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.

Legislation Update

The National Pork Producers Council reported today:

 

HOUSE POSTPONES ACTION ON AGRICULTURAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL

The House this week began considering the fiscal 2015 funding bill for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, but postponed a final vote on it so that Republicans can sort out their leadership issues in the wake of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s decision to step down from his post after losing his primary election for the Virginia 7th Congressional District seat. The legislation includes $20.9 billion in discretionary money, which is equal to the fiscal 2014 level, and $121.3 billion for mandatory spending for federal food programs. NPPC helped secure in the House Appropriations Committee-approved bill language that prohibits USDA from implementing certain burdensome provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill related to the buying and selling of livestock under the Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Act. Additionally, Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, requested and was able to include funding for research on porcine endemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) funding to better understand the transmission of the disease. NPPC is thankful of Rep. Latham and Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., for the inclusion of these important funds.

 

LIVESTOCK HAULERS RECEIVE ONE-YEAR EXEMPTION FROM DOT ‘HOURS OF SERVICE’ RULE

The U.S. Department of Transportation last Friday granted truck drivers hauling livestock and poultry a one-year exemption from an hours-of-service rule that took effect last July 1. The regulation requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of service. For drivers transporting livestock and poultry, the hours of service included loading and unloading animals. NPPC hailed the move as a victory for animal welfare, as summer temperatures can cause livestock health problems, particularly for pigs, which do not sweat. NPPC is also appreciative of Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for recognizing the importance of the issue for livestock farmers and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for his efforts to secure the exemption. Click here to read the rule.

 

HOUSE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING AFTER COMMENT EXTENSION GRANTED

NPPC Chief Environmental Counsel Michael Formica drafted a petition signed by 72 other agricultural groups in support of an extension. Under EPA’s proposal, the agency would redefine the term “waters of the United States” to include intermittent and ephemeral streams, and expand jurisdiction into farm fields and farm drainage. This would significantly impact agricultural operations, requiring permits and giving activists and regulators authority to dictate farm production practices. Prior to issuing these extensions, NPPC hosted EPA representatives at the World Pork Expo to meet with the NPPC Board of Directors and learn firsthand about farming. EPA visited farms in North Central Iowa to better understand farmers’ concerns regarding the apparent impact of these proposals and the need to work together with farmers to clarify EPA’s intent and minimize the unintended impacts on farmers and ranchers who have worked their families land for generations.

 

SMALL BUSINESS EXPENSING LEGISLATION APPROVED

The House Thursday approved on a 277-144 vote H.R. 4457, the “America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2014,” which would permanently extend the tax code’s small business expensing provision – Section 179 – at a level of $500,000. Since 2003, Congress increased the amount of investment that small businesses can expense from $25,000 to $500,000. Legislation expanding and/or extending the provision was enacted eight times, but the expensing limits were temporary, and, beginning in 2014, the amount reverted to $25,000. NPPC joined dozens of other agricultural and business organizations in urging House lawmakers to approve the tax legislation. In a June 9 letter to bill sponsors Reps. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, and Ron Kind, D-Wis., the groups said permanent extension of Section 179 would increase investment and jobs, reduce tax complexity and paperwork and alleviate uncertainty for business owners, farmers and ranchers.

 

SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON CHILD NUTRITION PROGRAMS

The Senate Agriculture Committee Thursday held a hearing titled “A National Priority: The Importance of Child Nutrition Programs to our Nation’s Health, Much of the discussion focused on the military turning away recruits and discharging service members because of poor health (known as the “Too Fat to Fight” epidemic) as well as on how reduced school lunch programs help students perform better in school. Witnesses included U.S. Air Force (Ret.) General Richard Hawley; National Parent Teacher Association President Otha Thornton; Dr. Stephen R. Cook, associate professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center School of Medicine and Dentistry; and Francis Scott Key Middle School Principal Yolanda Stanislaus. Click here to read testimonies and watch the hearing. Congress is in the beginning stages of reauthorizing the national school lunch program, and NPPC continues to promote pork as a lean healthy protein that should continue to be included in school lunches.

