New Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Insurance Premium Subsidy Established

2014 Farm Bill Required Policy Offers Diversified Farms More Affordable Protection

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced that a premium subsidy has been established to offer more affordable protection to eligible diversified farm operations, as part of the new Whole-Farm Revenue Protection insurance policy.

Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, required by the 2014 Farm Bill, will be offered through the RMA managed federal crop insurance program. The new policy will offer fruit and vegetable growers and producers with diversified farms selling commodities to wholesale markets, local and regional markets, farm identity preserved markets, or direct markets, more flexible, affordable risk management coverage options.

“Crop insurance options continue to adapt to meet the farm safety net needs of today’s farmers,” said RMA Administrator Brandon Willis. “Whole-Farm Revenue Protection insurance will expand options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers, allowing them to insure all the crops at once instead of one commodity at a time. That gives them the option of promoting crop diversity and helps support the production of a wider variety of healthy foods.”

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USDA Invests Nearly $118 Million to Support America’s Specialty Crop Producers

By: USDA

MIAMI, Fla, Oct. 2, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced nearly $118 million in grants to strengthen markets for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, horticulture and nursery crops. The grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill as part of an effort to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops and provide resources to strengthen American agriculture. The Secretary made the announcement in Florida.

“Specialty crop grants provide a major boost to the rural economies,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Today’s announcement is another example of how USDA is implementing the Farm Bill to deliver critical tools producers need to successfully grow, process and market high-quality products.”

Sales of specialty crops total nearly $65 billion per year, making them a critical part of the U.S. economy. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), will provide $66 million to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research and programs to increase demand. In addition, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is awarding $51.8 million in grants through its Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI). SCRI supports the specialty crop sector by developing and disseminating science-based tools to address the needs of specific crops.

Read the full story here.

To Ensure the Best Outcomes for Rural Americans, Better Provisions Needed in Federal Broadband Plan

By Joan C. Smith, President, Potomac Grange #1

Today’s global economy demands that every participant have access to reliable, high-speed Internet in order to attain a level playing field to actively participate in the virtual business marketplace. Although rural America constitutes 15% of our total population, it is these men and women and families who keep food on our tables, fuel in our cars and provide energy for our homes and businesses. We owe it to them to implement the infrastructure to provide broadband internet services.   Americans living in rural areas still lack access to this vital resource.

Historically, rural areas have been the last to gain access to new conveniences. Broadband Internet, however, is not merely a convenience—it is essential to the business of agriculture, farming and ranching and nearly every other aspect of life in rural America. Rural communities are profoundly and adversely affected by poor access to high-speed Internet. Right now we have the chance to change that once and for all with appropriate reforms during Phase II of the Connect America Fund (CAF) plan; it’s up to the Federal Communications Commission to make the right choices.

There’s a lot at stake with the CAF initiative, so we must get it right; the consequences, good or bad, could stretch over decades. The National Grange has always advocated for updating rural infrastructure, as it did for the railroads and rural postal delivery, and now the emphases is with rural broadband Internet. Modern farming and ranching is like any other business; it relies heavily on technology and information. Dairy production and crop yields can be monitored and data shared in real time between different farms and the marketplace. Commodities prices can also be followed to help determine what crops to plant and when to harvest.

CAF was first developed in 2011, with the goal of connecting as many as 7 million un-served rural Americans by 2017 and all of the country’s 19 million un-served individuals living in rural areas by 2020; yet it still is not finalized and hasn’t even begun to be put into practice. CAF calls for $1.8 billion in funding, but how best to use this funding to effectively build out broadband infrastructure to rural areas is the real issue at hand. Regrettably, it seems significant changes need to be made to the existing plan during Phase II to deliver the most essential outcomes.

The plan is centered on more than doubling required download speed from 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps. That would be fantastic, but it won’t make a big difference if other related aspects of the CAF plan are not improved as well.

Consider the way in which broadband coverage is measured. Right now, “Census blocks” are used, and as long as part of the block has access, it is counted as being covered. Yet within each “block” there are households left without the service, perpetuating the digital divide for those individuals and families while keeping up the appearance of closing the gap in access. Higher standards and independent verification of different providers’ broadband coverage claims can ameliorate this problem.

Moreover, unlicensed, fixed Wireless Internet Services, or WISPs, are being treated as suitable alternatives to real facilities-based fiber infrastructure, not true. The FCC’s regulatory assumption is that a WISP provides reliable connectivity to an entire area, but that just isn’t accurate. Capacity can be very limited in these networks, and there are issues like line-of-sight (LOS) and spectrum interference. WISPs really aren’t acceptable as primary infrastructure, but can be useful in a supporting function.

