USDA to Reopen all FSA Offices for Most Services During Government Shutdown

All Farm Service Agency (FSA) service centers will be open beginning January 24 to provide the majority of FSA services needed by farmers and ranchers during this critical time of the year for agricultural operations. Additionally, the limited FSA loan services initially made available at certain FSA county offices beginning January 17 will continue January 22 and 23.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recalled more than 9,700 FSA employees to keep offices open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays beginning January 24. For the first two full weeks under this operating plan (January 28 through February 1 and February 4 through February 8), FSA offices will be open Mondays through Fridays. In subsequent weeks, offices will be open three days a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Agricultural producers who have business with the agency should contact their FSA service center to make an appointment.  The deadline to apply and complete applications for the Market Facilitation Program has been extended to February 14. Other program deadlines may be modified and will be announced shortly.

FSA can provide most services as they are critical for farmers and ranchers and have mandatory program funds available. The following full-service activities will be available using the authorities prior to enactment of the 2018 farm bill:

  • Market Facilitation Program
  • Marketing Assistance Loans
  • Release of collateral warehouse receipts
  • Direct and Guaranteed Farm Operating Loans, and Emergency Loans
  • Service existing Conservation Reserve Program contracts
  • Sugar Price Support Loans
  • Dairy Margin Protection Program
  • Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage
  • Livestock Forage Disaster
  • Emergency Assistance Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program
  • Livestock Indemnity Program
  • Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program
  • Tree Assistance Program

Transactions involving the following programs will not be available:

  • New Conservation Reserve Program contracts
  • New Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership Loans
  • Farm Storage Facility Loan Program
  • Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (WHIP)
  • Emergency Conservation Program
  • Emergency Forest Rehabilitation Program
  • Biomass Crop Assistance Program
  • Grassroots Source Water Protection Program

Additional FSA programs may be added to those being supported at a later date. Producers should reference the FSA shutdown webpage and Jan. 22 news release for updates on services available, open offices and hours of operation during the current federal shutdown.

USDA to Reopen FSA Offices for Limited Services During Government Shutdown

U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that many Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recalled about 2,500 FSA employees to open offices on Thursday, January 17 and Friday, January 18, in addition to Tuesday, January 22, during normal business hours. The offices will be closed for the federal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on Monday, January 21. 

 

In almost half of FSA locations, FSA staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers by the Internal Revenue Service’s deadline.

 

“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” Perdue said. “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans. Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”

 

Staff members will be available at certain FSA offices to help producers with specific services, including:

 

  • Processing payments made on or before December 31, 2018.
  • Continuing expiring financing statements.
  • Opening mail to identify priority items.

                                                                                                              

Additionally, as an intermittent incidental duty, staff may release proceeds from the sale of loan security by signing checks jointly payable to FSA that are brought to the county office by producers.

 

Information on the locations of FSA offices to be open during this three-day window will be posted:

 

 

While staff are available in person during this three-day window, most available services can be handled over the phone. Producers can begin contacting staff on January 17 here. 

 

Additionally, farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends.

 

 

Other FSA Programs and Services 

 

Reopened FSA offices will only be able to provide the specifically identified services while open during this limited time. Services that will not be available include, but are not limited to:

 

  • New direct or facility loans.
  • New Farm loan guarantees.
  • New marketing assistance loans.
  • New applications for Market Facilitation Program (MFP).
  • Certification of 2018 production for MFP payments.
  • Dairy Margin Protection Program.
  • Disaster assistance programs, such as: 
    • Livestock Indemnity Program.
    • Emergency Conservation Program.
    • Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program.
    • Livestock Forage Disaster Program.
    • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish.

 

While January 15, 2019 had been the original deadline for producers to apply for MFP, farmers have been unable to apply since December 28, 2018, when FSA offices closed because of the lapse in federal funding. Secretary Perdue has extended the MFP application deadline for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed, once the government shutdown ends. These announced days of limited staff availability during the shutdown will not constitute days open in calculating the extension. Producers who already applied for MFP and certified their 2018 production by December 28, 2018 should have already received their payments. 

