USDA Issues Farm Safety Net and Conservation Payments

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to invest in rural America with more than $4.8 billion in payments being made, starting this month, to agricultural producers through the Farm Service Agency’s Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Conservation Reserve (CRP) programs. Approximately $3 billion in payments will be made under the ARC and PLC programs for the 2017 crop year, and approximately $1.8 billion in annual rental payments under CRP for 2018.

“Despite a temporary lapse of Farm Bill authorities, farmers and ranchers can rest assured that USDA continues to work within the letter of the law to deliver much-needed farm safety net, conservation, disaster recovery, and trade assistance program payments,” said Perdue.

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and make up a portion of the agricultural safety net to producers when they experience a substantial drop in revenue or prices for their covered commodities.

“These program payments are mandated by Congress, but the Department has taken measures to ensure we meet our deadlines and get capital in the hands of those folks that need it most. Unfortunately, 2018 has proven to be another tough year for producers across the Nation, making the timeliness even more critical. Our resilient farmers, ranchers, and producers are battling more hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, and even lava flows,” said Perdue.

PLC payments have triggered for 2017 barley, canola, corn, grain sorghum, wheat, and other crops. In the next few months, payments will be triggered for rice, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, crambe, and sesame seed. Producers with bases enrolled in ARC for 2017 crops can visit www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc for updated crop yields, prices, revenue, and payment rates. The estimated payments are before application of sequestration and other reductions and limits, including adjusted gross income limits and payment limitations.

Also, this week, USDA will begin issuing 2018 CRP payments to over 362,000 landowners to support voluntary conservation efforts on private lands. “CRP has long been a useful tool for the Department to encourage farmers to take that environmentally-sensitive, more unproductive land, out of production and build-up their natural resource base. These CRP payments are meant to help encourage land stewardship and help support an operation’s bottom line,” said Perdue.

Source: USDA

Secretary Perdue Announces Vicki Christiansen as New Forest Service Chief

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that Vicki Christiansen will serve as the 19th Chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service. Christiansen has been serving as Interim Chief since March of this year. Following the announcement, Secretary Perdue issued the following statement:

“As a former wildland firefighter and fire manager, Chief Christiansen knows what’s needed to restore our forests and put them back to work for the taxpayers. With seven years at the Forest Service and 30 years with the states of Arizona and Washington, Vicki’s professional experience makes me confident that she will thrive in this role and hit the ground running.”

Tomorrow, Secretary Perdue will swear-in Christiansen as Chief in the Sidney Yates Building in Washington, D.C.

Vicki Christiansen Background:

Vicki Christiansen has been serving as the interim Chief at the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service in Washington, DC. Prior to that she was Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry where she had oversight of Fire and Aviation Management, Tribal Relations, Forest Health Protection, Cooperative Forestry, Grey Towers and Conservation Education. She joined the Forest Service in 2010 as the Deputy Director of Fire and Aviation Management. Vicki has worked extensively on the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy bringing her experience as a line officer, land manager, wildland firefighter and State Forester to the effort.

Prior to joining the Forest Service, she served as the Arizona State Forester and Director of the Arizona Division of Forestry. She was responsible for the protection of 22 million acres of state and private lands in Arizona, including wildland fire management. As State Forester, Vicki represented Arizona at the national and state level on forest health and wildland fire issues. She was Chair of the Wildland Fire Committee for the National Association of State Foresters.

Vicki also served as the Washington State Forester where she had a 26-year career with Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). She started as a wildland firefighter while still in college and held many different positions at Washington DNR with a strong emphasis in operations, managing state trust lands and regulating forest practices on state and private lands in Washington State. Her first permanent position was as a forester responsible for the reforestation of state trust lands in the Mt. Saint Helens blast zone. Vicki has been a wildland firefighter and fire manager for 36 years. She has numerous credentials in the wildland fire program with a special expertise as a fire line-blasting advisor. Vicki has a B.S. in Forest Management from the University of Washington (1983, cum laude). She is married to a Fire Chief (retired) and has two grown sons.

