Ag Secretary Vilsack Provides Update on Farm Bill Implementation ProgressWed, 06 Aug 2014 14:39:57 CDT
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced continued progress on implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), which President Obama signed into law nearly six months ago on Feb. 7, 2014. The 2014 Farm Bill reforms agricultural policy, reduces the deficit, and helps grow America's economy.
"I am pleased to report that we have made tremendous progress in the first six months since the Farm Bill was signed," Vilsack said. "Thousands of farmers and ranchers have received critical disaster assistance, innovative new conservation programs are up and running, new risk management programs for producers are available with more tools to come, the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has been incorporated, and much more. Thanks to the hard work of thousands of USDA employees across the country, we are continuing to get new initiatives off the ground and make important reforms to existing programs that are helping to boost the country's economy."
Since the Farm Bill was signed into law, USDA has made progress throughout all 12 titles of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Among the first major Farm Bill initiatives to be implemented were disaster relief programs for livestock producers, many of whom have been waiting years for assistance. After the 2008 Farm Bill passed, it took over one year to set up disaster assistance programs. In 2014, it took under 10 weeks. As of July 31, 2014, approximately 165,000 claims have been processed totaling $1.85 billion disbursed through the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and Tree Assistance Program.
The 2014 Farm Bill established new risk management programs for producers, some of which USDA is in the process of developing and others that are in operation already. In May, USDA awarded $3 million to the University of Illinois, the University of Missouri and Texas A&M to develop online tools and outreach training that will help farmers and ranchers determine which new risk management options can best protect their businesses. USDA also awarded $3 million to state Cooperative Extension services to provide in-person education to help producers make the most educated decisions regarding new Farm Bill programs.
Innovative new conservation programs have also been established, including the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), an entirely new approach to conservation. RCPP brings together businesses, universities, tribes, municipalities and other non-government partners to identify and invest in creative solutions to the conservation issues in their local areas. The program has drawn an overwhelming response from partners across the nation, with more than 600 initial proposals being submitted requesting more than six times the $394 million that is available in funding for the first year. In the coming months, USDA will begin awarding funding for RCPP projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA's $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners, for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation.
Additionally, USDA recently incorporated the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and announced the appointment of a 15-member board of directors. The new foundation will leverage public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to boosting America's agricultural economy.
USDA's Farm Bill implementation team is composed of key sub-cabinet officials and experts from every mission area of the Department. Through outreach and listening sessions we are sharing information and hearing from stakeholders. To stay up-to-date on USDA's Farm Bill implementation progress, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.
The following is a detailed list of USDA's implementation progress to date:
TITLE I Commodity Programs
-- Agricultural Risk Coverage Program and Price Loss Coverage Program: On April 29, USDA began a competitive process to award funding for Farm Bill decision aids and outreach tools for the new Agricultural Risk Coverage Program and Price Loss Coverage Program. Awards totaling $6 million were announced in May 2014. On August 1, farmers and ranchers began receiving acreage history and yield updates to prepare them for later enrollment in these safety-net programs.
-- Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance: On April 14, USDA published a final rule to implement the disaster assistance provisions. Sign up for these programs began on April 15, 2014.
-- As of July 31, 2014, approximately 238,000 applications have been received and $1.85 billion in payments have been disbursed through the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and Tree Assistance Program.
-- On July 31, USDA extended the deadline for the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program to August 15, 2014.
-- On July 22, USDA announced Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) assistance for losses to bush or tree fruit crops due to frost or freeze during the 2012 crop year.
-- Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: On June 23, USDA announced new support for beginning farmers and ranchers, including waiving fees for certain disaster assistance programs, eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and increasing payment rates by 50 percent under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
-- Dairy Forward Pricing Program: On March 21, USDA re-established the Dairy Forward Pricing Program and on March 28, extended Milk Income Loss Contracts until September 1.
-- Loan Rates: On June 24, USDA announced loan rates for 2014 Crop Peanuts. County and regional loan rates were announced in a press release on March 28, 2014.
-- Extension of Programs: On March 28, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) published in the Federal Register notices for the extension of the following programs: (1) Marketing Assistance Loans; (2) Milk Income Loss Contract; (3) Dairy Indemnity Payment Program; (4) Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program; (5) Loan Deficiency Payments; and (6) Sugar.
