Tag Archives: USDA

Indianapolis Indiana – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue  announced the acceptance of more than 3.4 million acres in the general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup recently completed, the first general signup enrollments since 2016. County offices will begin notifying producers with accepted offers no later than April 3.

Through CRP, farmers and ranchers receive an annual rental payment for establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and is critical in helping producers better manage their operations while conserving valuable natural resources,” State Executive Director Steve Brown said. “The program marked its 35th anniversary this year, and we were quite pleased to see one of our largest signups in many years.”

Over these 35 years, CRP has addressed multiple concerns while ensuring the most competitive offers are selected by protecting fragile and environmentally sensitive lands, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife populations, providing pollinator forage habitat, sequestering carbon in soil and enhancing soil productivity. Seventy percent of the nation’s land is owned and tended privately, and America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have willingly stepped up to protect the environment and natural resources.

This general signup included offers for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), which allows producers to install practices that benefit high-priority, locally developed wildlife conservation objectives using targeted restoration of vital habitat. Over 95 percent of SAFE offers submitted were accepted under this general signup representing more than 487,500 acres. This acceptance level highlights the commitment to SAFE as an important part of CRP.

The 2018 Farm Bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 24.5 million acres in 2020 and growing to 27 million by 2023.

While the deadline for general CRP signup was February 28, 2020, signups for continuous CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, CRP Grasslands and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) are ongoing. The CRP Grasslands deadline is May 15, and the SHIPP signup begins March 30, 2020, and ends August 21, 2020.

Continuous and Grasslands enrollments are available nationwide.  All counties located within the Prairie Pothole region states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota are eligible for SHIPP.

This spring, FSA will roll out a new pilot conservation program, the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers 30 (CLEAR 30).

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

For state-by-state information on general signup results, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced additional flexibilities to make it easier for children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities to get food during the COVID-19 national emergency and remove administrative roadblocks for the dedicated local staff who serve them. These changes are in line with USDA’s commitment to keep Americans safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and explore all options to keep kids fed during this unprecedented time.

 

“USDA is committed to maximizing our services and flexibilities to ensure children and others who need food can get it during this Coronavirus epidemic,” said Secretary Perdue. “This is a challenging time for many Americans, but it is reassuring to see our Government and fellow Americans stepping up to the challenges facing us to make sure kids and those facing hunger are fed.”

 

Background:

Under one of the newly-announced waivers, USDA is giving states the option to allow parents or guardians to take meals home to their children. Typically, children would need to be present to receive a meal through USDA’s child nutrition programs.

 

However, USDA recognizes that this may not be practical during the current COVID-19 outbreak. This flexibility is also available for states to assist seniors and individuals with disabilities served through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Additional nationwide flexibilities announced today include:

  • Allowing states to waive meal pattern requirements, so local operators can create meals with the foods they have available; and
  • Delaying administrative deadlines associated with the Community Eligibility Provisionto ease burdens on schools that are currently closed due to COVID-19.

 

Since the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, USDA has been working tirelessly with states and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators are empowered to continue feeding children. These flexibilities complement previously-announced nationwide actions that temporarily waive:

 

USDA will continue to provide technical assistance to help state agencies swiftly implement these flexibilities.

 

Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has taken to uphold the USDA’s commitment to “Do Right and Feed Everyone” during this national emergency. Other actions include:

  • Launching a new coronavirus webpage to proactively inform the public about USDA’s efforts to keep children and families fed
  • Investing in a public-private partnershipto feed rural childrenimpacted by school closures due to COVID-19;
  • Allowing states to issue Pandemic EBT(electronic benefits transfer, similar to food stamps) to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures;
  • Providing administrative flexibilities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to allow for social distancing; and
  • Allowing states to issue emergency supplemental SNAP benefitsto increase recipients’ purchasing power during the national emergency.

 

 

These actions and more are part of USDA’s focus on service during the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more about FNS’s response to COVID-19, visit www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus

 

The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service statistical reports remain on schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the March 26 Hogs and Pigs and March 31 Prospective Plantings reports.

NASS reports the agency also continues to collect data for all upcoming reports, asking farmers and ranchers to complete their surveys online, if they don’t already respond that way. To protect the health and safety of producers, partners, and employees, NASS has suspended in-person data collection at least until April 3, 2020.

NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer says, “We are making every effort to produce the U.S. crop, livestock, and economic statistics that the nation counts on, but to do that responsibly, we are following guidance to slow the spread of coronavirus.” Ensuring that responses are returned on time means little or no additional outreach is needed.

USDA says online response is faster and more convenient for producers. To respond online at agcounts.usda.gov, producers will need their unique 17-digit survey code from the questionnaire or letter received in the mail.

