Congressman Jim McGovern

Representing the 2nd District of Massachussetts
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Agriculture

June 2014 Agriculture Update

Local and Regional Food Systems

The USDA is making a $78 million investment in local and regional food systems, such as farmers markets, food hubs, aggregation and processing facilities, distribution services, and other local food business enterprises.

$48 million in loan guarantees for local food projects is now available through USDA‘s  Rural Development’s Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program (B&I), and $30 million is available through competitive grants via the Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) Farmers Market and  Local Food Promotion Program.

Quick Facts About the Programs:

  • The USDA will set aside at least 5% of (B&I) program loan guarantees for projects focusing on local food business enterprises.
  • The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program triples funding for marketing and promotion of local food enterprises.
    • $30 million will be available annually to farmers markets, direct producer-to-consumer venues, and other businesses n local food supply chain.
      • $15 million will be available for marketing and promotional support for local food businesses (food hubs, delivery and aggregation businesses, and  processing and storage facilities), and
      • $15 million will be available for marketing support of farmers markets and other direct to consumer outlets

Whole-Farm Revenue Protection

The USDA has announced a new risk management option for fruit and vegetable producers with diversified farms. The Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program provides flexible coverage options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers. The program will be available where Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and Adjusted Gross Revenue Lite (AGR-L) are currently offered. Both AGR and AGR-L are available in Massachusetts. Over the next several years, availability will expand to offer coverage levels from 50 to 85%, fulfilling the whole-farm crop insurance policy option mandated by the 2014 Farm bill.

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

 

New Online Tools for Producers

USDA is awarding $6 million to universities and cooperative state extension services to develop tools and materials to help producers determine how the 2014 Farm Bill will affect their businesses.

The online tools will help producers choose between 2 new programs, the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs by using the geographical diversity of crops, soils, weather, climates, as well as data from producers’ specific businesses to determine which program would be most beneficial. Once a producer enrolls in the ARC or PLC program, he or she must remain in the program through the 2018 crop year.

Tools will also be available for the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP) when the sign up period begins late this summer, and enrollment for “buy-up” provisions of the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) which will become available to producers in the fall for the 2015 crop year.

USDA will also award $3 million to state cooperative extension services for outreach and education on the new Farm Bill programs. Funds will be used to conduct public education outreach meetings where producers can speak with local extension agents and Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff.  Outreach meetings will begin late this summer to help farmers understand the new programs and their options.

While these new online tools are being developed, producers can use the FSA website to familiarize themselves with the new programs. The website provides information on ARC and PLC projected payments, ARC guarantees, and PLC payment rate projections.

 

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – sign-up beginning June 9th

Farmers, ranchers, and landowners may now sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP gives incentives for the use of conservation methods such as establishing long-term species like approved grasses or trees to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat. CRP has both a “continuous” and “general” sign up period.

  • Continuous sign up started June 9th. Eligible land can be enrolled at any time, with contracts up to 10 to 15 years. All enrollment offers are processed through your local FSA office.
  • Instead of general sign up, this year the USDA will allow producers with general CRP contracts that expire this September to extend their contract one year. As required by the 2014 Farm Bill, producers enrolled through general sign up for over 5 years can opt-out of the program if they meet certain other conditions. General CRP sign up only occurs when the Secretary of Agriculture announces that the USDA will accept bids for enrollment.

 

Transition Incentives Program (TIP)

The USDA also announced the availability of the Transition Incentives Program (TIP). TIP allows retiring farmers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program to transfer a portion of their land to new, disadvantaged or veteran farmers. The program provides two additional years of payments for retiring farmers who transfer their land. Sign up began June 9th.  Contact your local FSA office for additional information.  

 

House Organic Caucus

I am proud to say I have become a member of the House Organic Caucus, a bipartisan group of congressional members who will advocate for organic farming through legislation.