Secretary Perdue Applauds Red Tape Reduction for Farmers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauded the removal of a burdensome regulation that has long plagued family farms. The rule requiring producers to obtain Data Universal Number System (DUNS) and System for Award Management (SAM) numbers to participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs has been eliminated. Congress included this repeal in the FY 2018 Omnibus spending package, USDA’s official regulatory change will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow.

“I’m pleased Congress helped us to achieve one of our regulatory goals of cutting red tape for producers utilizing conservation programs by exempting them from SAM and DUNS requirements,” Secretary Perdue said. “These numbers were designed for billion-dollar government contractors, not everyday farmers trying to support their families. These changes help streamline the customer experience for farmers, which is a top priority at USDA.”

Prior to this rule change in the 2018 Omnibus spending bill, DUNS and SAM numbers were required for any federal contract application. This became an onerous regulation for small farms when it was intended for large government contractors. DUNS and SAM registration is still required for the following:

  • Partnership agreements entered through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).
  • All agreements with eligible entities under the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP)
  • Agreements under the Agricultural Land Easement (ALE) component of ACEP.
  • Partnership agreements under the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) component of ACEP-Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE).
  • Watershed operations agreements with project sponsors.
  • Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) agreements with project sponsors, including Recovery and Floodplain Easements.
  • All cooperative, contribution, interagency, or partnership agreements of Federal contracts used by NRCS to procure goods or services.

NRCS advises participants in its programs to ignore any emails, phone calls or other communications from third-party vendors offering assistance for registering in SAMS or applying for a DUNS number.

To learn more about NRCS financial and technical assistance, go to www.nrcs.usda.gov.

 

Source: USDA

Perdue Announces Additional Hurricane and Wildfire Recovery Details

Under the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced new details on eligibility for a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) disaster program, 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP). In total, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will deploy up to $2.36 billion that Congress appropriated through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to help producers with recovery of their agricultural operations in at least nine states with hurricane damage and states impacted by wildfire. Following the announcement, Secretary Perdue issued this statement:

“Last year our nation experienced some of the most significant disasters we have seen in decades, some back-to-back, at the most critical time in their production year. While USDA has a suite of disaster programs as well as crop insurance available to help producers manage their risk, Congress felt it was important to provide extra assistance to our nation’s farms and ranches that were the hardest hit last year,” Secretary Perdue said. “At President Trump’s direction, our team is working as quickly as possible to make this new program available to farmers in need. Our aim is to provide excellent customer service, building on efforts which began the day the storm hit.”

Key Updates Include:

  • Hurricane Recovery: To be eligible a crop, tree, bush or vine must be located in a primary disaster county with either a Presidential declaration or a Secretarial designation due to a 2017 hurricane. Crops, trees, bushes or vines located in other counties may also be eligible if the producer provides documentation the loss was caused by a 2017 hurricane.
  • Wildfire Recovery: Any crop, tree, bush or vine, damaged by a 2017 wildfire is eligible.
  • Eligible Producers: Eligibility will be determined on an individual basis, using the level of insurance coverage purchased for 2017 for the total crop acres on the area for which the WHIP application is made. Eligible producers who certify to an average adjusted gross income (AGI) of at least 75 percent derived from farming or ranching, including other agriculture and forestry-based businesses during the tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015, will be eligible for a $900,000 payment limitation with verification. All other eligible producers requesting 2017 WHIP benefits will be subject to a $125,000 payment limitation.
  • Crop Insurance Requirement: Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for WHIP. However, all producers opting to receive 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase crop insurance at the 60% coverage level, or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) at the 60% buy up coverage level if crop insurance is not available. Coverage must be in place for the next two applicable crop years to meet program requirements.
  • Acreage Reporting Requirements: In addition, for the applicable crop years, all producers are required to file an acreage report and report production (if applicable).
  • Payment Formula: FSA will calculate WHIP payments with this formula:

    Payment = Expected Value of the Crop x WHIP Factor – Value of Crop Harvested – Insurance Indemnity

    The WHIP factor ranges from 65 percent to 95 percent. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2017 will receive a 65 percent WHIP Factor. Insured producers, or producers who had NAP, will receive between 70 percent and 95 percent WHIP Factors; those purchasing higher levels of coverage will receive higher WHIP Factors.

