Farm Bill Deal a Big Win for U.S. Citrus Growers

Agreement Provides $25 Million for ACP and HLB

News Release

Recently, leading farm bill negotiators in the House and Senate announced that they have reached an “agreement in principle” signaling that a final deal will be made before the end of the year.

Included in the initial agreement is language providing $25 million per year for 5 years for research specific to the invasive insect Asian citrus psyllid and deadly plant disease Huanglongbing (HLB).

The Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Development Trust Fund will build upon the program created in the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) title in the 2014 Farm Bill, which dedicated research funding for citrus.

“The trust fund language is a significant win for U.S. citrus growers,” California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen said. “It’s critical for the future of our industry and the domestic citrus market that we continue to invest in research aimed to find a solution for HLB.”

The Farm Bill funding specific to HLB research complements the $40 million per year program funded by California citrus growers to stop the spread of HLB, which has been detected in over 900 backyard citrus trees in Southern California. In recent years, the state of California has dedicated funds to augment ACP and HLB control efforts in urban areas, including the rearing and release of millions of beneficial insects in backyard citrus trees.

Negotiators have also agreed to maintain funding for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program and the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). Additionally, funding will continue for the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program, which helps growers overcome artificial trade barriers.

“On behalf of the California citrus industry, I want to thank the lead farm bill negotiators in both houses for their commitment to passing a Farm Bill that includes this vital funding for the U.S. citrus industry and specialty crops,” Nelsen said.

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Hope Yet For California Dairy Industry

Proposed Federal Marketing Order Would Benefit California Dairy Farmers

By Brian German, Associate Editor

Chandler Goule, senior vice president of programs for the National Farmers Union
Chandler Goule, senior vice president of programs for the National Farmers Union

California gets hit the hardest when milk prices drop and it is the last state to recover from depressed dairy prices. The California dairy industry eagerly awaits a decision from the USDA regarding the move to a Federal Milk Marketing Order (FMMO). Chandler Goule, senior vice president of programs for the National Farmers Union, believes the state will gain from moving to FMMO.

“I think it will definitely be a win for the dairy industry,” said Goule, “and for our dairymen out there.” Goule anticipates increased participation in the margin revenue program that was incorporated into the FMMO.

Should the USDA hand down a positive determination, the move to a federal order would require a 2/3 majority vote from California dairy producers. “With California being so far from the corn and grain belt, even though you all produce a lot of food in California, it’s not necessarily feed additives for livestock,” Goule remarked.

Unfortunately, the FMMO has a much better chance of being voted in during a time when milk prices are low, according to Goule, as high milk prices may lessen voter turnout and sense of urgency.

“I’m definitely not advocating for low milk prices whatsoever,” Goule said. “We want high milk prices out there. The sooner we can get this vote done, the better off California will be, and the better off your milk prices will be. Then we can start working on this as a nation rather than 48 states—and California by itself.”

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USDA announces $9 million to support Community Food Projects program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of $9 million in funding to assist low-income individuals and communities in developing local and independent food systems. NIFA is funding the grants through the Community Food Projects program (CFP), authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill).

“Community Foods Projects provide the opportunity for low-income communities to become more self-reliant and take control of their own food systems,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “These projects create food systems that are economically equitable and socially and environmentally sustainable, providing real solutions for communities most in need.”

Community Food Projects involve the entire food system. Projects assess strengths and establish connections among existing food systems, resulting in improved food systems that support self-reliance.

Grants are intended to help eligible, private, nonprofit entities in need of a one-time installment of federal assistance to establish and carry out multipurpose community food projects. Projects are funded from $10,000 to $300,000 and up to 36 months. All grants require a dollar-for-dollar match in resources.

Applications are due March 17, 2015. Please see the request for applications for specific program requirements.

CFP is an important part of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which works to strengthen and support local and regional food systems. More information on the initiative, including an interactive map of CFP and other federally-supported local food projects, can be found at: www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer.

The primary goals of the Community Food Projects program are to (1) meet the food needs of low-income individuals; (2) increase the food self-reliance of low-income communities; (3) promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm and nutrition issues; and (4) meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs, including needs relating to infrastructure improvement and development, planning for long-term solutions and the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.