Lincoln, Nebraska– U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Centers are encouraging visitors to take proactive protective measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Beginning Monday, March 23, USDA Service Centers in Nebraska will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. In the event a Service Center is closed, producers can receive assistance from the closest alternate Service Center by phone.

Producers can find Service Center phone numbers at farmers.gov/service-center-locator. FPAC agencies continue to look at flexibilities to deliver programs on behalf of producers, just as they have in past situations, such as natural disasters. Farmers and ranchers are resilient and FPAC agencies will continue to deliver the farm safety net programs and resource conservation programs that keep American agriculture in business today and long into the future.

Online services are available to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. Online NRCS services are available to customers through the Conservation Client Gateway. Customers can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance, and electronically sign documents. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in.

For the most current updates on available services and Service Center status visit farmers.gov/coronavirus.

The first approved coronavirus bill includes several nutrition provisions. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by President Donald Trump Wednesday.

Among other things, the legislation provides more than $1 billion to provide food to pregnant women and mothers with young children, help food banks, and provide meals to families and seniors. The bill creates a Health Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to allow states to increase benefits for families who need additional food assistance during this crisis.

The legislation also lifts certain restrictions that make it harder for families to continue to get food during this time. The legislation also Improves child nutrition programs to allow schools and nonprofits to serve children during closures and allows multiple meals to be taken home or delivered. The bill allows alternative meal distribution methods such as mobile delivery.

Additionally, the bill expands eligibility to schools and nonprofits, establishes a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for families that rely on school meals, expands food distribution through food bank funding, and allows states to waive burdensome requirements.

Two farm-state Senators want the Department of Agriculture to change a rule in the Packers and Stockyards Act. Senate Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senate Democrat Jon Tester of Montana recently sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting USDA “clarify an ambiguous proposed rule regarding the undue and reasonable preferences provision of the Packers and Stockyards Act.”

Grassley and Tester are urging USDA to ensure the new rule protects small livestock and poultry farmers from unreasonable practices of packers and poultry companies. In their letter, they outlined specific changes to address this proposed rule. The Senators say the current rule, “not only fails to address many of these abusive and unreasonable industry practices, but it actively establishes criteria insulating packers and poultry companies from scrutiny.”

The rule also appears to provide legal protection for packers who are able to justify a practice based on the need to save costs and reduce prices, or if their practices are deemed “customary” in the industry because they align with those of their competitors.

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a collaboration with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19:

 

“Feeding children who are affected by school closures is a top priority for President Trump and this Administration. USDA is working with private sector partners to deliver boxes of food to children in rural America who are affected by school closures,” said Secretary Perdue. “Right now, USDA and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing but are still receiving healthy and nutritious food. This whole of America approach to tackling the coronavirus leverages private sector ingenuity with the exact same federal financing as the Summer Food Service Program. USDA has already taken swift action to ensure children are fed in the event of school closures, and we continue to waive restrictions and expand flexibilities across our programs.”

 

“We are grateful to come alongside USDA, PepsiCo, and McLane Global to ensure that children impacted by school closures get access to nutritious food regardless of where they live. We know from first-hand experience that families with children who live in rural communities across the U.S. are often unable to access the existing food sites. Meal delivery is critical for children in rural America to have consistent access to food when school is out. This is one way we, as citizens of this great nation, can respond to our neighbors in need,” said Jeremy Everett, Executive Director, Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty.

 

“McLane Global was proud to take part in the success of the summer Meals-2-You home delivery pilot program in 2019. It was a great opportunity to bring private industry best practices together with the USDA to combat rural hunger. Given the rapid disruptions driven by COVID-19, we can work together to swiftly take this model nationwide. McLane Global is ready to do its part to support the fight against hunger through this crisis,” said Denton McLane, Chairman, McLane Global.

 

“As schools around the country close, millions of schoolchildren now don’t know where their next meal is coming from. In the face of this unprecedented crisis, it’s critical that the private sector help ensure these students have access to nutritious meals,” said Jon Banner, Executive Vice President, PepsiCo Global Communications and President, PepsiCo Foundation. “PepsiCo is committing $1 million to help Baylor create a solution with USDA to identify children most in need and then we will help reach them with at least 200,000 meals per week—one way we are deploying our food and beverage resources to help those most vulnerable.”

 

Background:

USDA will utilize best practices learned through a summer pilot program in 2019 to deliver food boxes to children affected by school closures due to COVID-19 in rural America. Baylor will coordinate with the appropriate state officials to prioritize students who do not currently have access to a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) site and have an active outbreak of COVID-19. Initial capacity is limited, and additional vendors are requested and encouraged to ensure we can provide food to more rural children as additional schools close. USDA has created a single contact for those who have suggestions, ideas, or want to help feed kids across the country. Email FeedingKids@usda.gov.

