USDA Secretary announces improvements at USDA that will benefit farmers and ranchers
By: Sydney Sheffield
During the American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF’s) annual convention, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced four new programs at USDA to benefit farmers and ranchers. Vilsack also discussed the next phases of the Emergency Relief Program and Pandemic Assistance Revenue Program, and the importance of the 2023 farm bill.
“At USDA, our goal is to provide all farmers, including new and underserved producers, with the opportunity to receive the assistance they need to continue farming, to build and maintain their competitive-edge, and to access more, new, and better markets,” said Vilsack. “Working together we can ensure American agriculture is as resilient as ever and will do so by implementing a holistic approach to emergency assistance, by lowering input costs through investments in domestic fertilizer production, and by promoting competition in agricultural markets.”
The first announcement assists producers facing high input costs to access domestic, innovative fertilizer capacity. USDA will soon begin accepting public comments on environmental and related aspects of 21 potentially viable projects to increase fertilizer production across the United States totaling up to $88 million. These applicants have requested grant funding through the first round of the Department’s newly established Fertilizer Production Expansion Program. The Department is considering fertilizer production projects in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The second announcement is a program that will improve risk protection for underserved producers. The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters. In addition to the basic catastrophic level coverage under NAP, producers can purchase higher levels of coverage by paying a premium. Underserved producers receive a 50 percent discount on any premiums.
In the third announcement, USDA will invest more than $12 million in new choices and meat processing capacity for livestock producers, by expanding independent meat and poultry processing capacity in Ohio, Michigan, and Minnesota. This is in addition to recent announcements of $74 million in 22 MPPEP projects, $75 million in grants through the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program, $3.9 million in Value Added Producer Grants, and $5.7 million in Food Supply Chain Loan Guarantees, all supporting meat and poultry processing.
The last announcement provides relief for producers impacted by disaster and the pandemic through two programs, the Emergency Relief Program and Pandemic Assistance Revenue Program. These programs will fill the remaining gaps in previous natural disasters and pandemic assistance programs. To be eligible, an agricultural producer must have been in the business of farming during at least part of the 2020 calendar year and had a 15% or greater decrease in allowable gross revenue for the 2020 calendar year, as compared to a baseline year.
Regarding the 2023 Farm Bill, Vilsack said, “A farm bill isn’t just about farms, and it isn’t just about nutrition, and it isn’t just about conservation. It’s about preserving a fundamental aspect of our country, of being a food secure nation that empowers the rest of the nation to do all of what we do in America. The future of our country is directly connected to your future.”