Other USDA Disaster Assistance:

Drought, wildfires and other disasters continue to impact farmers and ranchers, and 2017 WHIP is just one of many programs available through USDA to help with recovery. From crop insurance to on-the-ground rehabilitation programs like the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), USDA is here to help. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 provided funding for ECP and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. The Act also provided amendments to make programs like the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-raised Fish Program, Tree Assistance Program and Livestock Indemnity Program even more responsive.

More Information:

FSA will hold a sign-up for 2017 WHIP no later than July 16. Additional information on WHIP is available on FSA’s 2017 WHIP webpage. For immediate assistance under any of our other disaster programs, please contact a local USDA service center or learn more at www.fsa.usda.gov/disaster.

-Source: USDA

USDA Rural Development Innovation Center Launches Interactive Webpage to Share Best Practices for Rural Economic Development

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today unveiled a new interactive webpage to identify best practices for building rural prosperity.

“Rural communities need forward-thinking strategies to build strong, resilient futures,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s Rural Development Innovation Center is focused on identifying unique opportunities, pioneering new, creative solutions to tough challenges, and making Rural Development’s programs easier to understand, use and access.”

The webpage highlights effective strategies that have been used to create jobs, build infrastructure, strengthen partnerships and promote economic development in rural America.

An interactive feature allows webpage visitors to submit comments on ways USDA can improve Rural Development program delivery. Innovation Center staff will review these recommendations and direct customers to resources, services and expertise that will help their communities create transformative solutions to complex rural challenges.

The webpage also highlights USDA resources that can be used for investments in infrastructure and innovation. These resources include USDA’s Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grant Program, Community Connect Grant Program, and Community Facilities Programs.

Secretary Perdue established the Rural Development Innovation Center to streamline, modernize and strengthen the delivery of Rural Development programs. To do this, the Innovation Center is focused on improving customer service to rural communities and increasing rural prosperity through strategic partnerships and capacity-building, data analytics and evaluation, and regulatory reform.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump, which included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

MSGA applauds appointment of Montana ranchers to national board

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced the appointment of 27 members to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board. Two Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) members were among the appointees. Turk Stovall of Billings, Mont. and Katie Cooper of Willow Creek, Mont. will serve three-year terms on the Board.

“We are thrilled to have Turk and Katie represent Montana on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board,” said Errol Rice Executive Vice President of MSGA, “They are proven leaders in Montana and will be excellent advocates for the Beef Checkoff at the national level.”

Stovall and Cooper will be joining MSGA member, Lynda Grande of Columbus, Mont. who is currently serving a three-year term.

The Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board is composed of 99 members, all of whom are beef producers or importers of cattle, beef or beef products. The board is authorized by the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985.

U.S. Farm Exports Hit 3rd Highest Level on Record

Climb Eight Percent in FY 2017 to $140.5 Billion

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2017 – U.S. agricultural exports totaled $140.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2017, climbing nearly $10.9 billion from the previous year to the third-highest level on record, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced today. As it has done for well over 50 years, the U.S. agricultural sector once again posted an annual trade surplus, which reached $21.3 billion, up almost 30 percent from last year’s $16.6 billion.

“U.S. agriculture depends on trade. It is great to see an increase in exports and we hope to open additional markets to build on this success,” Perdue said.  “I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy.  If American agricultural producers keep growing it, USDA will keep helping to sell it around the world.”

China finished the fiscal year as the United States’ largest export customer, with shipments valued at $22 billion, followed closely by Canada at $20.4 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico reached $18.6 billion, a six-percent gain from last year, while exports to Japan grew 12 percent, to $11.8 billion. Rounding out the top 10 markets were the European Union ($11.6 billion), South Korea ($6.9 billion), Hong Kong ($4 billion), Taiwan ($3.4 billion), Indonesia ($3 billion) and the Philippines ($2.6 billion).