 

More information on MFP is available at www.farmers.gov/manage/mfp.

Montana Stockgrowers Foundation to sponsor Cattlemen’s Conference attendee

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about the structure of the U.S. cattle industry and gain insight into the legislative process that guides our business. Montana Stockgrowers Foundation will send one Montana delegate on this year’s Young Cattlemen’s Conference (YCC), held May 29 – June 7, 2019. Applications, due March 15, are available at mtbeef.org.

The Young Cattlemen’s Conference is an opportunity for cattlemen and cattlewomen between the ages of 25 and 50 to visit segments of the beef industry in other parts of our nation with young ranchers from other states. Facilitated by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), participants will travel with national attendees to Denver, Chicago and Washington D.C., visiting OSI, Inc, McDonald’s Global Headquarters, and Capitol Hill.

The primary objective is to develop leadership qualities in young cattlewomen and cattlemen and expose them to all aspects of the beef industry. The tour helps these young leaders understand all areas of our industry ranging from industry structure to issues management, from production research to marketing.

The Montana Stockgrowers Foundation will ensure funding for one participant for the full cost of the tour along with travel expenses. Remaining expenses are the responsibility of the participant, who will be chosen from those who apply. Participants must be a member of Montana Stockgrowers Association and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

To learn more about the Young Cattlemen’s Conference and to complete an application, visit the MSGA website, mtbeef.org/young-cattlemens-conference. All applications must be complete and postmarked or received by March 15, 2019. Please mail or fax to MSGF at the following address: Montana Stockgrowers Foundation | Attn: YCC, 420 N. California St.  Helena, MT  59601.

If you have any questions about the application process or YCC trip, please call the MSGA Office at (406) 442-3420 or e-mail kori@mtbeef.org.

Checkoff-Funded Beef Quality Assurance Program’s Online Certification Option Reaches Major Milestone

More than 50,000 cattle producers have been certified through the Beef Quality Assurance program’s new online learning system since it was first offered in February 2017. Throughout the country hundreds of thousands have now become BQA-certified through in-person and online training, with an estimated 80 percent of the U.S. fed beef supply now touched by BQA-certified operations.

                The beef checkoff-funded BQA program is a nationally coordinated, state implemented program that provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how commonsense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions. BQA guidelines are designed to make certain all beef consumers can take pride in what they purchase – and can trust and have confidence in the entire beef industry.

                Online BQA training provides 24/7 access to the program through a series of videos and animation. While in-person training is still available through numerous sessions conducted by in-state BQA coordinators throughout the country, online certification provides a chance for certification at any time. Three courses are available (cow/calf, stocker/backgrounder and feedyard) to deliver a program that most closely aligns with the individual’s operation. The certifications are also available in Spanish.

“Beef producers recognize that quality is everyone’s responsibility, but many don’t have the opportunity to attend in-person training,” according to Bob Smith, DVM, chair of the BQA Advisory Board. “These producers still want to assure that practices on their operations are conducted under BQA-qualified standards. While in-person training provides important knowledge and useful cattle handling and husbandry skills, the online BQA program is a valuable option that can deliver critical information and training anytime and anywhere.”

For information on completing online BQA training, go to https://www.bqa.org/certification. For more information on the BQA program, contact DeCoite at cdecoite@beef.org.

Source: NCBA Press Release

2019 Montana Hunter Advancement Program Accepting Applications

A Program of One Montana and Common Ground
www.montanamasterhunter.com

The Montana Hunter Advancement Program (MHAP) is now accepting applications for our 2019 courses from qualified hunters. In 2018, the MHAP successfully graduated 25 certified hunters who were able to hunt on 13 ranches this past fall. Building from last year’s success, we are offering three courses in 2019 in Billings, Bozeman and Missoula.

