watts and Associates has hosted several virtual conversations to gather information and form a report for the RMA. They are trying to put something together that is cost effective and gives coverage in case of a government ordered destruction of your crops. This is the study that was in the 2018 Farm Bill and MGGC is working with many associations around the nation to find a solution that works for the industry. Make sure you check out the Grower to Grower Marketplace on our website. You can list items for sale which you no longer need or are long on. You may also find something useful for your business that someone else no longer needs. Remember that as a MGGC member you have many benefits available to you through your free SBAM membership. Log in to www.SBAM.org to see if any of them work for your business. If you have not become a member yet or know someone who would be interested in becoming a member of MGGC – The only greenhouse specific association in the state, please let Cindy or me know and we will send out some information on membership.
Happy Holidays to everyone. Wednesday, Governor Whitmer announced an extension of the current COVID-19 restrictions for an additional 12 days, through December 20. While the numbers are starting to trend down in recent days, Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun says the case rate is still “alarmingly high.” We are seeing over 100 deaths on some days, she said, more than seven times the rate we were seeing in early October. We need to make sure everyone is following the proper protections for their employees and customers to help stop the spread.
If you have not applied for the CFAP 2, you should do it immediately as the final day is December 11. This federal program has helped many of our members and does not seem to take a lot of time to fill out. This is a too good to be true thing that is actually something that is true. Contact your Farm Services Agency representative for assistance with your application.
Next year will be critical to be a member of MGGC to make sure the greenhouse industry is strong in Michigan so that our voice is being heard loud and clear. There is strength in numbers, and we need everyone now more than ever to help stand up for the industry. If you have any neighbors, friends, or vendors who are not members, now is the time to let them know how important it is for them to belong to the only greenhouse specific statewide association in Michigan. We have information we can send you to share with them, just let us know what you need.
I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season!
I have just received some good news for anyone filing for the CFAP 2. The new guidance that USDA has issued today says:
“Be aware that for sales values on Greenhouse plants this will include the costs of the pots (not decorative), soil and tags which are a necessary part of the plant and shall be included in total sales of the “raw” product.”
The good news for most of you is this will increase your payments. The only items excluded at this time would be decorative pots that add value, sales tax, and any fully grown plants purchased for resale that you didn’t grow yourself. This means if you may have to revise your CFAP2 application to include the new factor of the cost of soil, basic pots and tags. There was also an update to the CFAP2 handbook on how the payment limitation and how that is calculated. If multiple members make up your entity, each member can now receive the full $250,000 payment even if one member has a 90% interest and the other has only 10% interest. If you have filed or are working on your application, contact your USDA – Farm Service Agency representative soon.
If you have not looked into the CFAP2 filing, you should contact your FSA representative to see if it will help your business. This is a too good to be true program, but it is true. Look into it soon before the deadline passes.
Have you filled out your application for the CFAP 2 yet? If not, you need to look into it ASAP. The application window closes on December 11, 2020 and from preliminary conversations I have had, it is well worth it. You can find the application at https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/apply. It is available online, manual or the USDA can assist you with it. Greenhouses have reported receiving up to 8% of last years total sales from the program. If you have any questions or need assistance with finding your USDA farm service person, call Cindy at 517-367-2033 and she will help you find the answers you need.
This week’s Tuesday Tidbit outlines the new MIOSHA workplace standards and includes a sample COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and a reopening checklist to help businesses put safeguards in place. If you did not receive the Tuesday Tidbit this week or it went into your spam filter you can access it HERE. Remember, even though the Governor’s Executive Orders are no longer in place, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued orders that mirror the Governor’s orders and include testing of employees if you have over 20 and daily health screenings of your employees.
Make sure you check out the Member Marketplace on the website for items or products you may need or want to sell. It has been very successful in helping members sell things they no longer need. You can list products you are long on or products you are looking for on the Marketplace also.
Goeff Hansen Executive Director MainStreet@sbam.org | 231-301-4888
Lansing—The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced today the Michigan recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The program offers federal funding to state departments of agriculture to support the specialty crop industry. Grants focus on marketing, training, certifications, food safety, pest control, and plant health for specialty crops, including fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, plants and/or flowers.
“Unlike commodities such as grain, cotton, and oilseed, specialty crops do not receive direct aid from the farm bill, so these grants are critical for Michigan’s specialty crop industry,” said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. “And even though these are federal grants, they pass through the state departments of agriculture to help ensure the funds are allocated based on each state’s unique needs. It’s a great program, and we’re proud to help support Michigan’s specialty crop producers.”
Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council – Greenhouse Growers Seek Innovative Solutions to Control Botrytis Blight, $70,000. Dr. Roberto Lopez and Dr. Mary Hausbeck of Michigan State University will conduct this research.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) within the Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) is one of the first state OSHA programs to promulgate rules which clarify the safety requirements employers must follow to protect their employees from COVID-19. Governor Gretchen Whitmer today signed her concurrence of the need for a comprehensive set of Emergency Rules that will help protect Michigan workers, businesses, customers and communities from the spread of COVID-19.
Under the Emergency Rules, businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of personal protection equipment (PPE), steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions.
