USDA issued an update on its progress in implementing provisions of the new farm bill, which was signed into law December 2018. Here are some highlights:
TITLE I – Commodity Programs
- Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy): On March 22, 2019, Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program in 2018 can now retroactively participate in the MPP-Dairy for 2018. Contact your local FSA office for more information.
- Dairy Margin Coverage Program: On March 28, 2019, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) revised monthly price survey reports to include prices for high-quality alfalfa hay in the top five milk producing states to be utilized in the new Dairy Margin Coverage feed calculation.
o FSA will begin offering reimbursements to eligible producers for MPP-Dairy premiums paid between 2014-2017 by May 1.
o FSA will open sign-ups for the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program beginning June 17, providing coverage retroactive to January 1, 2019, with applicable payments following soon after enrollment.
- Emergency Conservation Program (ECP): On April 4, 2019, FSA announced several changes to ECP as provided by the 2018 Farm Bill, including increasing the payment limit from $200,000 per person or legal entity per natural event to $500,000.
o On April 4, 2019, FSA announced that socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers or ranchers are now eligible for up to 90 percent ECP cost share of their total allowable cost.
- Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP): On April 8, 2019, FSA announced that producers now have a one-time opportunity until May 24, 2019, to obtain buy-up coverage for 2019 or 2020 eligible crops for which the NAP application closing date has passed. In addition, qualified military veteran farmers and ranchers are now eligible for a service fee waiver and premium reduction.
TITLE II – Conservation
- Conservation Innovation Grants: On March 26, 2019, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) state offices began publishing notices of funding availability for the Conservation Innovation Grants state competitions.
- Agricultural Conservation Easement Program: On March 27, USDA published an announcement regarding the availability of $450 million for wetland and agricultural land easements that will help private landowners, tribes, land trusts, and other groups wanting to restore and protect critical wetlands and protect agricultural lands and grasslands.
- Conservation Stewardship Program: On April 5, 2019, NRCS announced the next deadline for CSP applications to be ranked and considered for funding this year as May 10, 2019. It includes higher payments for enhancements that include cover crops, resource conserving crop rotations, and advanced grazing.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program: This program operates through a continuous signup process. Applications may be submitted throughout the year. At the state level, NRCS has periodic funding cutoff periods when applications are evaluated for selection.
TITLE III – Trade
- Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Funding: On February 7, 2019, the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) allocated more than $204 million in Market Access Program and Foreign Market and Development Program.
TITLE V – Credit
- Modified Microloan Limits: On March 7, 2019, FSA implemented a change to allow agricultural producers to receive both a $50,000 Direct Operating Microloan and a $50,000 Direct Farm Ownership Microloan. Previously, agricultural producers were limited to a combined total of $50,000.
- Increase in Percent of Guarantee for Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: On March 7, 2019, FSA increased the percent for new guaranteed loans to any beginning or socially disadvantaged agricultural producer to 95 percent.
- Increased Loan Limits: On April 11, 2019, FSA announced that eligible agricultural producers have access to higher loan amounts, to better provide them with the credit needed during this period of lower market prices and numerous natural disasters.
TITLE X – Horticulture
- Hemp: The 2018 Farm Bill extended the 2014 Farm Bill provisions for hemp production by 12 months to allow USDA to complete the required rulemaking process, and USDA intends to issue regulations in the Fall of 2019 in order to accommodate the 2020 planting season. For the 2019 planting season, the 2018 Farm Bill provides that states, tribes, and institutions of higher education can continue operating under authorities of the 2014 Farm Bill.
- National Organic Standards Board (NOSB): In March 2019, AMS issued a Call for Nominations for the NOSB that included 2018 Farm Bill provisions that will lead to a more diverse candidate pool for the NOSB. Open seats include one environmental representative, one farmer, one retailer, and two handler/processors. Nominations are due May 20, 2019.
TITLE XI – Crop Insurance
- Specialty Crop Insurance: On March 6, 2019, Risk Management Agency (RMA) created a dedicated Specialty Crop website to fulfill the requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill. The website lists specialty crop liaisons by Regional Office and provides a link to the 2019 Specialty Crop Report as well as a link to archived prior reports.
- Beginning Farmer and Rancher: On March 12, 2019, RMA implemented the new definition for the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program that extends the time for new beginning farmer and rancher eligibility from five years to 10 years for the sales closing dates after the passage of the farm bill.
This article was adapted from a press release issued by USDA Office of Communications April 12, 2019.