TITLE II Conservation
-- Regional Conservation Partnership Program: In May, the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was announced. RCPP streamlines conservation efforts by combining four programs (the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, and the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion) into one. USDA will provide $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program and can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. $400 million in USDA funding is available in the first year. On August 4, USDA announced that nearly 5,000 organizations partnered together to submit nearly 600 pre-proposals by the July deadline.
-- Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program: On May 1, USDA announced the availability of $20 million through this program.
-- Conservation Programs: Applications are currently being accepted for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
-- On June 4, USDA announced the continuation of programs to conserve sensitive land and help new, minority and veteran farmers get their start in agriculture. Farmers, ranchers and landowners committed to protecting and conserving environmentally sensitive land may sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) during specified continuous sign-up periods. Secretary Vilsack also announced that retiring farmers enrolled in CRP could receive incentives to transfer a portion of their land to beginning, disadvantaged or veteran farmers through the Transition Incentives Program (TIP). TIP funding was increased by more than 30 percent in the 2014 Farm Bill, providing up to $33 million through 2018.
-- On June 19, USDA pledged $5 million to state and local partnerships in six states for accelerating tree planting along the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
-- On June 20, USDA announced that it will provide up to $25.5 million of conservation investments over the next five to ten years as part of its contribution to accelerate and focus conservation efforts that will benefit ranchers and also the distinct population of greater sage-grouse population that lives along the border of Nevada and California. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also announced a $6.5 million commitment over the next ten years to implement a wide range of priority conservation activities on the public lands it manages to improve sage-grouse habitat.
-- On June 23, USDA announced that producers with expiring CSP contracts have from July 11 until September 12, 2014 to renew and add conservation activities that will support their natural resource improvement activities and fine-tune their conservation plans.
-- On July 2, USDA announced targeted conservation funding of up to $50 million over the next five years in the Red River of the North Basin to minimize flooding, boost soil health, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat in the watershed.
-- On July 18, USDA announced a $262 million investment to rehabilitate dams that provide critical infrastructure and protect public health and safety in 26 states.
-- Conservation Compliance: On July 22, USDA updated procedures that implemented Farm Bill requirements on highly erodible land and wetland conservation for crop insurance purposes.
TITLE III Trade
-- U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Study: On May 22, USDA submitted a report to Congress on the existing market in the U.S. for the U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish.
-- Emerging Markets Program (EMP): On April 17, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) published a Notice of Funding Availability for EMP, with $10 million available in 2015. EMP applications are reviewed on a rolling basis during the fiscal year. Applications received after May 19, 2014, will be considered for funding if funding remains available.
-- Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC): On April 17, FAS published a Notice of Funding Availability for TASC, with $9 million available. On May 6, 2014, FAS published a final rule to broaden the range of projects funded by the program. Applications received after May 28, 2014, will be considered if funding remains available.
-- Market Access Program (MAP): On April 16, FAS announced the 2014 funding for the Market Access Program. Sixty-two non-profit organizations received $171.8 million in funding.
-- Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program (FMD): On April 16, FAS announced the 2014 funding for FMD, with 22 trade organizations receiving $24.6 million.
TITLE IV Nutrition Programs
-- Multiagency Taskforce on Commodity Programs: On April 24, the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (FNCS) signed a memorandum appointing members to the multi-agency taskforce to provide coordination and direction for commodity programs, and the first meeting of the taskforce was held on May 29.
-- Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Pilot: On April 7, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced an RFP for this pilot program, which will take place during the 2014-2015 school year.
-- Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetable Pilot: On July 21, USDA announced a request for applications from states interested in participating in the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables.
-- SNAP-related Provisions: On March 21, FNS released an Implementation Memorandum to States communicating major SNAP-related provisions of the Act.
-- Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP): On July 9, FNS published a final rule phasing out the eligibility of women, infants and children from CSFP.
-- Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Payments: On March 5, FNS released an Implementation Memorandum to States on the elimination of standard utility allowances in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for LIHEAP payments less than $20.
-- Community Food Projects: On February 27, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released a Notice of Funding Availability for the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program, with $5 million available.
TITLE V Credit
-- Microloans: On March 26, FSA implemented non-discretionary microloan provisions.
-- Modifications to Farm Loan Programs: On March 24, FSA implemented changes to various farm loans, such as expanding eligibility for beginning, disadvantaged and veteran farmers and urban youth, increasing maximum amounts, eliminating some term limits, and lowering some interest rates.