U.S. bulk commodity exports set a volume record at 159 million metric tons, up 11 percent from FY 2016, while their value rose 16 percent to $51.4 billion. The surge was led by soybean exports, which reached a record 60 million metric tons, valued at $24 billion. Exports of corn, wheat, and cotton all grew as well, with the value of cotton exports climbing 70 percent, to $5.9 billion, wheat exports up 21 percent, to $6.2 billion, and corn exports up six percent, to $9.7 billion.

A number of other products saw significant export increases as well. U.S. dairy exports grew 17 percent to $5.3 billion, beef exports were up 16 percent to $7.1 billion, and pork exports rose 14 percent to $6.4 billion. Overall, horticultural product exports increased three percent to nearly $33.9 billion, largely driven by an eight-percent increase in exports of tree nuts, which reached $8.1 billion, the second-highest total on record. Processed food and beverage exports rose two percent to $39.2 billion.

Exports are responsible for 20 percent of U.S. farm income, also driving rural economic activity and supporting more than one million American jobs both on and off the farm. USDA continues to work to boost export opportunities for U.S. agricultural products by opening new markets, pursuing new trade agreements, enforcing existing agreements, and breaking down barriers to trade.

Complete FY 2017 (Oct. 2016-Sept. 2017) agricultural export data are available from the Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS) database: https://apps.fas.usda.gov/gats/.

 

Source: USDA

USDA Issues Farm Safety Net and Conservation Payments

Total Exceeds $9.6 Billion

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that over $9.6 billion in payments will be made, beginning this week, to producers through the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Conservation Reserve (CRP) programs.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is issuing approximately $8 billion in payments under the ARC and PLC programs for the 2016 crop year, and $1.6 billion under CRP for 2017.

“Many of these payments will be made to landowners and producers in rural communities that have recently been ravaged by drought, wildfires, and deadly hurricanes,” Perdue said.  “I am hopeful this financial assistance will help those experiencing losses with immediate cash flow needs as we head toward the end of the year.”

The ARC and PLC programs were authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and offer a safety net to agricultural producers when there is a substantial drop in revenue or prices for covered commodities. Over half a million producers will receive ARC payments and over a quarter million producers will receive PLC payments for 2016 crops, starting this week and continuing over the next several months.

Payments are being made to producers who enrolled base acres of barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans, wheat, and canola. In the upcoming months, payments will be announced after marketing year average prices are published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service for the remaining covered commodities. Those include long and medium grain rice (except for temperate Japonica rice), which will be announced in November; remaining oilseeds and chickpeas, which will be announced in December; and temperate Japonica rice, which will be announced in early February 2017.  The estimated payments are before application of sequestration and other reductions and limits, including adjusted gross income limits and payment limitations.

Also, as part of an ongoing effort to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat, USDA will begin issuing 2017 CRP payments this week to over 375,000 Americans.

“American farmers and ranchers are among our most committed conservationists,” said Perdue. “We all share a responsibility to leave the land in better shape than we found it for the benefit of the next generation of farmers. This program helps landowners provide responsible stewardship on land that should be taken out of production.”

Signed into law by President Reagan in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation program in the United States. Thanks to voluntary participation by farmers and landowners, CRP has improved water quality, reduced soil erosion and increased habitat for endangered and threatened species. In return for enrolling in CRP, USDA, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) on behalf of the Commodity Credit Corporation, provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Participants enter into contracts that last between 10 and 15 years. CRP payments are made to participants who remove sensitive lands from production and plant certain grasses, shrubs and trees that improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and increase wildlife habitat.

For more details regarding ARC and PLC programs, go to www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc. For more information about CRP, contact your local FSA office or visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp. To locate your local FSA office, visit https://offices.usda.gov.

