Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $350 million to help landowners protect and restore key farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the nation. The funding is provided through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), created by the 2014 Farm Bill to protect critical water resources and wildlife habitat, and encourage private owners to maintain land for farming and ranching. Through the voluntary sale of an easement, landowners limit future development to protect these key resources.
“The benefits of restoring, enhancing and protecting these working agricultural lands and critical wetlands cannot be overstated,” Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to preserving working agricultural lands to help protect the long-term viability of farming across the country as well as to restoring and protecting vital sensitive wetlands that provide important wildlife habitat and improve water quality.”
ACEP’s agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, they also support environmental quality, wildlife habitat, historic preservation and protection of open spaces. Native American Tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements.
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully restore, enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce damage from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement. Tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.
In north central Iowa, ACEP funds have been used to add nearly 400 acres to an existing contiguous 600 acre wetland complex protecting the recently restored public Big Wall Lake. Two land trusts in Colorado plan to use ACEP funds to enroll 1,805 acres to protect critical Sage Grouse habitat in Saguache County and in the Upper Colorado River Corridor Priority Landscape located in Grand County.
In fiscal years 2014 and 2015, NRCS invested more than $600 million in ACEP funding to help landowners engage in voluntary conservation to provide long-term protection of an estimated 250,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through more than 750 new easements.
To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA Service Center.
FARMS TO RECEIVE FINANCIAL HELP
USDA Nevada Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director, Clint Koble announced that approximately 27 Nevada farms that enrolled in the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill will soon begin receiving financial assistance for the 2014 crop year. The programs, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), are designed to protect against unexpected drops in crop prices or revenues due to market downturns.
“These new safety-net programs provide help when price and revenues fall below normal, unlike the previous direct payments program that provided funds even in good years,” said Koble.
According to Koble for crops harvested in Nevada, the average price for the market year was higher than the historical benchmark established by the programs, so financial assistance did not occur under PLC.
However, producers who elected the county-based option of ARC which protects against lower revenue from a combination of price and yield may see a payment for certain 2014 crops.
“Payments by county can vary because average county yields will differ,” said Koble.
Statewide, 220 farms participated in ARC-County and 293 farms participated in PLC. More details on the price and yield information used to calculate assistance from the safety-net programs is available on the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.
ASSISTANCE FROM FSA
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Clint Koble reminds agricultural producers that FSA provides a receipt to customers who request or receive assistance or information on FSA programs.
The 2014 Farm Bill requires a receipt to be issued for any agricultural program assistance requested from FSA, the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rural Development (RD). Receipts include the date, summary of the visit and any agricultural information, program and/or loan assistance provided to an individual or entity.
In some cases, a form or document — such as a completed and signed program enrollment form –serve as the customer receipt instead of a printed or electronic receipt. A service is any information, program or loan assistance provided whether through a visit, email, fax or letter.
For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill. To learn more about FSA, visit www.fsa.usda.gov or to find your local USDA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.
FARM STORAGE FACILITY LOANS
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini has announced that the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program, which provides low-interest financing to producers to build or upgrade storage facilities, will now include dairy, flowers and meats as eligible commodities.
To learn more about the FSA Farm Storage Facility Loan, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/pricesupport or contact a local FSA county office.
Find your local FSA county office at http://offices.usda.gov.
THE loans are designed to assist a diverse range of farming operations, including small and mid-sized businesses, new farmers, operations supplying local food and farmers markets, non-traditional farm products, and underserved producers.
USDA LOANS, GRANTS
Agriculture Under Secretary Lisa Mensah is encouraging rural small businesses to apply for loans and grants to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
“Helping rural small businesses save money on energy costs strengthens their bottom line and helps the U.S. become more energy independent,” Mensah said. “It also reduces our country’s carbon footprint, which leads to a cleaner environment and a more secure energy future.”
USDA is accepting Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) applications for: 1) loans and grants for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements, and 2) grants for energy audits and renewable energy development assistance.
Eligible agricultural producers and rural small businesses may use REAP funds to purchase and install renewable energy systems and make energy efficiency improvements. Eligible renewable energy systems include energy from wind, solar, renewable biomass (including anaerobic digesters), small hydro-electric, geothermal, or hydrogen derived from these renewable resources. Energy audits and renewable energy development assistance grants are available to state, tribal, or local governments; institutions of higher education; rural electric cooperatives and public power entities. The REAP grants can pay up to 25% of the total project cost.
REAP applications are accepted continuously, and the next funding deadline for grants of $20,000 and less is Nov. 2, 2015. To learn more visit the USDA website at www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency or contact Mark Williams, Energy Coordinator for USDA Rural Development Nevada at (775) 887-1222, Ext. 116.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has an active portfolio of more than $210 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
GRANGE LOOKING FOR MEMBERS
Do you have youth ages 5 and up who are looking to get involved? Do they want to learn leadership skills, have a opportunity to make a difference, serve the community and become role models?
A new Grange is starting in Fallon and would like you to join the team. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The focus initially will be to provide opportunities for children and young adults of Churchill County to engage in community activities. The members of the newly started Grange are going to start both a Junior and a Youth program to provide different enrichment activities and teaching community activities to the youth in our community.
“We want to give the young kids in the area something fun to do and show them how they can work together to make their community better by giving back,” said Gloria Montero. “We want to teach them about farming, livestock, and community service.
We want to instill pride in their accomplishments by letting them present their talents at any or all local fairs and events. The future of this country is our children, so they should always be our priority.”
The Grange is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, fraternal organization with more than 80,000 members across the United States. More than than 2,100 Granges contribute millions of volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to our hometowns each year.