USDA Launches Trade Mitigation Programs

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue yesterday launched the trade mitigation package aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations.  Producers of certain commodities can now sign up for the Market Facilitation Program (MFP), while USDA will also begin to purchase identified commodities under a food purchase and distribution program.  Additionally, USDA has begun accepting proposals for the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), which will help American farmers find and access new markets for their products.  In total, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, consistent with World Trade Organization obligations.

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 protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets, in the long run, to help American farmers compete globally.  These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet some of the costs of disrupted markets.

“These programs will allow President Trump time to strike long-term trade deals to benefit our entire economy, including the agricultural sector, in the long run,” Perdue said.  “Farmers will tell you that they would always prefer to sell a good crop at a fair price, rather than receive government aid, and that’s what long-term trade deals will accomplish.  But in the meantime, President Trump has promised that he will not allow American agriculture to bear the brunt of the unjustified retaliation from foreign nations.  Today we are putting the President’s promise into action.”

USDA provided details in August of the programs to be employed:

  • USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will administer the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers. An announcement about further payments will be made in the coming months, if warranted.
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will administer 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) will distribute these commodities through nutrition assistance programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program and child nutrition programs.
  • Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), $200 million will be 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.

Note: USDA is currently working to determine how to address market disruptions for producers of almonds and sweet cherries.

Market Facilitation Program

The sign-up period for MFP is now open and runs through January 15, 2019, with information and instructions provided at www.farmers.gov/mfp.  The MFP provides payments to cotton, corn, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, 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.

A payment will be issued on 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate for a specific commodity.  A second payment period, if warranted, will be determined by the USDA.

Market Facilitation Program

Commodity

Initial Payment Rate

Est. Initial Payment**

(in $1,000s)

Cotton

$0.06 / lb.

$276,900

Corn

$0.01 / bu.

$96,000

Dairy (milk)

$0.12 / cwt.

$127,400

Pork (hogs)

$8.00 / head

$290,300

Soybeans

$1.65 / bu.

$3,629,700

Sorghum

$0.86 / bu.

$156,800

Wheat

$0.14 / bu.

$119,200

Total

$4,696,300

** Initial payment rate on 50% 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. 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.

Food Purchase and Distribution Program

Beginning this week, USDA’s AMS will issue pre-solicitation notices through GovDelivery for targeted commodities.  These notices will outline products USDA intends to purchase and will continue over the next several weeks. AMS will purchase products over four quarters in the new Federal fiscal year, which starts on October 1, 2018.  The materials purchased may be adjusted between quarters to accommodate changes due to growing conditions, product availability, market conditions, trade negotiation status, and program capacity, among other factors.

To expedite first quarter purchases, AMS will focus on products currently purchased for nutrition assistance programs given the existence of qualified USDA suppliers and specifications for these products. Examples include various forms and varieties of apples, pork, beef, dairy, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges, pears, cranberries, plums/prunes, walnuts, potatoes, rice, kidney and navy beans.  By purchasing known commodities first, AMS can procure commodities that have been sourced in the past with maximum speed and impact.

Food Purchases

Commodity

 Target Amount (in $1,000s)

Apples

$93,400

Apricots

$200

Beef

$14,800

Blueberries

$1,700

Cranberries

$32,800

Dairy

$84,900

Figs

$15

Grapefruit

$700

Grapes

$48,200

Hazelnuts

$2,100

Kidney Beans

$14,200

Lemons/Limes

$3,400

Lentils

$1,800

Macadamia

$7,700

Navy Beans

$18,000

Oranges (Fresh)

$55,600

Orange Juice

$24,000

Peanut Butter

$12,300

Pears

$1,400

Peas

$11,800

Pecans

$16,000

Pistachios

$85,200

Plums/Prunes

$18,700

Pork

$558,800

Potatoes

$44,500

Rice

$48,100

Strawberries

$1,500

Sweet Corn

$2,400

Walnuts

$34,600

Total

$1,238,800

Agricultural Trade Promotion Program

Applicants may now submit proposals for the FAS $200 million ATP Program.  FAS will accept applications on a rolling basis until November 2, 2018. Details regarding ATP and how to apply are available at https://www.fas.usda.gov/programs/agricultural-trade-promotion-program.

The aim of the program is to assist American agricultural exporters in identifying and accessing new markets and to help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ restrictions.  ATP is meant to help all sectors of U.S. agriculture, including fish and forest product producers, mainly through partnerships with non-profit national and regional organizations.

Source: USDA Press Release

USDA Announces Details of Assistance for Farmers Impacted by Trade Retaliation

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of actions the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation by foreign nations. President Donald J. Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets, in the long run, to help American farmers compete globally. As announced last month, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, consistent with our World Trade Organization obligations.

“Early on, the President instructed me, as Secretary of Agriculture, to make sure our farmers did not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs. After careful analysis by our team at USDA, we have formulated our strategy to mitigate the trade damages sustained by our farmers. Our farmers work hard, and are the most productive in the world, and we aim to protect them,” said Secretary Perdue.

These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets:

  • USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will administer the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat producers starting September 4, 2018. An announcement about further payments will be made in the coming months, if warranted.
  • USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will administer 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) will distribute these commodities through nutrition assistance programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and child nutrition programs.
  • Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP), $200 million will be 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.