Secretary Perdue Announces USDA Improvements for Customer Service & Efficiency

Source: USDA

Please click here to watch a video message Secretary Perdue sent to USDA staff

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the realignment of a number of offices within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in order to improve customer service and maximize efficiency.  The actions involve innovation, consolidation, and the rearrangement of certain offices into more logical organizational reporting structures.  The changes build on the reorganization Perdue announced in May.  As with the previous realignment, today’s announced restructuring comes with the intention of handling any staffing changes through attrition or reassignment.

“On my first day as secretary, I told our employees that I wanted USDA to be the most effective, most efficient, and best managed department in the federal government.  These changes will move us further toward that goal,” Perdue said.  “We are already providing our customers with great service, and our career professionals are among the best in the federal government, but we can be even better.  This realignment represents further progress on the improvements to USDA we made earlier this year, and will help us better meet the needs of farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers, while providing increased accountability to American taxpayers.”

The realignments include:

Advancing Trade

In keeping with Congress’ directive in the 2014 Farm Bill and to advance agricultural trade, the Department in May created an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs (TFAA).  The importance of this addition is underscored by recent U.S. advances in international trade.  USDA anticipates that U.S. farm exports will total $139.8 billion this fiscal year, the third-highest tally in history.  We have also seen the return of U.S. beef to China after a 13-year hiatus, while significantly, an agreement was reached to allow the U.S. to export rice to that market for the first time ever.  In addition, South Korea has lifted its ban on imports of U.S. poultry and poultry products, including fresh eggs, and an agreement was reached with Colombia to allow for expanded market access for U.S. exports of paddy rice.  Just this week, Vietnam announced that it will resume importing American distiller’s dried grains (DDGS).

While reviewing options for improving coordination on trade and international activities, USDA determined that the Codex Alimentarius program (U.S. Codex Office), currently housed in the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), will be moved to the newly created TFAA mission area.  The U.S. Codex Office is an interagency partnership which engages stakeholders in the development of international governmental and non-governmental food standards.  The focus of the Codex Office aligns better with the mission of TFAA.

Driving Rural Development

The USDA reorganization announced in May created a new position of Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development (RD) and situated it to report directly to the secretary.  Since then, RD has been leading efforts to promote economic development and revitalization, job growth, infrastructure, innovation, and quality of life issues for rural America.

RD has spearheaded efforts to improve the rural economy through the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.  There have been meetings in which participants held a wide-ranging dialogue, discussing – among other issues – access to broadband, community infrastructure, community mental and physical health, workforce training and veterans’ employment, agricultural research, regulatory reform, improved access to capital, and increased local control of decision-making.  Four working groups have been established to gather recommendations on issues regarding the quality of life in rural America; the rural workforce; innovation, technology, and data; and economic development.  These working groups have met at least 10 times.  In addition, Secretary Perdue has hosted five Task Force meetings – either with Cabinet members or in listening sessions with the people of American agriculture during his “Back to Our Roots” RV Tours.  By doing this he has heard the opinions of many hundreds of citizens.  A report with concrete actions on statutes to be enacted or repealed; regulations to be promulgated, amended, or eliminated; and programs and policies to be implemented, streamlined, or discarded will be provided to President Trump in late October.

In order to develop fresh, creative solutions to reinvigorate rural America, the new structures announced today establish an Innovation Center within RD.  The RD Innovation Center will be tasked with evaluating the impacts of the business, housing, and utilities programs provided by the Department.  Through such evaluation, USDA will be better informed as to where additional investments will be most impactful when it comes to RD program delivery.  RD will be continuously identifying best practices in economic development, measuring performance of programs, and promoting collaboration across agencies.

Concentrating Industry Engagement

The realignment announced in May reconstituted and renamed a mission area headed by the Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC).  Under the newly-organized FPAC mission area, the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Risk Management Agency, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service were realigned to report to the renamed Under Secretary.  The improvements announced today make changes to some programs to fit them into more logical places to help better coordinate service to USDA customers.