 

HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS TRADE SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS AGRICULTURE TRADE HEARING

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Wednesday held a hearing titled “Advancing the U.S. Trade Agenda: Benefits of Expanding U.S. Agriculture Trade and Eliminating Barriers to U.S. Exports.” In his opening remarks, Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., voiced his concern that Japan was not being held to the standards that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation free trade agreement (FTA) of Pacific Rim countries, set out to meet. “If any countries insist on retaining tariffs, then we must complete the negotiations without them and allow them to rejoin when they can commit to full tariff elimination,” said Chairman Nunes. Japan continues to demand certain products, including pork, be excluded from tariff elimination. In addition to being the largest value market for U.S. pork exports ($1.89 billion in 2013), Japan is the fourth largest market for the rest of U.S. agriculture, which shipped $12.1 billion of food and agricultural products to the island nation in 2013. A final TPP agreement that does not eliminate all tariffs and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork products will negatively affect U.S. pork exports for the next 20 years, meaning billions of dollars less in U.S. pork sales and tens of thousands fewer U.S. jobs. For NPPC to support a final TPP agreement, Japan needs to eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork and pork products NPPC expressed its concerns to the subcommittee in written testimony. To read testimonies from the hearing, click here.

 

DR. GAMBLE PARTICIPATES IN CODEX WORKING GROUP

Dr. Ray Gamble, president ex officio of the International Commission on Trichinellosis, traveled to Tokyo, Japan, May 28-30 to participate in meetings as part of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene’s physical working group tasked with drafting a document on parasites in food. Dr. Gamble provided invaluable expertise to the US Delegation which was led by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Currently, some trade partners such as the European Union and South Africa impose unnecessary trichinae mitigation steps on the United States’ pork industry.  According to Dr. Gamble’s studies, there is virtually no risk for trichinae in the United States. A Codex document that creates counterproductive international standards on parasites would be burdensome on the U.S. pork industry. NPPC looks forward to working with FSIS as this document develops.

 

NPB’S LARSEN TRAVELS TO FINLAND

Steve Larsen, National Pork Board’s Director of Pork Safety, traveled to Kirkkonummi, Finland, June 4-6 to participate in an informal scientific colloquium of researchers/university academics, industry and government officials to hear how countries use Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) and their issues. The committee is planning to propose a new work item aimed at updating the Codex Alimentarius’s General Principles of Food Hygiene, more specifically its Annex on HACCP. The group of HAACP experts will draft a discussion paper on if there is a need to make revisions and will present their findings at the next CCFH meeting this November.

New Pilot Program Offers Coverage for Fruits and Vegetables, Organic and Diversified Farms

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new risk management option that will be available for fruit and vegetable growers and producers with diversified farms.

The policy, called Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, will provide flexible coverage options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers. The program will be implemented in counties across the country and will expand in availability over the next several years.

Whole-Farm insurance allows farmers to insure all crops on their farm at once, rather than insuring commodity by commodity.

Traditionally, many fruit and vegetable crops have not had crop insurance programs designed for them—making it less attractive for a farmer that primarily planted a commodity crop like wheat or corn to use another part of his or her land for growing fruits and vegetables or other specialty crops.

This allows farmers greater flexibility to make planting decisions on their land.

“Crop insurance has been the linchpin of the farm safety net for years and continues to grow as the single most important factor in protecting producers of all sizes from the effects of unpredictable weather,” said Vilsack.

“Providing farmers the option to insure their whole farm at once gives farmers more flexibility, promotes crop diversity, and helps support the production of healthy fruits and vegetables. More flexibility also empowers farmers and ranchers to make a broader range of decisions with their land, helping them succeed and strengthening our agriculture economy.”

The 2014 Farm Bill requires a whole-farm crop insurance policy option, and paves the way for the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to make it broadly available to specialty crop, organic, and diversified growers.

The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors (FCIC Board) approved the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection pilot policy for RMA to offer it through the federal crop insurance program in 2015.

USDA has taken many steps to provide effective insurance coverage for diversified, organic and specialty crops. The whole-farm crop insurance policy provides flexibility to meet the needs of specialty crop growers, organic producers and those with diversified farms, and who have farm production and revenue history, including five years of historic farm tax records. This policy is also part of USDA’s commitment to small and mid-sized producers managing diversified operations.

USDA has been strengthening crop insurance by providing more risk management options for farmers and ranchers.

The policy offers coverage levels from 50 to 85 percent; recognizes farm diversification through qualification for the highest coverage levels along with premium rate discounts for multiple crop diversification.

The Market Readiness Feature, as outlined in the Farm Bill, simplifies insurance coverage for producers under the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection pilot policy by allowing the costs such as washing, trimming, and packaging to be left in the insured revenue instead of having to adjust those amounts out of the insured amount.