The Montana Hunter Advancement Program is a 50-hour course which generally takes place over a six-week period. The program is landowner-driven and is supported by major landowner associations and major conservation nonprofit organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Boone & Crockett Club, Montana Stockgrowers Association and Montana Grain Growers Association. This deep partnership with Montana’s landowner community is what makes our program unique. This program offers applicants skills mastery combined with agriculture, conservation and stewardship education, and specialized ballistics and marksmanship training. Instructors include ranchers, farmers, landowners, university faculty, professional shooting instructors, private land wildlife managers, wildlife biologists, first aid personnel, as well as backcountry survival and equipment experts. Each curriculum element includes either written, oral or field tests that assess student competence.

The cost of the program is $200 per participant and need-based scholarships are available upon request. Program fees partially off-set facility use fees and other similar costs. Each participant has the opportunity to become a certified “Master Hunter”, receiving a Montana Master Hunter Certificate upon successful completion of the course that is valid for five years. Certificate renewal will be available through additional in-person and online coursework, and testing.

The class schedules are as follows, and more detail is provided on our website:

Missoula: one evening each week on successive weeks beginning in March 2019 and one Saturday to be scheduled during April 2019.

Bozeman: five successive Saturdays beginning the first week of April 2019.

Billings: five successive Saturdays beginning the first week of May 2019.

All classes will attend an end of session two-day rendezvous in June where shooting instruction and qualification will occur along with field work with OnX Maps and GPS.

2018-2019 Sponsors
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sitka, Wild Sheep Foundation, The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Montana Stockgrowers Foundation, Schnee’s, Mystery Ranch, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Boone & Crockett Club, 2% for Conservation, Brickhouse Creative, Huntable, Access Granted, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Mule Deer Foundation, Montana Grain Growers, Montana Stockgrowers, Robert Miller

Common Ground Members
Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Grain Growers Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Bowhunters Association, Montana’s Outdoor Legacy Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Western Landowners Alliance, Montana Land Reliance, and several individual outfitters, sportsmen, and ranchers.

CSKT Negotiated Water Rights Compact – Good for Montana Agriculture

By Jay Bodner, John Youngberg, and Mike Murphy

The success of Montana’s agriculture industry is dependent upon water and water right certainty. It is easily the single most important resource for people across Montana, which is why ratification of the negotiated Montana CSKT Water Compact is critical.

Contrary to what compact opponents are saying the negotiated CSKT Compact provides water right certainty, protects Montana’s water users, and ensures a reliable source of water. When the Flathead Reservation was established water rights were reserved through a federal treaty. The federally reserved water rights of the Tribe must, by law, be defined and quantified either through a negotiated agreement or through litigation in the Montana Water Court. The negotiated CSKT Water Compact defines the water rights and settles the legal claims of the CSKT, preventing long term costly litigation and uncertainty.

Recently, Compact opponents have proposed to replace the long-negotiated CSKT Water Compact that was developed through extensive public participation with a quickly crafted proposal that was developed without general public participation.  Their proposal ignores the fact that a negotiated settlement requires acceptance and approval by all parties.

The CSKT Water Compact, which was passed with bi-partisan support in the Montana State Legislature, after many years of negotiation, is currently awaiting Congressional ratification. The compact provides protection for all existing water rights, prevents decades of expensive litigation, and provides certainty to water users across our state. Comparatively, the proposal recently developed by those who oppose the CSKT Compact was constructed without Tribal, State, and Federal parties at the table and without general public comment. If this proposal were to upend the existing negotiated agreement it would most certainly open the floodgates to possibly decades of expensive litigation—putting the water rights of farmers, ranchers, and water users across our state, at risk.

We respectfully encourage our Congressional delegation to carefully consider the extensive benefits that implementing the long-negotiated Montana CSKT Water Compact will have for Montana’s agriculture industry and move Compact ratification forward, while soundly rejecting the proposal from Compact opponents that was quickly developed without Tribal, State, Federal, or general public participation.

Mike Murphy is the Executive Director of the Montana Water Resources Association.

John Youngberg is the Executive Director of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation.

Jay Bodner is the Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

From NRCS: Early Winter Snowfall Hit or Miss Across the Treasure State

After last winter’s record-setting snowfall, the mountains across the state of Montana have received sporadic snowfall so far this year, leaving some river basins near normal for snowpack, while others are below normal on January 1. Early season snowfall has favored regions along the Continental Divide in western and south-central Montana so far this winter, and this is where the highest snowpack percentages can be found.