 

The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo will begin distributing next week and will quickly increase capacity of nearly 1,000,000 nutritious meals per week. In addition to distribution, PepsiCo will generously provide $1 million in funding to the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to facilitate nationwide distribution in the coming weeks. These boxes will contain five days worth of shelf-stable, nutritious, individually packaged foods that meet USDA’s summer food requirements. The use of this innovative delivery system will ensure rural children receive nutritious food while limiting exposure to COVID-19. USDA will reimburse private sector partners for the same rate as an SFSP site.

 

Last week, Secretary Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.

 

USDA intends to use all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. USDA is receiving requests for waivers on an ongoing basis. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and USDA has granted those requests.

 

The National Farmers Union stated a proposed rule from the USDA will undermine the Packers and Stockyards Act. Those were among the comments that new National Farmers Union President Rob Larew submitted to the USDA late last week.

Larew pointed out that the Packers and Stockyards Act was put into place to “assure fair competition” in the livestock, meat, and poultry industries, as well as to “safeguard farmers and ranchers from unfair, deceptive, unjustly discriminatory and monopolistic practices.”

The NFU stated the rule in question, which outlines criteria for determining if a company has shown “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages” for one farmer over another, does little to achieve either goal. Instead, the rule will provide few, if any protections to farmers while shielding corporations from legal challenges to abusive and anticompetitive actions.

Larew urged the USDA to develop clear and specific criteria that would offer meaningful protections to family farmers and ranchers.

“There has long been a large power imbalance between family farmers and the livestock and poultry industries,” Larew said. “That’s why Congress put the Packers and Stockyards Act into place, but it has lacked the teeth it needs to provide the most basic protections to farmers and ranchers.”

He added it’s supposed to protect farmers from corporations, not the other way around.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement on March 13, after the Canadian Parliament approved the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“USMCA is a great victory for America’s agriculture industry, and I am pleased to see Canada’s Parliament approved the deal today. USMCA locks in and expands access to our neighbors to the North and South,” Perdue stated. “I thank President Trump for negotiating this deal and for always supporting America’s farmers and ranchers. We will continue to work with both Canada and Mexico in implementing this agreement.”

USMCA was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on January 29, 2020, after it received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. All three countries are working together closely on implementation in advance of the agreement’s entry into force.

Canada and Mexico are the United States’ first and second-largest export markets for United States food and agricultural products, totaling more than $39.7 billion food and agricultural exports in 2018. These exports support more than 325,000 American jobs.

Key Provision: Increasing Dairy Market Access

  • America’s dairy farmers will have expanded market opportunities in Canada for a wide variety of dairy products. Canada agreed to eliminate the unfair Class 6 and 7 milk pricing programs that allowed their farmers to undersell U.S. producers.

Key Provision: Biotechnology

  • For the first time, the agreement specifically addresses agricultural biotechnology – including new technologies such as gene editing – to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies.

Key Provision: Geographical Indications

  • The agreement institutes a more rigorous process for establishing geographical indicators and lays out additional factors to be considered in determining whether a term is a common name.

Key Provision: Sanitary/Phytosanitary Measures

  • The three countries agree to strengthen disciplines for science-based measures that protect human, animal, and plant health while improving the flow of trade.

Key Provision: Poultry and Eggs

  • U.S. poultry producers will have expanded access to Canada for chicken, turkey, and eggs.

Key Provision: Wheat

  • Canada agrees to terminate its discriminatory wheat grading system, enabling U.S. growers to be more competitive.

Key Provision: Wine and Spirits

  • The three countries agree to avoid technical barriers to trade through non-discrimination and transparency regarding the sale, distribution, labeling, and certification of wine and distilled spirits.

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 12, 2020 – Agricultural producers who have not yet completed their 2019 crop year elections for and enrollment in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs must schedule an appointment to do so with their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) by Monday, March 16.

“To date, more than 1.4 million contracts have been signed for the 2019 crop year. This represents 89 percent of expected enrollment with less than a week left for producers to get on FSA’s appointment books,” said FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce. “If you’ve not completed your elections or enrollment, the clock is ticking, and your program eligibility is at stake; so please call FSA today and request an appointment.”

Producers who do not contact FSA for an appointment by close of business local time on Monday, March 16 will not be enrolled in ARC or PLC for the 2019 crop year and will be ineligible to receive a payment should one trigger for an eligible crop.

ARC and PLC provide income support to farmers from substantial drops in crop prices or revenues and are vital economic safety nets for most American farms.

The programs cover the following commodities: barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium and short grain rice, safflower seed, seed cotton, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed, and wheat. 

More Information

For more information on ARC and PLC, download our program fact sheet or our 2014-2018 farm bills comparison fact sheet. Online ARC and PLC election decision tools are available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.

Visit farmers.gov/service-locator to find location and contact information for the nearest FSA county office.