The new Whole-Farm Revenue Protection policy combines Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and AGR-Lite along with several improvements to target diversified farms and farms selling two to five commodities, including specialty crops to wholesale markets.

The new policy is also designed to meet the risk management needs of diversified crop or livestock producers including those growing specialty crops and/or selling to local and regional markets, farm identity preserved markets, or direct markets.

As part of the pilot, Whole-Farm Revenue Protection will be available where AGR and AGR-Lite are currently offered, and will expand to other counties as data are available for underwriting and actuarial ratemaking.

RMA will release information on the policy later this summer when it becomes available. This information will be announced on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov.

According to the CDFA, California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. The state produces nearly half of US-grown fruits, nuts and vegetables. Across the nation, US consumers regularly purchase several crops produced solely in California.

USDA Provides Farm Bill Funding for Pest and Disease Management Programs

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the allocation of $48.1 million, provided by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), to projects across the country that will help to prevent the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases that threaten America’s agriculture economy and the environment.

The economic stakes for stopping invasive species are high, with scientists estimating the total economic cost of all invasive species to be approximately $120 billion annually.

“Invasive pests cause billions of dollars in damage each year and endanger our nation’s food security,” said Vilsack. “The funds USDA is making available today will help partners and stakeholders develop strategies, products and treatments to safeguard our farms and natural resources from invasive threats.”

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) sought project suggestions from states and U.S. territories, universities, federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, private companies and tribal organizations that would provide a direct impact in managing pests and diseases, as well as disaster prevention.

A list of selected projects and the FY 2014 funding plan are posted at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2014/04/pdf/fy14_farm_bill_spending_plan.pdf

Funded initiatives include $2 million for protection against exotic fruit flies in California.

Prospective projects were evaluated by teams comprised of USDA experts and industry representatives and were selected based on criteria that supported six goals:

  • enhancing plant pest/disease analysis and survey
  • targeting domestic inspection activities at vulnerable points in the safeguarding continuum
  • enhancing and strengthening pest identification and technology
  • safeguarding nursery production; enhancing mitigation capabilities
  • conducting outreach and education about these issues.

The teams also evaluated submissions based on expected impacts of the project, the technical approach, and how submissions would complement ongoing USDA programs and other previously funded projects funded under the 2008 Farm Bill (Section 10201).

The 2008 Farm Bill has provided funding for more than 1500 projects over the last five years and has played a significant role in protecting American agriculture and educating the public about the threat of invasive species.

Visit www.Hungrypests.com during April, which APHIS has proclaimed Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month, to learn more about invasive plant pest and diseases impacting your area and how you can help. And, join the discussion about invasive plant pests via the HungryPests Facebook page.

FSA Celebrates American Agriculture Producers on National Ag Day

USDA California Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director, Val Dolcini, encourages everyone to take a moment to appreciate the hard working farmers and ranchers in California on March 25, National Ag Day.

This year’s theme is “Agriculture: 365 Sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths to Feed.”

USDA is proud to stand behind the producers who rise before dawn 365 days a year in order to put food on the table for 7 billion people.

“We recognize the importance of agriculture and hope that the recent passage of a new Farm Bill is a sign that 2014 will be a ‘banner year for the industry,” said Val Dolcini. There is no better way to show our support for farmers and ranchers than to begin implementing a new Farm Bill – legislation that will provide farmers, ranchers and consumers alike supportive results.”

While the American economy is rebounding and gaining strength, the agricultural economy has remained strong and at its best.

Looking ahead, the U.S. has seen a trend towards aging farmers; however, according to the recent Census of Agriculture, the nation is beginning to reverse that trend. There is an increase in the number of farmers under the age of 35.

And although the agriculture industry promises a bright future, many farmers and ranchers are still recovering from natural disasters that occurred this year, including the continuing drought.

Fortunately, these producers were still able to grow the commodities that Americans rely on in order to remain a food-secure nation.

Please join FSA in celebrating America’s farmers and ranchers – a selfless group of individuals who make up less than two percent of the world’s population. They feed our country and make our nation secure. And, they supply quality foods to the rest of the world’s seven billion people.

None of the contributions of U.S. farmers and ranchers should be taken for granted, because no one can live without agriculture.

Ag Day is a project of the Agriculture Council of America. For further Ag Day information and events visit www.agday.org. For information on programs administered by FSA, please contact your local FSA office or visit us online at www.fsa.usda.gov.