Margin Protection Program Replaces MILC – Enrollment Begins Sept. 2

USDA has announced that enrollment for the new dairy program – the Margin Protection Program – will begin on September 2.

MPP replaces Milk Income Loss Contracts.

The voluntary program, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, 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.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson commended USDA on their timely rollout of the dairy Margin Protection Program and for including provisions that will help America’s family farmers with their risk management needs.

“America’s family-run dairy farms are in great need for these kind of risk management tools to help them manage risk that is beyond their control,” said Johnson.

“The family farmer provision, included as part of the program, will allow many of this nation’s family-operated dairy farms to breathe a sigh of relief now that they have adequate risk management tools in hand. It is unfortunate that the Congress did not include a dairy stabilization program that would have helped take the volatility out of milk prices,” Johnson added.

USDA also announced the Dairy Product Donation Program (DPDP), which will donate dairy products to low-income people, including food banks, state and local agencies and advocacy organizations.

Dairy farmers should also be aware of an online tool USDA has created to help them determine their level of coverage under MPP. Follow this link to use the tool.

The Margin Protection Program, which replaces the Milk Income Loss Contract program, gives participating dairy producers the flexibility to select coverage levels best suited for their operation. Enrollment begins Sept. 2 and ends on Nov. 28, 2014, for 2014 and 2015. Participating farmers must remain in the program through 2018 and pay a minimum $100 administrative fee each year. Producers have the option of selecting a different coverage level during open enrollment each year.

Dairy operations enrolling in the new program must comply with conservation compliance provisions and cannot participate in the Livestock Gross Margin dairy insurance program. Farmers already participating in the Livestock Gross Margin program may register for the Margin Protection Program, but the new margin program will only begin once their Livestock Gross Margin coverage has ended.

Call or visit your local USDA Farm Services Agency office to learn more or to enroll in MPP. You can also view or download the USDA’s fact sheet on MPP here.

Two Notes from USDA on Conservation Reserve Program

fsalogo-featUSDA has issued two recent notices on the Conservation Reserve Program.

The first is just a reminder for farmers or landowners selling acres enrolled in CRP. Essentially, if CRP acres are sold, the original CRP contract must be revised and signed by the new owner within 60 days. If the contract is terminated by the new owner, the original CRP participant will be on the hook to refund USDA some payments:

If the new landowner elects not to continue the CRP contract, the contract will be terminated. When a contract is terminated, refund of the following payments plus interest is required from the original CRP participant: all annual rental payments, all cost share payments, signup incentive payments, and practice incentive payments.  Liquidated damages are also assessed.

Refunds of payments will not be required in cases where the owner’s estate or the heirs do not succeed to the contract.  There are other cases that do not require the refund of payments, when a participant loses control of the land, such as eminent domain.

The other notice was that under the new Farm Bill early termination of some CRP contracts will be allowed. Early outs are available for the following contract types:

  • CP1-establishment of permanent grasses
  • CP2-establishment of permanent grasses
  • CP3-tree planting
  • CP10-grass cover already established
  • CP11-tree cover already established

Here’s a link to a USDA fact sheet on early CRP contract terminations under the new Farm Bill

As always, you can receive more information by contacting your local USDA Farm Services Agency office.

USDA Update on 2014 Farm Bill Implementation

Outlined below is a list, by Farm Bill title, of the components of the recently enacted Farm Bill and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s progress in implementing the new law. This was released by USDA on August 6, 22014.

 

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.

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FSA Update: Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers

The following is from USDA Farm Service Agency:

The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes a new dairy program, the Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers (MPP-Dairy), which will replace the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program no later than September 1, 2014.  The MPP-Dairy program is a voluntary program that provides dairy operations with risk management coverage that will compensate producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average cost of feed falls below a certain level selected by the producers in a dairy operation.

Eligible producers can obtain either a catastrophic level of coverage for their dairy operation by paying a $100 administrative fee annually or they may obtain increased coverage at various levels by paying a premium in addition to the administrative fee.  Available price coverage levels begin at $4.00 and coverage may be increased in $.50 increments through $8.00 per hundredweight.  Available coverage percentages begin at 25 percent and coverage may be increased in 5 percent increments through 90 percent.  A dairy operation’s selection of a $4.00 coverage level with a coverage percentage of 90 is considered the catastrophic level of coverage.  Indemnity payments under the program will be triggered when margins fall below the producer-selected levels.

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Hong Kong Market Reopens for U.S. Beef

From the USDA:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the United States and Hong Kong have agreed on new terms and conditions that pave the way for expanded exports of U.S. beef and beef products to Hong Kong.

“This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies,” said Vilsack. “Hong Kong is already the fourth largest market for U.S. beef and beef product exports, with sales there reaching a historic high of $823 million in 2013. We look forward to expanded opportunities there for the U.S. beef industry now that all trade restrictions are lifted,” Vilsack said.

Under the new terms, Hong Kong will permit the import of the full range of U.S. beef and beef products, consistent with access prior to December 2003. The new terms become effective today, June17, 2014. Previously, only deboned beef from all cattle and certain bone-in beef from cattle less than 30 months of age could be shipped from the United States to Hong Kong. Earlier this year, Mexico, Uruguay, Ecuador and Sri Lanka also lifted their longstanding restrictions to provide full access for U.S. beef and beef products.

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Two New USDA Conservation Programs are Open for Application by Farmers

The 2014 Farm Bill has yielded two new conservation programs at USDA which have opened their application processes to begin spending up to $368 million across the country to restore wetlands, support outdoor recreation opportunities and boost rural economies.

