Organic producers and handlers can now apply for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds to assist with the cost of receiving or maintaining organic certification. Applications for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program (OCCSP) are due Nov. 1, 2021.
“USDA is here to help all producers, including those who grow our nation’s organic food and fiber. Many farmers have told us that cost was a barrier to their ability to get an organic certification,” said Zach Ducheneaux, administrator of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA). “By assisting with the costs, this program can help organic farmers get their certification along with the benefits that come with it.”
OCCSP provides cost-share assistance to producers and handlers of agricultural products for the costs of obtaining or maintaining organic certification under the USDA’s National Organic Program. Eligible producers include any certified producers or handlers who have paid organic certification fees to a USDA-accredited certifying agent during the 2021 and any subsequent program year. Producers can be reimbursed for expenses made between Oct. 1, 2020 and Sept. 30, 2021 including application fees, inspection costs, fees related to equivalency agreement and arrangement requirements, travel expenses for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments and postage.
For 2021, OCCSP will reimburse 50% of a certified operation’s allowable certification costs, up to a maximum of $500 for each of the following categories (or “scopes”):
· wild crops
· State organic program fees.
Organic farmers and ranchers may apply through an FSA county office or a participating state agency.
This funding will be complemented by an additional $20 million for organic and transitioning producers through the Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. More information on that funding will be available in the coming weeks.
To learn more about organic certification cost share, please visit the OCCSP webpage, visit usda.gov/organic, or contact your local USDA Service Center.
In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit http://www.usda.gov.
In response to Tropical Storm Fred, Governor Roy Cooper issued a State of Emergency today to activate the state’s emergency operations plan and waive transportation rules to help first responders and the agriculture industry.
“This state of emergency will allow our first responders to get into our affected communities quickly to save lives, restore power, remove debris and bring supplies,” said Governor Cooper. “North Carolina is strong and resilient, and we’re committed to helping people and businesses recover as quickly as possible.”
Executive Order 227 waives the size and weight requirements for vehicles carrying emergency relief supplies or services to assist with the restoration of utility services, debris removal and emergency relief efforts. The Order also helps North Carolinians harvest and transport their crops more quickly, by temporarily suspending weighing of vehicles used to transport livestock, poultry or crops ready to be harvested. The Council of State concurred with the Order today.
Nearly a foot of rain has fallen over the past three days in some areas of Western North Carolina, from the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred and the rains that preceded it, and record flooding is occurring. Haywood County appears to be the most severely impacted, where historic flooding is happening along the Pigeon River. More than 98 people have already been rescued from floodwaters in western counties. Local officials in Haywood County estimate approximately 30 people are currently missing, and water systems in Canton and Clyde have been impacted and boil water advisories are in effect.
North Carolina Emergency Management has deployed swift water rescue teams from across the state to Western North Carolina, and National Guard and Highway Patrol helicopter crews are conducting searches. More than 250 responders from across the state are involved in the search and rescue effort.
Haywood, Jackson, McDowell, Madison, Mitchell, Rutherford, Transylvania and Yancey counties have all declared local states of emergency. Utility companies are working to restore power after outages peaked at about 50,000 customers Tuesday night. There are currently approximately 11,600 outages reported.
Read the Executive Order.
Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH) is hosting a Collective Goods book and gift fair August 17 and 18. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the EWCH Auxiliary.
The pop-up event will feature a variety of merchandise and will take place on Tuesday, August, 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday, August 18, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Collective Goods creates retail events around the country that support local communities, specifically in the areas of education, healthcare and non-profit organizations.
“The auxiliary members are eager to bring this popular fundraiser to the community,” said Bob Bessey, EWCH Volunteer and Gift Shop Supervisor. “Collective Goods never disappoints in the variety of merchandise that they bring.”
The fair will take place in the former nursing home dining room. Parking is available at the hospital back entrance. Cash, debit cards and credit cards will be accepted. Payroll deduction will also be available for EWCH employees who wish to purchase items. All individuals must wear a mask while inside the building.
For more information about volunteer opportunities available at EWCH, please visit erlanger.org/volunteering.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ vaccine data dashboard now includes county-level vaccination information from federal providers, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Prisons and Indian Health Service.
The data is included on the dashboard’s "People Vaccinated by County of Residence" map. The new data provides a more accurate representation of vaccinations in North Carolina’s counties.
The new data is only available for vaccine totals at the state and county levels. It is not yet available for the "Doses Administered by Week" or the "Demographics Data" sections. Data for these two sections comes only from North Carolina's COVID-19 Vaccine Management System, which only includes information from providers who report data directly to the state. Therefore, these sections of the dashboard undercount the true number of doses administered to North Carolina residents.
Additionally, a new dropdown will be available on the county map allowing users to view data for the following demographics: Total Population, Population 12+ Years of Age, Population 18+ Years of Age and Population 65+ Years of Age. The vaccine data dashboard is updated every weekday. For more information and to view the NCDHHS vaccine data dashboard, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/dashboard/vaccinations.
Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital (EWCH) welcomes Bob Bessey as volunteer services and hospital gift shop supervisor.
Bessey has worked in various health care roles for over 30 years, and the last 15 of which he served working with and leading a group of hospital volunteers in Greensboro, N.C. In his new role as volunteer services supervisor, Bessey is responsible for operations of the hospital’s Giving Tree gift shop and the auxiliary group, as well as overseeing volunteer services and its community relations activities.