Since 2009, NIFA has provided more than $28 million to 154 Community Food Project awards in 48 states to help communities improve access to healthy, local food. Past projects include Philadelphia Green, which supports small-scale growers in their efforts to bring fresh, locally grown produce to the Philadelphia metro area, and RootDown LA, which is engaging Los Angeles-area youth in community gardens.

Funding for the CFP program is authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

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USDA Seeks Applications for Conservation Innovation Grants

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that applications are being accepted for up to $20 million in grants to facilitate the creation of new, innovative markets for carbon credits, providing additional revenue sources for producers to use to address natural resource conservation challenges. These grants are part of the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program, authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

“USDA has been a leader in supporting market-based solutions to improve water quality and reduce carbon pollution,” Secretary Vilsack said. “With this opportunity, we are supporting the next generation of projects that will help mature these markets and bring them to scale to benefit both producers and the environment.”

For 2015, approximately half of the $20 million is available for environmental markets and conservation finance projects that engage agricultural producers. In past years, CIG has helped fund the development of the basic infrastructure of these markets. This year, USDA, through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for projects that will build on these efforts by maturing and scaling markets and accelerating efforts to leverage private capital and investment in private lands conservation. Improved quantification tools, multi-resource crediting, and projects that substantively engage corporate or financial partners are the types of activities NRCS is pursuing.

As an example, USDA, though CIG, helped fund the development of the first interstate water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin. Administered by the Electric Power Research Institute, in April, the program is holding its first public auction of water quality credits, generated by farmers in the basin. USDA also funded a project led by the Delta Institute that culminated in the generation and sale of nitrous oxide credits on corn fields in the Midwest. This project demonstrated that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced on cropland while maintaining corn yields.

USDA is also soliciting proposals for projects to stimulate natural resource improvements, including, but not limited to, improvements in water quantity, soil health, and wildlife habitat. Applications from this funding pool may also emphasize expected benefits to historically underserved producers, veterans, and organic producers. Applications in the fields of economics and sociology as they relate to natural resources are also being welcomed.

Under CIG, Environmental Quality Incentives Program funds are used to award competitive grants to non-Federal governmental or nongovernmental organizations, Tribes, or individuals. The 2014 Farm Bill also included language that has led to some changes in this year’s CIG funding announcement. One change eliminates the requirement that half the applicant’s match be in cash. Another expands eligibility for the 10 percent set-aside provision for historically underserved producers.

As in prior years, NRCS will accept pre-proposals for initial review before inviting entities to submit full proposals. Pre-proposals are due Tuesday, February 24, 2015. To apply electronically, visit http://www.grants.gov or contact a local NRCS office.

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USDA Disaster Assistance to Help Thousands of Honeybee, Livestock and Farm-Raised Fish Producers

The USDA announced that nearly 2,500 applicants will receive disaster assistance through the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) for losses suffered from October 1, 2011, through September  30, 2013.

The program, re-authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides disaster relief to livestock, honeybee, and farm-raised fish producers not covered by other agricultural disaster assistance programs. Eligible losses may include excessive heat or winds, flooding, blizzards, hail, wildfires, lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions, and diseases, or in the case of honeybees, losses due to colony collapse disorder. Beekeepers, most of whom suffered honeybee colony losses, represent more than half of ELAP recipients.

“As promised, we’re making sure that thousands of producers who suffered through two and a half difficult years without Farm Bill assistance, are getting some relief,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Once the Farm Bill was restored, not only did we implement the disaster assistance programs in record time, we’re issuing payments less than three months after the enrollment deadline. The funds will hopefully help producers with some of the financial losses they sustained during that time.”

The Farm Bill caps ELAP disaster funding at $20 million per federal fiscal year. To accommodate the number of requests, which exceeded funds available for each of the affected years, payments will be reduced to ensure that all eligible applicants receive a prorated share of assistance.

ELAP was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit  www.usda.gov/farmbill.

To learn more about USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) disaster assistance programs, visit the FSA factsheet page at  www.fsa.usda.gov/factsheets or contact your local FSA office at http://go.usa.gov/pYV3.