The new programs are Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP).

ACEP is the consolidation of three former programs – the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, the Grassland Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program—into one to make conservation efforts more efficient while strengthening tools to protect land and water according to a USDA release.

ACEP contains two primary components. The first, agricultural lands, provides funds to those eligible for the purchase of agricultural land easements that protect the agricultural use and conservation value of eligible land.

Both ACEP programs have application for funding deadlines in early June 2014. Please check with your regional or county Farm Services Agency office for complete information.

The second is the wetland reserve component which provides landowners funds to purchase an easement and for restoration of wetlands and improving habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. USDA said that lands that are eligible for a wetland reserve easement include farmed or converted wetlands that can be successfully and cost-effectively restored.

VPA-HIP is a competitive grant program that enables state and tribal governments to increase opportunities for landowners of private lands to make their land available for public recreation.

Landowners may learn more from their regional or county Farm Services Agency or by visiting the Natural Resources Conservation Service online.

 

 

 

 

Final Data in 2012 U.S. Ag Census – Lots to Consider

agcensuspostEarlier today USDA held an online event to unveil updated and final data from the agency’s census of U.S. agriculture concluded in 2012. From USDA, here are some takeaways from the updated numbers:

  • 22% of all farmers were beginning farmers in 2012. That means 1 out of every 5 farmers operated a farm for less than 10 years.
  • Young, beginning principal operators who reported their primary occupation as farming increased from 36,396 to 40,499 between 2007 and 2012. That’s an 11.3% increase in the number of young people getting into agriculture as a full-time job.
  • 969,672 farm operators were female—30% of all farm operators in the U.S.
  • The number of farms ran by Latino farmers increased from 82,462 in 2007 to 99,734 in 2012. That 21% increase reflects the changing face of America as a whole.
  • 70% of all farms in the U.S. had internet access in 2012, up from 56.5% in 2007, but there is more work to be done to expand internet access in rural America.
  • Farmers and ranchers continue to lead the charge towards a more sustainable energy future. 57,299 farms reported using a renewable energy producing system in 2012. That’s more than double the 23,451 operations that reported the same in 2007. Solar panels accounted for 63% of renewable energy producing systems on farms, with 36,331 farms reporting their use.
  • Nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Industry estimates valued local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the growing importance of this new market to farm and ranch businesses.
  • Total organic product sales by farms have increased by 82% since 2007, from $1.76 billion in 2007 to $3.1 billion in 2012. Organic products were a $35 billion industry in the United States in 2013.

If you want pore over the full report with lots of tables and charts covering everything from hogs to Christmas trees, click here.

If you want to explore USDA’s other Ag Census related docs, including issue specific info and tools for getting the data you want, check out their Ag Census page.

Action Alert: Please Comment on Proposal to Relax Beef Imports from Brazil

We have a chance until April 22nd to affect a rule pending at USDA which would relax current restrictions on the importation of livestock, meat, and animal products from a region of Brazil that has been affected by Foot and Mouth Disease.

[Read more...]

Specialy Crop Farmers Get New Opportunities with Expanded Farm Storage and Facility Loan Program

As part of a broader range of changes to USDA FSA Farm Loan Programs, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture has announced a major expansion in the Farm Storage and Facility program.

Storage and facility loans provide low interest financing to farmers who are wish to upgrade or expand their operations. The changes to this particular loan program include 23 new categories of eligible equipment for fruit and vegetable producers. Notably, Farm Storage and Facility loan security requirements have been eased for loans between $50,000 and $100,000.

*DOWNLOAD USDA FACT SHEET ON LOAN PROGRAM CHANGES HERE*

Previously, all loans in excess of $50,000 required a promissory note and additional security, such as a lien on real estate. Now loans up to $100,000 can be secured by only a promissory note.

USDA suggests small and mid-sized farmers check out this page for more information about specific tools and resources available to them.

For more specific information about FSA programs including the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program, visit your FSA county or regional office. You can also find FSA online.

Vilsack says farm loan program modifications will create more flexibility for new and existing farmers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced several changes to USDA FSA Farm Loan Programs earlier this week. The changes come immediately as a result of passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Changes that will take effect immediately include:

  • Elimination of loan term limits for guaranteed operating loans.
  • Modification of the definition of beginning farmer, using the average farm size for the county as a qualifier instead of the median farm size.
  • Modification of the Joint Financing Direct Farm Ownership Interest Rate to 2 percent less than regular Direct Farm Ownership rate, with a floor of 2.5 percent. Previously, the rate was established at 5 percent.
  • Increase of the maximum loan amount for Direct Farm Ownership down payments from $225,000 to $300,000.
  • Elimination of rural residency requirement for Youth Loans, allowing urban youth to benefit.
  • Debt forgiveness on Youth Loans, which will not prevent borrowers from obtaining additional loans from the federal government.
  • Increase of the guarantee amount on Conservation Loans from 75 to 80 percent and 90 percent for socially disadvantaged borrowers and beginning farmers.
  • Microloans will not count toward loan term limits for veterans and beginning farmers.
  • Additional modifications must be implemented through the rulemaking processes.

“Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are the engine of the rural economy. These improvements to our Farm Loan Programs will help a new generation begin farming and grow existing farm operations,” said Vilsack.

“(This) announcement represents just one part of a series of investments the new Farm Bill makes in the next generation of agriculture, which is critical to economic growth in communities across the country.”

Check out this FSA fact sheet on the loan program modifications.