Providers still need better incentives to build out the infrastructure to reach rural areas, the most isolated, and hard-to-reach areas. Connect America Fund (CAF) resources can be used to share some of the financial burden for those efforts. Providers should be held to elevated but reasonable standards and need enough flexibility to handle the unexpected hindrances that are bound to occur with a project like this.

Finally, let’s extend the planned funding period to a full ten (10) years to ensure this work is steadily and properly carried out.

Perhaps most important, our families and communities can be strengthened through better access and higher download speeds. Jobs can be created and local economies improved. Services that eliminate some travel over large distances in many rural areas, such as telemedicine and distance learning, can save energy, develop a better rural workforce and improve quality of life. The majority of our nation’s farmers and ranchers are small business owners, internet utilization informs them of new agricultural technologies to enhance their production thereby providing higher yields to meet our growing demand for food, fiber and fuel.

Rural Americans need and deserve equal access to top-notch broadband Internet service. As a fifth-generation Granger myself, I urge the FCC to enact the “right rules and regulations” to get the most out of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II represents.

Joan C. Smith is President of Potomac Grange #1, Washington, DC. The National Grange, founded in 1867, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan fraternal organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture. With a strong history in grassroots activism, family values and community service, the Grange is part of more than 2,100 hometowns across the United States.

U.S. Aims to Curb Peril of Antibiotic Resistance

19antibiotics-master675WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Thursday announced measures to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, outlining a national strategy that includes incentives for the development of new drugs, tighter stewardship of existing ones, and improvements in tracking the use of antibiotics and the microbes that are resistant to them.

The actions are the first major White House effort to confront a public health crisis that takes at least 23,000 lives a year, and many experts were pleased that a president had finally focused on the issue. But some said the strategy fell short in not recommending tougher measures against the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, which, they argue, is a big part of the problem.

Researchers have been warning for years that antibiotics — miracle drugs that changed the course of human health in the 20th century — are losing their power because of overuse. Some warn that if the trend is not halted, we could return to the time before antibiotics, when it was common for people to die from ordinary infections and for children not to survive strep throat.

John P. Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told reporters that the new strategy — established by an executive order that President Obama signed on Thursday — was intended to jolt the federal government into action to combat a health crisis that many experts say it has been slow to recognize.

Read Full Story Here.
By Sabrina Tavernise | The New York Times

Enrollment for New Dairy Farm Risk Management Program to Begins Sept. 2

USDA Launches New Web Tool to Help Producers Manage Unforeseen Economic Challenges

Starting Sept. 2, 2014, farmers can enroll in the new Dairy Margin Protection Program. 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.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also launched a new Web tool to help producers determine the level of coverage under the Margin Protection Program that will provide them with the strongest safety net under a variety of conditions. The online resource, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool, allows dairy farmers to quickly and easily combine unique operation data and other key variables to calculate their coverage needs based on price projections.

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.

The 2014 Farm Bill also established the Dairy Product Donation Program. The program authorizes USDA to purchase and donate dairy products to nonprofit organizations that provide nutrition assistance to low-income families. Purchases only occur during periods of low dairy margins. Dairy operators do not need to enroll to benefit from the Dairy Product Donation Program.

Visit FSA online at www.fsa.usda.gov/factsheets, or stop by a local FSA office to learn more about the Margin Protection Program or the Dairy Product Donation Program.

Veterans Growing Careers in Agriculture

Center for Rural Affairs hosting webinar and virtual  farm tours to help Veterans
return home to farm and ranch

Lyons, NE – In the last decade, almost a million of our military’s servicemen and servicewomen have come from rural communities. As they return home, they bring along an opportunity to employ their passion, discipline, and sense of service to revitalize America’s small farms, ranches and rural communities.

That’s why the Center for Rural Affairs along with partnering organizations will host a Farm Training Webinar on Friday, November 16th. The webinar will include several virtual farm tours and other information for U.S military veterans interested in taking up a career in a rural community and starting their own farms or ranches. The web-based training will allow people to participate wherever they are, including those deployed overseas.

Event Details:
Web-based Farm Training Webinar

“America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities are aging, and not enough new farmers and ranchers are getting started,” said Wyatt Fraas with the Center for Rural Affairs. “By returning to their farming and ranching roots, veterans can carry on the proud tradition of America’s family farms and ranches.”

Fraas further explained that while some veterans return home to jobs, many are returning to rural areas where jobs can be scarce. The Center for Rural Affairs’ Veteran Farmers Project provides veterans with the knowledge to become successful farmers and ranchers. By creating sound farm and ranch businesses that tap into high value markets, returning veterans can reintegrate gracefully and fruitfully into America’s rural communities.