TITLE VI Rural Development
-- Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) and Intermediary Relending Program (IRP): On May 20, USDA announced that assistance is being provided through two USDA Rural Development (RD) programs: IRP and RMAP. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized both programs through 2018. For Fiscal Year 2014, $18.9 million in IRP loans are available, and $25.4 million in RMAP loans and grants are available. On July 31, USDA announced the selection of 10 rural microenterprises to receive grants totaling $300,000 through RMAP.
-- Business and Industry Loan Guarantee: On May 8, USDA announced that $48 million in loan guarantees for local food projects is now available through RD's Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program.
-- Definition of Rural Housing: On March 13, RD issued guidance to State Directors, field staff and stakeholders on implementing new eligibility requirements regarding the definition of rural housing. On May 5, RD published maps identifying which rural areas are eligible for housing programs.
-- Rural Cooperative Development Grants: On April 29, USDA announced the availability of $5.8 million through this program.
-- Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program: On April 22, USDA announced 116 project awards through this program. The total award of nearly $387 million included $150 million in grants supported by the Farm Bill.
-- Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG): On March 25, RD published a notice in the Federal Register extending the application period for Fiscal Year 2013 and 2014 funding for VAPG, with up to $25.5 million available for these grants.
TITLE VII Research and Related Matters
-- Pollinator Research: On August 6, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced a $6.9 million grant to Michigan State University to develop sustainable pollination strategies for specialty crops in the United States so specialty crop growers are better able to manage pollinators for improved crop yields.
-- Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR): On July 23, Secretary Vilsack announced the creation of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the appointment of a 15-member board of directors.
-- Agricultural and Food Policy Research Centers: On April 15, awards for four research centers, totaling about $4 million, were announced.
-- Non-Land Grant Colleges and Universities: On July 2, USDA announced the availability of $4 million in grants to support research, education and outreach activities at non-land-grant colleges and universities.
-- Tribal Land-Grant Colleges: On July 2, USDA announced the availability of $1.7 million in funding to improve the capacity of tribal land-grant colleges to undertake food and agriculture research.
-- Central State University: On June 23, USDA announced the availability of funds to support food and agriculture science facility improvement at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. CSU was designated as an 1890 land-grant university in the 2014 Farm Bill.
-- Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative: On March 17, NIFA released a Notice of Funding Availability for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, with $20 million available in FY 2014.
-- Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI)/Citrus Disease Research: On March 17, NIFA released a Notice of Funding Availability for SCRI, with $76.8 million available in FY 2014. On June 12, USDA announced the availability of $25 million in SCRI funding for research and Cooperative Extension Service projects to combat huanglongbing (HLB), commonly known as citrus greening disease. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $25 million per year for a total of $125 million of the USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative funding toward citrus health research over the next five years.
-- Citrus Disease Subcommittee: A subcommittee has been formally established within the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board, under the Specialty Crop Committee. On May 13, USDA announced new appointments to the Citrus Disease Subcommittee.
-- Budget Submission and Funding: On March 10, REE submitted its first Budget Submission and Funding report to Congress. The second report was submitted on May 6.
-- Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP): On April 11, USDA announced the availability of more than $19 million in grants to help train, educate, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of agricultural producers through the BFRDP, including funding for a cooperative agreement to maintain an online clearinghouse to make information available.
-- Sun Grant Program: On June 13, NIFA announced the availability of $2.5 million in grants to enhance national energy security through the development of bio-based transportation fuels, biopower, and new bio-based products.
TITLE VIII Forestry
-- Insect and Disease Infestation: On March 19, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell sent a letter to all state governors notifying them of the opportunity to submit requests for designating their priority insect and disease areas for treatment. On May 20, Secretary Vilsack announced action to combat insects and diseases that weaken forests and increase fire risk. FS has published a final rule implementing section 8006.
TITLE IX Energy
-- BioPreferred: USDA published a final rule that would allow traditional biobased products, including forest products, to be eligible for the BioPreferred program if these products apply an innovative approach during its lifecycle. On August 1, USDA's BioPreferred program held a public meeting to discuss incorporating mature market (wood) products into the BioPreferred program.
-- Biodiesel Fuel Education Program: On May 6, NIFA announced availability of $960,000 for grants to educate consumers about the benefits of biodiesel fuel use.