Rather than have commodity procurement in multiple agencies of the USDA, the International Food Commodity Procurement program currently in the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will merge into the domestic Commodity Food Procurement program in the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  This action will consolidate commodity procurement activities across the USDA and allow for greater efficiencies in the acquisition of commodities.

Also, instead of having commodity grading and inspection in multiple USDA agencies, the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) will be merged into AMS. Currently, GIPSA and AMS both carry out grading activities and work to ensure fair trade practices.  Specific to fair trade practice work, the new structure will contain a program area composed of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Program and the Packers and Stockyards Program, as well as some other regulatory activities AMS is currently directed to carry out.  In addition, this new program area will have the responsibility to carry out Warehouse Act functions currently being provided by FSA.  The grain inspection activities will become a separate program area in AMS.  These improvements will provide a unified USDA presence focused not on programs, but on customers and the services they are provided.

In addition, FPAC is currently undertaking a customer engagement review to better understand what is working and what needs improvement so that USDA can best support farmers and producers today and in the future.

Reducing Redundancies

While creating the Farm Production and Conservation mission area, it became apparent that across USDA there are redundancies and inefficiencies in the mission support activities.  Presently some agencies maintain redundant administrative support functions, including human resources, information technology (IT), finance, procurement, and property management.  For example, there are 22 employees in the department that are identified as Chief Information Officers (CIOs).  Having such a large number of CIOs creates redundancies throughout the Department when it comes to leadership on IT activities and services and results in unnecessary layering of leadership and direction.  Therefore, mission support activities will be merged at the mission area level across USDA.  Through these mergers, the mission areas will not only increase operational efficiencies, but also maximize collaboration between agencies that serve similar customers.  This has happened in many of the support activities in mission areas already and is working well.

Focusing Nutrition Efforts

In order to better serve the nutritional needs of USDA customers, the new blueprint calls for merging the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) into the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  This makes sense because the two are closely intertwined and serve a similar mission. CNPP works to improve the health and well-being of Americans by developing and promoting dietary guidance that links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers.  FNS seeks to end hunger and obesity through the administration of 15 Federal nutrition assistance programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Instead of having a politically-appointed administrator of CNPP, the agency will be headed by a career associate administrator.  Incorporating CNPP into FNS will improve administrative efficiencies and allow closer integration of the work of these two agencies.

Engaging Customers

In an effort to create a consistent customer-focused outreach effort, the USDA will create an Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement by grouping the following offices together: the Office of Advocacy and Outreach; the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships staff; the Office of Tribal Relations; and the Military Veterans Liaison.  Each office will retain its own character and identity, and continue to communicate with its core constituency, but this realignment will ensure a more coordinated and consistent approach.  This will result in improved service and enhanced engagement with USDA’s customers.

Realigning Pest Management

The new alignment moves the Office of Pest Management Policy (OPMP) from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to the Office of the Chief Economist.  OPMP coordinates the USDA role in the pesticide regulatory process and related interagency affairs.  Its focus does not coincide with the mission of ARS and can be better situated in the Office of the Chief Economist.

Secretary Perdue Statement on President Trump’s Tax Reform Agenda

(Washington, DC, August 30, 2017) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today expressed his strong support for President Trump’s tax reform agenda as a great benefit to the American agriculture community. Perdue issued the following statement:

“Just as he has done with excessive and costly regulations, President Trump has focused on the problem of onerous and burdensome taxes. Most agricultural operations are, in fact, small businesses, and the time and costs associated with merely complying with the tax code are impeding American prosperity. Farming is a complex enterprise, as even the smallest operations know, so the attention and financial resources that are diverted to handling taxes are an extra barrier to success.

“People should be able to keep more of what they have earned through the sweat of their brows, which will also invigorate the entire United States economy. The Death Tax is one section of the code that is particularly offensive to agriculture, as too many family farms have had to be broken up or sold off to pay the tax bill. The president’s tax reform package will be of great benefit to agriculture and help improve rural prosperity.”