Volunteer roles at EWCH are currently available. Volunteers are asked to serve at least one day per week for two to four hours. Areas in which volunteers are needed include the gift shop, nursing units, radiology, cardio-pulmonary rehab, and general support roles. All volunteer roles require basic mobility and problem-solving skills, as well as a health screening conducted by EWCH.
“I’m thrilled to be able to work with such an amazing team of volunteers at EWCH,” said Bessey. “This community is full of compassionate and caring people who have all welcomed me, and I hope we can engage some of those individuals as volunteers as well.”
The Giving Tree gift shop is managed by EWCH volunteers. Profits generated by the shop are given back to the local community in the form of gifts to assist special programs and services at the hospital. The gift shop is open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Bob brings terrific experience to our program,” said Emilia Jones, Erlanger’s volunteer services director. “We are eager to grow the program in western North Carolina, and we look forward to continuing to support the needs of the local community.”
For more information about volunteering at Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital or to apply, visit erlanger.org/volunteering or call 828-837-8161.
When Mountain Heritage Day makes a triumphant return to the Western Carolina University campus on Saturday, Sept. 25, it will come with a full day of live music.
The annual festival of Southern Appalachian traditions and culture is renowned as a showcase of bluegrass, old-time and traditional music, as well as family activities, vendors and the region’s finest arts and crafts. The 2020 festival was an abbreviated, virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have the perfect lineup for us to get back in front of a live audience. Many of our favorites are returning and we get to welcome some new artists, too,” said Christy Ashe, WCU special events director and festival chair. “We will be following COVID-19 protocols and are actively encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, so we can actually return to being together in this celebration.”
Ashe announced the schedule for the Blue Ridge Stage:
“Mountain Heritage Day allows us to share culture,” said Uncle Ted White of the Whitewater Bluegrass Band. “It is so important that it includes children, so we can keep traditions alive. That is what Mountain Heritage Day does every year, bringing us together and creating a legacy for coming generations.”
There will also be the Circle Tent and the Children’s Tent with continual performances, including workshops, sing-alongs, storytelling, and a community square dance, along with children’s play-party activities. Ann Woodford will bring alive local stories of the African American community; the Deitz Family, who played bluegrass and mountain folk songs at the first festival up until now; the Pressley Girls, an authentic Appalachian duet from Brasstown who have tight harmonies in classic tunes; and Sparky and Rhonda Rucker tell stories of their southern Appalachian roots and the African American component, with Jack Tales, ghost stories, preacher yarns and Br’er Rabbit stories. Will Ritter will play interludes and provide music for the square dancing.
For more information and updates, go to www.mountainheritageday.com.
North Carolina to Require Vaccine Verification for State Employees, Urges Other Government Agencies and Private Employers to do the Same
Today, Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. announced that state government would begin verifying vaccination status of its workers. Employees not vaccinated are required to wear a mask and be tested at least once a week. Today’s announcement comes as North Carolina’s latest upswing in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is driven by unvaccinated North Carolinians.
“Until more people get the vaccine, we will continue living with the very real threat of serious disease, and we will continue to see more dangerous and contagious variants like Delta,” said Governor Cooper.
NCDHHS updated guidance encourages private sector businesses to, at a minimum, verify vaccination status for their workers as well. The requirement for state government employees applies to cabinet agencies and is included in Executive Order 224.
“There is only one way out of this pandemic and that is vaccination. Our trends are accelerating at an alarmingly fast rate and the highest rates of viral spread are happening in areas with low vaccination rates and among those who are not fully vaccinated,” said Secretary Cohen. “If you are already vaccinated, I call on you to urge your unvaccinated family and friends to get their shot now. It is not an understatement to say that you will save lives by doing so.”
The NCDHHS updated guidance reminds unvaccinated people that they need to continue practicing the three Ws – wear a mask in all indoor public settings, wait six feet apart in all public settings and wash hands often. In addition, unvaccinated people should not gather with other unvaccinated people who do not live with them. If they do, they should stay outside and keep 6 feet of distance. In addition, unvaccinated people should not travel.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new mask guidance this week based on levels of transmission in communities. The new maps designate counties as areas of low (blue), moderate (yellow), substantial (orange) or high (red) transmission. Moving forward, everyone in a red or orange county in North Carolina, including those who have been vaccinated, should wear a mask in public indoor settings.
Additionally, in accordance with the updated CDC guidance, all K-12 schools should require universal masking, regardless of vaccination status. NCDHHS is updating its guidance for schools to align with this recommendation.
To date, North Carolina has administered nearly 9.8 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 57 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. 61 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 86 percent of North Carolinians 65 and over.
Learn more about the state’s vaccine distribution at myspot.nc.gov (English) or Vacunate.nc.gov (Spanish). Details on the Your Shot at $1 Million Summer Cash Drawing can be found at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/summervaxcash. Use NCDHHS’ online tool Find a Vaccine Location to find a nearby vaccine site. Call the state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 888-675-4567.
Read the Executive Order.
Read a Frequently Asked Questions document.
COVID-19 Cases Rapidly Increasing in Unvaccinated North Carolinians; Hospitalizations Doubled in Two Weeks
More Counties Now Have Substantial Community Spread in