“It’s important to thank veterans for their service. And helping returning vets transition from the military back into the workforce and into their post-military careers is equally important,” concluded Fraas.

The free-of-charge webinar features video farm tours and discussion with several farmers and ranchers: Evrett Lunquist and Ruth Chantry of Common Good Farm will describe direct marketing of produce and livestock products; and veteran Garrett Dwyer will explain his cattle operation. The 90 minute program will also focus on financing and land access options, disability assistance, Farm Service Agency loan programs, and other resources for veterans.

“It can be difficult to get started in the world of agriculture,” said Dwyer, a beginning rancher and former Marine infantryman from Bartlett, NE. “Skyrocketing costs of buying or renting land make entry into farming and ranching a daunting task.”

According to Dwyer, more beginning farmers and ranchers are needed because without a new generation of beginners, the land will concentrate in large farms. “And that will cause the permanent loss of opportunity for family farms, ranches, and rural communities and squander the chance to shift to a more sustainable system of agriculture,” explained Dwyer.

Major funding for this project is provided by USDA Risk Management Agency. Partner organizations include the Center for Rural Affairs, Farmer-Veteran Coalition, Nebraska Farmers Union, Kansas Farmers Union, Missouri Farmers Union, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Kansas AgrAbility Project, Nebraska AgrAbility Project and Missouri AgrAbility Project.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

Crop-Withering Drought Intensifies in Plains

By Jim Suhr | Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Drought conditions have worsened in several parched Plains states, further punishing withering corn and soybean crops and devastating the pastureland that ranchers depend on, according to the latest U.S. drought map.

Thursday’s release of the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map came as the House took up disaster-relief legislation meant to help livestock producers who have seen feed prices soar due to what for many is the worst drought in decades.

That legislation, opposed by conservation and anti-tax groups who see it as another government bailout, was unlikely to receive Senate consideration before Congress adjourns for its August recess.

Senator Kirk Calls on House to Approve Farm Bill

Illinois Ag Connection

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) called upon his colleagues in the House to pass a Farm Bill reauthorization prior to the August recess. The importance of the Farm Bill, set to expire in September of this year, cannot be overstated — especially as our nation faces the worst drought it has seen in more than 50 years. Drought conditions have damaged nearly one third of our nation’s crop. Some crops, including corn and soybeans in Illinois, have sustained irreparable damage.

In states like Illinois where agriculture is an essential engine of the economy, crop loss can have a particularly widespread and devastating impact. Hot, dry weather has dominated most of the state, causing a continuous decline in the conditions of Illinois’ staple crops, such as corn. Crop insurance, would be predicated by the Farm Bill, provides essential protection for farmers against crop loss due to disasters, including this year’s devastating drought. The Farm Bill reauthorization sets crop insurance subsidies at reasonable rates, assuring that all farmers can afford this essential coverage.

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Quota System Could Sour Milk Production

Journal Sentinel Online

Rep. Ron Kind says he is leery of a component in the farm bill being considered in Congress that could hurt Wisconsin dairy farmers and cheese plants. He’s right to be leery – and his concerns should be felt by the rest of the Wisconsin delegation, who should do what they can to change it.

The quota component of the measure would under certain circumstances force farmers to reduce production, which would reduce the amount of milk available for cheese plants and for export to growing overseas markets. That would be a mistake under any circumstance, but especially so now when farmers in southern Wisconsin and other parts of the country are coping with a devastating drought.

Both Kind and Hardin, editor of The Milkweed, a monthly report on the dairy industry, said they were concerned about the effect of the quota proposal on cheese plants in Wisconsin, which have struggled to get enough milk from within the state to operate at full capacity. Forcing farmers to cut their milk production could exacerbate that problem, they said.

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Feds Send Money to NC amd NY Farmers for Energy Crops

By Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspaper

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to announce Wednesday that North Carolina and New York each will receive about $4 million for farmers growing crops used to produce energy.

The expansion is part of a federal push to produce more non-food energy crops, used to make liquid biofuels or electricity from renewable sources.

“It’s about farm income, it’s about jobs, it’s about consumer choice and less reliance on foreign oil,” Vilsack said in an interview Tuesday.

Vilsack said that while it’s true that advanced biofuels from non-food crops today cost more than petroleum products, the cost will go down as the new fuels are developed…

 

Read more here: http://www.islandpacket.com/2012/06/13/2100303/feds-sending-money-to-north-carolina.html#storylink=cpy