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USDA Extends Dairy Margin Protection Program Deadlines

USDA is extending the deadlines for the Dairy Margin Protection Program. Farmers now have until Dec. 5, 2014, to enroll in the voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill. Coverage election in subsequent years will take place from July 1 through September 30.

The program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer.

Producers are encouraged to use the online Margin Protection Program Decision tool at www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool to calculate the best levels of coverage for their dairy operation. The secure website can be accessed via computer, smartphone or tablet.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also extended the opportunity for public comments on both the Margin Protection Program and the Dairy Product Donation Program until Dec. 15, 2014Comments can be submitted to USDA via the regulations.gov website at http://go.usa.gov/GJSA.

The Dairy Product Donation Program (DPDP), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill through Dec. 31, 2018, addresses low margins for dairy operations by using Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds to purchase dairy products for donation to public and private nonprofit organizations that provide nutrition assistance to low-income populations. Purchases are only made by USDA during periods of low margins. No enrollment is required for dairy operators to benefit from the DPDP. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will administer DPDP if ever triggered.

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New Farm Bill Program to Help Provide Relief to Farmers Affected by Severe Weather

By: Monique Bienvenue; Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the implementation of a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by severe weather, including drought. The Actual Production History (APH) Yield Exclusion, available nationwide for farmers of select crops starting next spring, allows eligible producers who have been hit with severe weather to receive a higher approved yield on their insurance policies through the federal crop insurance program.

Spring crops eligible for APH Yield Exclusion include corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, barley, canola, sunflowers, peanuts, and popcorn. Nearly three-fourths of all acres and liability in the federal crop insurance program will be covered under APH Yield Exclusion.

“Key programs launched or extended as part of the 2014 Farm Bill are essential to USDA’s commitment to help rural communities grow. These efforts give farmers, ranchers and their families better security as they work to ensure Americans have safe and affordable food,” said Vilsack. “By getting other 2014 Farm Bill programs implemented efficiently, we are now able to offer yield exclusion for Spring 2015 crops, providing relief to farmers impacted by severe weather.”

The APH Yield Exclusion allows farmers to exclude yields in exceptionally bad years (such as a year in which a natural disaster or other extreme weather occurs) from their production history when calculating yields used to establish their crop insurance coverage.

The level of insurance coverage available to a farmer is based on the farmer’s average recent yields. By excluding unusually bad years, farmers will not have to worry that a natural disaster will reduce their insurance coverage for years to come.

Under the new Farm Bill program, yields can be excluded from farm actual production history when the county average yield for that crop year is at least 50 percent below the 10 previous consecutive crop years’ average yield.

Federal crop insurance, which is sold through private crop insurance agents, offers a variety of options that may impact coverage and premium costs. Producers are encouraged to work with their crop insurance agent to determine the coverage that best meets their risk management needs. Farmers can find a crop insurance agent in their area at: www.rma.usda.gov/tools/agent.html.

 

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USDA Expands Access to Credit to Help More Beginning and Family Farmers

Source: Monique Bienvenue – Cal Ag Today Social Media Manager/Reporter

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will improve farm loans by expanding eligibility and increasing lending limits to help more beginning and family farmers.

As part of this effort, USDA is raising the borrowing limit for the microloan program from $35,000 to $50,000; simplify the lending processes; updating required “farming experience” to include other valuable experiences; and expanding eligible business entities to reflect changes in the way family farms are owned and operated. The changes become effective Nov. 7.

“USDA is continuing its commitment to new and existing family farmers and ranchers by expanding access to credit,” said Harden. “These new flexibilities, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, will help more people who are considering farming and ranching, or who want to strengthen their existing family operation.”

The microloan changes announced today will allow beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access an additional $15,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay. These efforts are part of USDA’s continued commitment to small and midsized farming operations, and new and beginning farmers.

In addition to farm related experience, other types of skills may be considered to meet the direct farming experience required for farm loan eligibility such as operation or management of a non-farm business, leadership positions while serving in the military, or advanced education in an agricultural field. Also, individuals who own farmland under a different legal entity operating the farm now may be eligible for loans administered by USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Producers will have an opportunity to share suggestions on the microloan process, and the definitions of farming experience and business structures through Dec. 8, 2014, the public open comment period.

