Eight weeks after the final vote came in on the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack answered questions from lawmakers Thursday and released an update regarding its implementation, detailing progress on each title.
Immediately after passage, Vilsack explained in a House Ag Committee hearing, the USDA identified roughly 450 steps that would need to be taken to implement the farm bill. A major focus was also on livestock disaster assistance.
"We have a convening group that has reprioritized the priorities in each title to determine what needs to be done immediately," Vilsack said. "Obviously our focus was on getting the disaster programs up and going. We recognize that we have an equal set of pressure and stress in making sure that there is educational materials prepared and given to producers so that they can begin the process of understanding the various elections they have to make."
According to USDA, the farm bill implementation team was composed of sub-cabinet officials and experts from every mission area of the Department to put new programs in place and make mandated reforms to existing programs.
Implementation also meant launching a new website to provide details of the new farm bill in one location. The Economic Research Service also launched a website highlighting some of the economic implications of the new programs and provisions.
In the weeks since enactment, USDA has held 12 outreach and listening sessions to share information and hear from stakeholders on the 2014 Farm Bill implementation process.
Important progress has been made on every title of the Farm Bill including updates to risk management tools, modifications to farm loan programs, announcements regarding available funds for agricultural research and much more.
As Vilsack noted, quick implementation on disaster relief programs is within sight. Beginning April 15, producers will be able to enroll in the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program, USDA said.
Educational materials on new risk management programs are in preparation; announcements on new agriculture research partnerships, conservation and nutrition programs, and other farm bill provisions will continue to be made in the coming weeks and months, USDA said.
For a detailed review of farm bill action on key titles for farmers and ranchers to date, keep reading after the jump >>>
How will the March 31 USDA reports impact your bottom line? Farm Futures Senior Market Analyst Bryce Knorr and Farm Futures Senior Editor Bob Burgdorfer will discuss the reports and the spring weather outlook in a free webinar April 7 at 7 p.m. CDT. Learn more about the Farm Futures webinar.
If you missed the webinar, check out Bryce Knorr's Morning Market Review updated every day by 7:30 a.m. CDT.
Title I: Commodity Programs
• Supplemental Agriculture Disaster Assistance: USDA will publish a final rule to implement the disaster assistance provisions and begin sign-up by April 15, 2014.
• County and Regional Loan Rates: USDA issued a press release on March 28, 2014 announcing county and regional loan rates.
• Extension of Programs: On March 28, 2014, FSA published on 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; and (5) Sugar.
• Dairy Forward Pricing Program: Final rule published on March 21, 2014, that re-established the Dairy Forward Pricing Program.
Title II: Conservation
• Conservation Programs: Applications are currently being accepted for the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Title III: Trade
• Market Access Program: During the week of April 7, 2014, the Foreign Agricultural Service will announce 2014 MAP funding.
• Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program: During the week of April 7, 2014, FAS will announce 2014 FMD funding.
Title V: Credit
• Farm Loan Programs/Direct Farm Ownership: On February 7, 2014, FSA implemented changes in the interest rate on Direct Farm Ownership loans that are made in conjunction with other lenders.
• Modifications to Farm Loan Programs: On March 24, 2014, FSA issued a news release in announcing changes to Farm Loan Programs as part of the Farm Bill.
• Microloans: On March 26, 2014, FSA issued an agency directive implementing non-discretionary microloan provisions.
Title VI: Rural Development
• Value Added Producer Grants: On March 25, 2014, Rural Development published a notice in the Federal Register extending the application period for Fiscal Year 2013 and 2014 funding for VAPG, with up to $25.5 million available for these grants.
Title VII: Research
• Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative: On March 17, 2014, NIFA released a Notice of Funding Availability for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, with $20 million available in FY 2014.
• Specialty Crop Research Initiative: On March 17, 2014, NIFA released a Notice of Funding Availability for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, with $76.8 million available in FY 2014.
Title X: Horticulture
• Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention: On April 3, 2014, USDA announced $48.1 million in funding for 383 projects to help prevent the introduction or spread of plan pests and diseases.
Title XI: Crop Insurance
• Premium Amounts for Catastrophic Risk Protection: During the first week of April, the Risk Management Agency will issue documents to revise the premium rates charged for CAT coverage to be based on the average historical "loss ratio" plus a reasonable reserve.