MIOSHA’s Emergency Rules implement workplace safeguards for all Michigan businesses and specific requirements for industries, including manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, exercise facilities, restaurants and bars.
The rules establish workplace safety requirements and employers should coordinate these requirements with the Emergency Order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and childcare facilities, placing capacity limitations on stores, bars and other public venues and providing safer workplaces.
To reduce confusion following last Friday’s Supreme Court decision, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) has issued orders that mirror executive orders that prevent and control the spread of COVID-19.
This order covers the following:
Masks must be worn over nose and mouth in gatherings of two or more people, including stores, offices, schools and events. Businesses cannot admit people without masks, with few exceptions.
Capacity limits apply to indoor and outdoor gatherings, including business, social and recreational settings. They’re stricter inside.
Restaurants and bars must limit capacity for gatherings, and may only serve alcohol to parties who are seated, 6 feet apart, and stay separate.
Employees who are in isolation or quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure, symptoms or test results cannot go to work with others, or be required to go to work with others.
The new “CFAP-2” funds are available irrespective of whether a producer applied for or received funding under the original CFAP. USDA has streamlined and refined its approach for various commodities; for nursery and floriculture, 2019 sales are the basis for calculating payment. Visit https://www.farmers.gov/cfap/nursery for USDA Floriculture specific guidelines.
Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21st and run through December 11, 2020.
Although those segments of agriculture were not part of CFAP 1, Michigan Farm Bureau Horticulture Specialist Audrey Sebolt says USDA made allowances in CFAP 2, based on industry feedback, to provide nursery and greenhouse operators financial assistance to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. “Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers of eligible commodities are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales,” Sebolt added. “Eligible sales only include sales of raw commodities grown by the producer.” According to Sebolt, sales derived from adding value to the commodity, such as processing and packaging, or from sales of products purchased for resale are not eligible for CFAP 2 payment calculations. Continue reading Michigan Farm News Article HERE.
Details on application process with the USDA’s Farm Service Agency can be found HERE.
Late yesterday afternoon, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an Emergency Order restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and places limitations on bars and other venues. Under MCL 333.2253, if the MDHHS director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. The order is in effect until October 30.
The top aspects of the order include:
Requirements to wear masks at indoor and outdoor gatherings: The order requires individuals to wear masks when in gatherings, defined as any occurrence where persons from multiple households are present in a shared space in a group of two or more, and requires businesses and government offices to enforce those requirements for gatherings on their premises. The order also requires the wearing of masks at schools, except for in Michigan Economic Recovery Council Region 6.
Limitations on the size of gatherings: The order reinstates limitations on gathering sizes that mirror the requirements that Governor Whitmer had previously put in place. These include indoor gatherings of more than 10 and up to 500 people occurring at a non-residential venue are permitted with limits.
Limitations on certain establishments: Although the order does not close bars, it requires them to close indoor common areas where people can congregate, dance or otherwise mingle. Indoor gatherings are prohibited anywhere alcoholic beverages are sold except for table services where parties are separated from one another by at least six feet.
Athletes training or competing in an organized sport must wear a facial covering, except when swimming, or consistently maintain six feet of social distance.
The Michigan Legislature is looking to return to session late this week or early next week as Republican leadership hurriedly compiles bills that codify certain executive orders issued by Gov. Whitmer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the top priorities are protecting workers receiving unemployment insurance benefits, ensuring COVID-19 testing procedures and allowing local governments to meet remotely for the time being.
As everyone probably knows, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the Governor’s Executive Orders on COVID -19 have been unconstitutional after the original declaration of emergency. The court ruled 7-0 that the Governor needed to consult and work with the Legislature after the 28 days based on the 1976 Emergency Management Act that governs the emergency declaration. The Governor was following the 1945 Emergency Powers of Governors Act, to continue issuing declarations of emergency after the initial 28 days and this was ruled unconstitutional in a 4-3 ruling. This has created quite a stir trying to figure out when the Supreme Court ruling takes place. On Friday the Governor referenced a 21 day period that the COVID-19 declarations would remain in effect and many measures will continue under “alternative sources of authority.” This has been challenged by many saying that everything ended when the Supreme Court made their ruling. This is probably true but we still have to be vigilant and follow the MIOSHA guidelines that are in place to protect our employees and customers from harm. This means still supplying PPE and having measures in place to lessen the chance of transmission of the virus. Local Health Departments will step in and put rules in place for their county, but there are also questions on the legality.
Remember, the absence of executive orders does not mean the absence of COVID-19. The CDC guidelines are still in effect: Prepare your Small Business and Employees for the Effects of COVID-19. You can still enforce mask use and social distancing on private property, if you wish. Use an abundance of caution and common sense during these uncertain times. We want all businesses to stay open, safe, and COVID free. Everyone has spent a considerable amount of time and money to make sure their business is safe and is able to follow the guidelines that were in the Executive Orders. Even though the Executive Orders are not enforceable, many of the same guidelines are in the MIOSHA rules to keep your employees safe. Follow this link for OSHA rules: Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19
On another note, MDARD has sent out a letter to plant groups saying they are asking to increase the plant inspection fees. I will forward the letter as soon as I receive a copy.