-- Rural Energy for America Program: On May 5, USDA published a notice of funding availability announcing the availability of approximately $70 million in funding for loan guarantees and grants.
-- Biomass Crop Assistance Program: On June 9, USDA announced support for agriculture producers and energy facilities working to turn renewable biomass materials into clean energy. Of the total $25 million per year authorized for BCAP, the 2014 Farm Bill provides up to 50 percent ($12.5 million) each year for matching payments for the harvest and transportation of biomass residues. BCAP matching payments will resume this summer, while crop incentives will begin in 2015. On July 23, USDA announced 36 energy facilities that were selected to accept biomass deliveries.
-- Repowering Assistance Program: RD announced it is accepting applications from companies seeking to offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems. USDA plans to make up to $12 million in payments for eligible biorefineries through RD's Repowering Assistance Program.
TITLE X Horticulture
-- Farmers Market Promotion Program: On May 8, USDA announced the availability of $15 million through this program.
-- Local Foods Promotion Program: On May 8, USDA announced the availability of $15 million through this program.
-- Specialty Crop Block Grants: On April 17, USDA announced the availability of approximately $66 million through this program.
-- Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention: On April 3, USDA announced $48.1 million in funding for 383 projects to help prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases.
-- National Clean Plant Network: On March 24, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced a Request for Applications (RFA) for the National Clean Plant Network, with $5 million available. On June 30, 2014 USDA announced $5 million in Farm Bill support had been provided for 19 projects under the National Clean Plant Network.
-- Christmas Tree Research and Promotion Order: On April 7, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) published a notice lifting stay on the Christmas Tree Research and Promotion.
-- Bulk Shipments of Apples to Canada: On April 4, 2014, AMS published an interim rule in the Federal Register amending regulations under the Export Apple Act to allow bulk containers to be shipped to Canada without U.S. inspection.
TITLE XI Crop Insurance
-- Permanent Enterprise Unit Subsidy: On May 1, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) completed the update to its systems to reflect the permanent enterprise unit subsidy as mandated by the Farm Bill. This will impact crops beginning with the May 20, 2014 actuarial filing and continue through the November 30, 2014 actuarial filing.
-- Prohibition of CAT on Crops Used for Grazing: On April 15, RMA issued a guidance document to amend the Special Provisions of Insurance for the annual forage policy. This amendment sets forth the prohibition of CAT coverage on crops and grasses used for grazing.
-- Premium Amounts for Catastrophic Risk Protection (CAT): On April 3, RMA issued a public release of actuarial documents to revise the premium rates charged for CAT coverage to be based on the average historical "loss ratio" plus a reasonable reserve.
-- Publication of Information on Violations of Premium Adjustments: On March 27, RMA established a section entitled "Rebating Violations and Sanctions" in the Frequently Asked Questions section of its public website. RMA will add information to this section when it determines that rebating violations have occurred.
-- Changes to Crop Insurance Provisions to Benefit New Farmers: On June 30, USDA announced new beginning farmer benefits and other changes to crop insurance that provide flexibility to farmers.
-- Supplemental Coverage Option: On July 29, USDA announced continued progress in implementing provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill that will strengthen and expand insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers. The new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility.
-- Organic Certification Cost-Share Assistance: On July 17, USDA announced that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance, making certification more accessible than ever for small certified producers and handlers.
-- Whole-Farm Revenue Protection: On May 21, USDA announced Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, which will provide flexible coverage options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers.
TITLE XII Miscellaneous
-- Outreach to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers: On July 29, USDA's Office of Advocacy and Outreach announced the availability $9.1 million in funding for financial assistance through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program.
-- Sheep Production and Marketing Grant: On July 28, AMS announced new programs to assist the sheep industry with the production and marketing of their products in the United States. Through the new Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program, approximately $1.5 million in grant funds are now available to assist the sheep industry.
-- Pima Cotton: On May 2, USDA announced that FAS will accept claims under the Pima Agriculture Cotton Trust Fund for calendar year 2014.
-- Catfish Inspection: On April 30, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Food and Drug Administration signed an MOU to improve food safety, fraud prevention, and inspection of catfish and catfish products. FSIS continues to submit monthly reports to Congress on implementation of this provision from the Farm Bill.
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