Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced continued progress during the first 90 days of implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), which President Obama signed into law in February.
The 2014 Farm Bill reforms agricultural policy, reduces the deficit and helps grow the economy.
“The new farm bill supports the proud men and women who feed hundreds of millions around the world, and supports critical economic development in rural America. USDA has made this bill’s implementation a top priority,” Vilsack said. “I am pleased to report that our department continues to make tremendous progress getting new initiatives off the ground and making important reforms to existing programs.”
Since the Farm Bill was signed, USDA has made progress throughout all Farm Bill titles including announcements on trade and marketing promotion, the establishment of conservation programs, the initiation of specialty crop and local food programs, funding for rural development programs, and more.
Among the first major farm bill initiatives to be implemented were disaster relief programs for livestock producers, many of whom have been waiting years for assistance. On April 15, USDA announced disaster relief through the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program. After the 2008 Farm Bill passed, it took over one year to set up disaster assistance programs. In 2014, it took under 10 weeks. As of May 1, 2014, approximately 33,000 applications have been received and $16.3 million in payments has been disbursed.
In the coming months, producers will be asked to enroll in one of the new farm bill’s risk management programs. USDA is now accepting applications from Land Grant Universities, 1890 Colleges, Hispanic-serving institutions and tribal colleges to create web-based tools that will help provide producers with information on the Agricultural Risk Coverage Program and Price Loss Coverage Program, as well as the larger protection program for dairy and the non-insured crop disaster assistance program.
Money to help poverty stricken farmers, ranchers
About $15 million in targeted assistance will be provided to help farmers, ranchers and private forest owners in rural areas of 20 states that experience “persistent poverty.” The funding, part of USDA’s StrikeForce initiative, was announced by Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Jason Weller.
“This funding, leveraged with the support of public and local partners, is growing rural economies,” Weller said. “This is a strategy that creates sustainable jobs and improves lives in rural communities across the country and right here in New Mexico. USDA’s StrikeForce helps producers improve their lands and provides a way to break the cycle of rural poverty.”
Through NRCS, USDA will provide technical and financial assistance in StrikeForce areas, including $450,000 in rural New Mexico. Weller said, through StrikeForce, USDA is now working with 80 percent more farmers and ranchers than before in persistent poverty counties and has invested a total of $652 million in targeted conservation funding since 2010.
StrikeForce funds, provided through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program, can be used for conservation activities, including water conservation improvements and soil protection. Applications are accepted at local USDA Service Centers.
USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity provides assistance in rural communities with a special emphasis on historically underserved farmers, ranchers and communities in counties with persistent poverty. More than 700 rural counties, parishes, boroughs and tribal reservations are part of the StrikeForce effort, including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.