USDA announces new measures to help beginning farmers

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, June 24, 2014 - USDA on Monday announced the implementation of policy changes and measures authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill designed to help new farmers and ranchers get started in an occupation where the average age is 58 and rising.

“The new policies will help give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed,” said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden, who released details of the measures at meeting of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee at the University of California, Davis. The 20-member panel, including Extension agents, lenders, farmers, ranchers and academics, will meet through 2015 to devise recommendations to USDA on how to support new and beginning farmers.

Together we can feed the Bees"

The policy announcements include:

--Waiving service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for the 2014 crop year. NAP provides risk management tools to farmers who grow crops for which there is no crop insurance product.

-- Eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for new and beginning farmers that will allow routine, prescribed, and emergency grazing outside the primary nesting season on enrolled land consistent with approved conservation plans. Previously, farmers and ranchers grazing on CRP land were subject to a reduction in CRP payments of up to 25 percent.

--Increasing payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP). Under this provision, beginning farmers can claim up 90 percent of losses for lost livestock, including bees, under ELAP. This is a fifty percent increase over previously available payment amounts to new and beginning farmers.

The USDA said it also plans to announce in the near future additional crop insurance program changes for beginning farmers and ranchers - including discounted premiums, waiver of administrative fees, and other benefits.

Harden also unveiled a new website that will provide a one-stop resource where beginning farmers and ranchers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help them succeed.

“Our new online tool will provide one-stop shopping for beginning farmers to learn more about accessing USDA services that can help their operations thrive,” Harden said in a news release.

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