“What’s been unique about this winter so far is that the snowpack in these regions would be below normal for this date if it weren’t for the storm that dropped significant totals during the last week of October into early November,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, hydrologist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Many areas that were overlooked by the early November weather remain below normal for snowpack at this time, except for some regions of western Montana along the Idaho border which received heavy snowfall during the latter half of December.”

The month of December was also well above average across the state with regards to temperatures, aside from a cold arctic air during the first week of the month. Monthly temperature departures were 3-7 degrees above average in northwest and north-central Montana and 1-3 degrees above average in southwest and south-central Montana.

“After a long and hard winter of shoveling and shivering last year, it’s been a mild winter so far this year,” Zukiewicz said. “While that’s nice in some ways, it’s the cold snowy weather during winter and spring that assures our water supply when it warms up in the summer.”

Long-term weather forecasts by the National Weather Service combine the effects of long-term trends, soil moisture, and, when appropriate, ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation). “Forecasts issued for the month of January aren’t painting a pretty picture of things to come and are calling for above average temperatures and below average precipitation,” he said.

Currently ENSO-neutral conditions are present, but El Nino is expected to form and continue through the Northern Hemisphere during winter of 2018/2019 (~90% chance) and through spring (~60% chance). “It should be noted that a single climate index to predict future snowfall before runoff isn’t always the best idea, as other climate conditions such as the Artic Oscillation can impact week to week weather patterns,” Zukiewicz said. “That being said, it would still be wise to keep this in mind as we get further into winter, as it will certainly play some role in the weather patterns over the coming months.”

Reservoir storage across the state is above average in many basins due to abundant runoff last spring and summer. Zukiewicz said this could prove to be important should the weather take a turn to the dry and warm side through the rest of winter. The NRCS Montana Snow Survey will issue its next Snowpack and Water Supply Outlook on February 1.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found at the website below after the fifth business day of the month:
https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/mt/snow/waterproducts/basin/

Source: NRCS Press Release

Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame to honor inductees at Induction Ceremony & Western Heritage Gathering in Great Falls, Feb. 9

The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center (MCHF & WHC) extends an invitation to all to attend the Annual MCHF Induction Ceremony & Western Heritage Gathering, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, at the Best Western Heritage Inn in Great Falls.

“This year we celebrate our 13th gathering and 11th class of inductions into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame,” said MCHF & WHC President Bill Galt. “The inductees embody the spirit of our Montana communities and way of life. Please join us in Great Falls for this special event to preserve our Montana Western heritage and pass it on to the next generation.”

The Inductee Recognition Ceremony Brunch will begin at 10:30 a.m. to celebrate the notable accomplishments and lasting legacies of the inductees to the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Tickets are $30 per person. Early registration is recommended as this event sells out well in advance each year!

The Cowboy Ball and Benefit Auction will kick off at 7:00 p.m. This event will feature a Chuckwagon Buffet dinner and live Western music by Big Sky Country. A silent and live auction will feature unique Western items. Tickets to the Cowboy Ball are $75 per person or $570 for an eight-person table.

Register by calling (406) 653-3800, or email Christy@montanacowboyfame.org. Reserve a hotel room at the Best Western Heritage Inn by calling (406) 761-1900.

mdol-rule-change

Montana Grazing Lands Education and Demonstration Project Funding Available

The Montana Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) is accepting applications for mini-grants and demonstration projects for 2019.

The mini-grants will provide funding for educational events throughout the year and support partners and organizations with an interest in the conservation, education, and awareness of grazing lands and natural resources in Montana.

Mini-grant funding requests are limited to a minimum of $50 and a maximum of $1,000. There is no application deadline. Submissions will be considered year-round by the Montana GLCI steering committee.

“The GLCI mini-grants and demonstration projects help organizations to both test and implement advanced resource solutions, as well as educate Montanans young and old about those advancements and the value of our grazing lands,” said Kirt Walstad, Montana GLCI co-coordinator.

