SAN DIEGO, Calif., Jan. 12, 2015—Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says USDA is aggressively implementing the 2014 farm bill through more than 556 events, 428 demonstrations of web-based tools and over 60,000 direct mail pieces.
Speaking to reporters at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention, Vilsack also provided an update on program signup and availability, including the following:
--Over 503,000 disaster assistance payments have been made, totaling over $4.3 billion.
--Roughly 23,000 dairy producers signed up for the new Margin Protection Program (MPP), with around 55 percent purchasing buy-up insurance.
--Regarding commodity title programs, 142,541 farmers have started the process of reallocating base and yield--a decision that is required to be made before Feb. 27, 2015. And 34,170 have already made the decision to choose either Agricultural Risk Coverage or Price Loss Coverage. Still, according to USDA, there are more than 858,000 producers in USDA’s database who are eligible to decide, raising the possibility that USDA’s county Farm Service Agency offices will be swamped shortly before signup ends on March 31, 2015.
Vilsack encouraged producers to make these decisions “as soon as they are ready” as to avoid “funneling of these decisions in late March.”
If the majority of producers wait until the last minute, it could create “significant staff and potential technology issues,” according to Vilsack.
--Additionally, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program awards will be announced in Phoenix on Wednesday. There were over 600 pre-applications for funds and Vilsack said they’ve whittled the numbers down to a couple of hundred.
Speaking to members of the Iowa Farm Bureau earlier Monday morning, Vilsack said there would be three RCPP awards in Iowa, “more than most states.” Another USDA source confirmed that there will be more than 110 approved projects announced on Wednesday, which will receive more than $370 million in funds.
--Vilsack said Stacked Income Protection Program (STAX) enrollment has started and USDA began making transition payments for 184,000 cotton producers who will receive $539 million. Because STAX is not yet available, transition payments are provided to cotton producers for the 2014 crop year if they had cotton base acres in 2013.
--Vilsack also announced today additional funding for a new Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, as well as a new directive for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Council to survey land ownership in the U.S. and to work with land owners and new farmers to develop policies that focus on promoting conservation.
“Approximately one third of farmland is not owned by an operating farmer, and this could have an impact on conservation efforts going forward,” Vilsack said, adding that the last time this issue was looked at in great detail was 1937. “We want to reassure the farming community that we are not only focused on the present, with implementation of the farm bill, but we also have an eye toward the long-term.”
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