FSA is also publishing a Federal Register notice to solicit ideas from the public for pilot projects to help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of farm loan programs. Comments and ideas regarding potential pilot projects will be accepted through Nov. 7, 2014.

Since 2010, USDA has made a record amount of farm loans through FSA — more than 165,000 loans totaling nearly $23 billion. More than 50 percent of USDA’s farm loans now go to beginning farmers. In addition, USDA has increased its lending to socially-disadvantaged producers by nearly 50 percent since 2010.

These programs were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.

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California gets $22 million from USDA for conservation programs

Source: CDFA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that $328 million in conservation funding (more than $22 million to California) is being invested to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The USDA initiative will benefit wildlife and promote outdoor recreation and related sectors of the economy.

“Conservation easements help farmers and ranchers protect valuable agricultural lands from development, restore lands that are best suited for grazing, and return wetlands to their natural conditions,” Vilsack said. “These easements are making a dramatic and positive impact for our food supply, rural communities and species habitat.”

The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), which was created in the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical wetlands and encourage producers to keep lands in farming and ranching. Approximately 380 projects nationwide were selected to protect and restore 32,000 acres of prime farmland, 45,000 acres of grasslands and 52,000 acres of wetlands. A summary of ACEP funding provided to each state can be found online.

In addition to protecting cropland and critical habitats, conservation strengthens outdoor recreation and helps boost the economy. According to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation, annual United States conservation spending totals $38.8 billion, but it produces $93.2 billion of economic output throughout the economy – 2.4 times more than what is put in. This output takes the form of more than 660,500 jobs, $41.6 billion in income and a $59.7 billion contribution to national Gross Domestic Product, or GDP.

Through ACEP, private or tribal landowners and eligible conservation partners working with landowners can request assistance from USDA to protect and enhance agricultural land through an agricultural or wetland easement.

These easements deliver many long-term benefits. For example, this year’s projects will:

  • Improve water quality and wetland storage capacity in the California Bay Delta region;
  • Reduce flooding along the Mississippi and Red rivers;
  • Provide and protect habitat for threatened, endangered and at-risk species including sage grouse, bog turtles, Florida panthers, Louisiana black bear, and whooping cranes to recover populations and reduce regulatory burdens; and
  • Protect prime agricultural land under high risk of development in urban areas to help secure the nation’s food supply and jobs in the agricultural sector.

ACEP consolidates three former Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) easement programs – Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Grasslands Reserve Program and Wetlands Reserve Program – into two components. One component protects farmlands and grasslands, and the other protects and restores agricultural wetlands.

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USDA Reminds Producers of 2014 Acreage Reporting Requirement

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) California Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Val Dolcini reminds agricultural producers that July 15, 2014, is the deadline to file an acreage report for spring seeded crops. Planted acres must be reported to FSA by July 15, 2014. The Agricultural Act of 2014 (2014 Farm Bill) requires producers on a farm to submit annual acreage reports on all cropland.

“Although some federal farm program enrollments have not yet started, timely acreage reports for all crops and land uses, including prevented and failed acreage that producers submit to their local FSA office, are important to ensure program eligibility,” said Dolcini.

Acreage reports to FSA are considered timely filed when completed by the applicable final crop reporting deadline, which may vary from state to state. Perennial forage crops intended for grazing or haying were required to be reported last fall, whereas perennial forage crops with an intended use of cover only, green manure, left standing, or seed, must be reported by July 15.

Although July 15 is the most common deadline to report acreage for spring seeded crops, this date may be different in locations with climates that are warmer or cooler than average. Producers should contact their county FSA office if they are uncertain about acreage reporting deadlines.

Dolcini said that failed acreage must be reported before the disposition of the crop and that prevented acreage must be reported within 15 calendar days after the final planting date for the applicable crop.

For questions on this or any FSA program, including specific crop reporting deadlines and planting dates, producers should contact their county FSA office or seek information online at www.fsa.usda.gov.

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