Demonstration project applications are due February 18, 2019. The current focus is on innovative projects addressing grazing management, soil, and rangeland health, concentrated animal feeding operations/animal feeding operations, and noxious weeds on private Montana grazing lands.

Applications will be accepted from groups of individuals, non-governmental organizations, and state or local units of government. The Montana GLCI steering committee places special emphasis on cooperative efforts working with partners. Individual projects will be considered only if the project provides broad-scale, community-wide impacts and education.

Projects must be initiated in 2019. Funding will be allocated on an annual basis, which is dependent upon the yearly Montana GLCI budget allocation. Application submission does not guarantee project funding will be available. All applicants must show a one-to-one match for project costs.

Get more information about both the mini-grant and demonstration project funding opportunities, including application requirements and forms, at www.mtglci.org.

USDA Launches Second Round of Trade Mitigation Payments

At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today launched the second and final round of trade mitigation payments aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations.  Producers of certain commodities will now be eligible to receive Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments for the second half of their 2018 production.

“The President reaffirmed his support for American farmers and ranchers and made good on his promise, authorizing the second round of payments to be made in short order. While there have been positive movements on the trade front, American farmers are continuing to experience losses due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations.  This assistance will help with short-term cash flow issues as we move into the new year,” said Perdue.

Secretary Perdue announced in July that USDA would act to aid farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.  President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to help protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets to help American farmers compete globally. In September, USDA initiated three programs to aid American agriculture in sustaining the short-term damages associated with the trade disputes and securing long-term, stable export markets.

Details of programs currently employed by USDA:

  • USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has been administering MFP to provide the first payments to almond, corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers since September 2018 for the first 50 percent of their 2018 production.
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is administering a food purchase and distribution program to purchase up to $1.2 billion in commodities unfairly targeted by unjustified retaliation. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is distributing these commodities through nutrition assistance programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs. So far, USDA has procured some portion of 16 of the 29 commodities included in the program, totaling more than 4,500 truckloads of food. AMS will continue purchasing commodities for delivery throughout 2019.
  • Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program, $200 million is being made available to develop foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products. The program will help U.S. agricultural exporters identify and access new markets and help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ restrictions. The application period closed in November with more than $600 million in requested activities from more than 70 organizations. FAS will announce ATP funding awards in early January.

Market Facilitation Program

Producers need only sign-up once for the MFP to be eligible for the first and second payments. The MFP sign-up period opened in September and runs through January 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at www.farmers.gov/mfp.  Producers must complete an application by January 15, 2019 but have until May 1, 2019 to certify their 2018 production.  The MFP provides payments to almond, cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, fresh sweet cherry, and wheat producers who have been significantly impacted by actions of foreign governments resulting in the loss of traditional exports. The MFP is established under the statutory authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation CCC Charter Act and is under the administration of USDA’s FSA. Eligible producers should apply after harvest is complete, as payments will only be issued once production is reported.

For farmers who have already applied, completed harvest, and certified their 2018 production, a second payment will be issued on the remaining 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for the specific commodity.

Market Facilitation Program

Commodity

First and Second Payment Rate

Est. Total Payment**

(in $1,000s)

Almonds (shelled)

$0.03 / lb.

$63,300

Cotton

$0.06 / lb.

$553,800

Corn

$0.01 / bu.

$192,000

Dairy (milk)

$0.12 / cwt.

$254,800

Pork (hogs)

$8.00 / head

$580,600

Soybeans

$1.65 / bu.

$7,259,400

Sorghum

$0.86 / bu.

$313,600

Sweet Cherries (fresh)

$0.16 / lb.

$111,500

Wheat

$0.14 / bu.

$238,400

Total

$9,567,400

** Total payment rate on 100% of production

MFP payments are limited to a combined $125,000 for corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat capped per person or legal entity.  MFP payments are also limited to a combined $125,000 for dairy and hog producers, and a combined $125,000 for fresh sweet cherry and almond producers. Applicants must also have an average adjusted gross income for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016 of less than $900,000. Applicants must also comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.

For more further information or to locate and contact local FSA offices, interested producers can visit www.farmers.gov.