At one of the busiest times for farmers in Caldwell County, their lifeline for support and information moved to the internet and phone only amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But their local office for government assistance has after three months of limited interaction reopened to face-to-face dealings.
Caldwell/Lyon County USDA Service Center on Parkway Drive is now permitted to conduct Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service business in person in the office. However, those will be by appointment only, according to center Executive Director Carla Harper, and other restrictions will apply.
Farming in Caldwell County is a huge part of the local economy, accounting for about $51 million annually. That includes about $2.6 million in yearly government subsidies.
Visitors will be pre-screened based on health concerns or recent travel and must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Face coverings are encouraged but not required for in-office appointments.
Program delivery staff will also continue to work with producers by phone and using online tools for those who do not feel comfortable coming to the Service Center in person.
Online services are still available to customers, including the new Box and OneSpan functionality that enable customers to sign and share FSA and NRCS documents with USDA Service Center staff in just a few clicks. Producers can get started with a simple username and password for Box or, for OneSpan, a quick identity verification.
Additional services are available to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments.
Through the FSA website, customers can access certain FSA programs and view FSA data, including maps, on FSAfarm+. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in.
For the most current updates on program flexibilities due to the coronavirus visit farmers.gov/coronavirus.