“President Trump has been standing up to China and other nations, sending the clear message that the United States will no longer tolerate their unfair trade practices, which include non-tariff trade barriers and the theft of intellectual property. In short, the President has taken action to benefit all sectors of the American economy – including agriculture – in the long run,” said Secretary Perdue. “It’s important to note all of this could go away tomorrow, if China and the other nations simply correct their behavior. But in the meantime, the programs we are announcing today buys time for the President to strike long-lasting trade deals to benefit our entire economy.”

Background on Market Facilitation Program:

MFP is established under the statutory authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and administered by FSA. For each commodity covered, the payment rate will be dependent upon the severity of the trade disruption and the period of adjustment to new trade patterns, based on each producer’s actual production.

Interested producers can apply after harvest is 100 percent complete and they can report their total 2018 production. Beginning September 4th of this year, MFP applications will be available online at www.farmers.gov/mfp. Producers will also be able to submit their MFP applications in person, by email, fax, or by mail.

Eligible applicants must have an ownership interest in the commodity, be actively engaged in farming, and have an average adjusted gross income (AGI) 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. On September 4, 2018, the first MFP payment periods will begin. The second payment period, if warranted, will be determined by the USDA.

Market Facilitation Program

Commodity Initial Payment Rate Est. Initial Payment**

(in $1,000s)

Cotton $0.06 / lb. $276,900
Corn $0.01 / bu. $96,000
Dairy (milk) $0.12 / cwt. $127,400
Pork (hogs) $8.00 / head $290,300
Soybeans $1.65 / bu. $3,629,700
Sorghum $0.86 / bu. $156,800
Wheat $0.14 / bu. $119,200
Total   $4,696,300

** Initial payment rate on 50% of production

The initial MFP payment will be calculated by multiplying 50 percent of the producer’s total 2018 actual production by the applicable MFP rate. If CCC announces a second MFP payment period, the remaining 50 percent of the producer’s total 2018 actual production will be subject to the second MFP payment rate.

MFP payments are capped per person or legal entity at a combined $125,000 for dairy production or hogs. Payment for dairy production is based off the historical production reported for the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy). For existing dairy operations, the production history is established using the highest annual milk production marketed during the full calendar years of 2011, 2012, and 2013. Dairy operations are also required to have been in operation on June 1, 2018 to be eligible for payments. Payment for hog operations will be based off the total number of head of live hogs owned on August 1, 2018.

MFP payments are also capped per person or legal entity at a combined $125,000 for corn, cotton, sorghum, soybeans and wheat.

For more information on the MFP, visit www.farmers.gov/mfp or contact your local FSA office, which can be found at www.farmers.gov.

Background on Food Purchase and Distribution Program:

The amounts of commodities to be purchased are based on an economic analysis of the damage caused by unjustified tariffs imposed on the crops listed below. Their damages will be adjusted based on several factors and spread over several months in response to orders placed by states participating in the FNS nutrition assistance programs.

Food Purchases

Commodity Target Amount (in $1,000s)
Apples $93,400
Apricots $200
Beef $14,800
Blueberries $1,700
Cranberries $32,800
Dairy $84,900
Figs $15
Grapefruit $700
Grapes $48,200
Hazelnuts $2,100
Kidney Beans $14,200
Lemons/Limes $3,400
Lentils $1,800
Macadamia $7,700
Navy Beans $18,000
Oranges (Fresh) $55,600
Orange Juice $24,000
Peanut Butter $12,300
Pears $1,400
Peas $11,800
Pecans $16,000
Pistachios $85,200
Plums/Prunes $18,700
Pork $558,800
Potatoes $44,500
Rice $48,100
Strawberries $1,500
Sweet Corn $2,400
Walnuts $34,600
Total $1,238,800

Program details yet to be determined

Commodity Target Amount (in $1,000s)
Almonds $63,300
Sweet Cherries $111,500
Total $174,800

Products purchased will be distributed by FNS to participating states, for use in TEFAP and other USDA nutrition assistance programs.

Purchasing:

AMS will buy affected products in four phases. The materials purchased can be adjusted between phases to accommodate changes due to: growing conditions; product availability; market conditions; trade negotiation status; and program capacity.

AMS will purchase known commodities first. By purchasing in phases, procurements for commodities that have been sourced in the past can be purchased more quickly and included in the first phase.

Vendor Outreach:

To expand the AMS vendor pool and the ability to purchase new and existing products, AMS will ramp up its vendor outreach and registration efforts. AMS has also developed flyers on how the process works and how to become a vendor for distribution to industry groups and interested parties. Additionally, AMS will continue to host a series of free webinars describing the steps required to become a vendor. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to submit questions to be answered during the webinar. Recorded webinars are available to review by potential vendors, and staff will host periodic Question and Answer teleconferences to better explain the process.

Product Specifications:

AMS maintains purchase specifications for a variety of commodities, which ensure recipients receive the high-quality product they expect. AMS in collaboration with FNS regularly develops and revises specifications for new and enhanced products based on program requirements and requests and will be prioritizing the development of those products impacted by unjustified retaliation. AMS will also work with industry groups to identify varieties and grades sold to China and other offshore markets such as premium apples, oranges, pears and other products. AMS will develop or revise specifications to facilitate the purchase of these premium varieties in forms that meet the needs of FNS nutrition assistance programs.

Outlets:

AMS purchases commodities for use in FNS programs such as the National School Lunch Program, TEFAP and other nutrition assistance programs. AMS is working closely with FNS to distribute products to State Agencies that participate in USDA nutrition assistance programs as well as exploring other outlets for distribution of products, as needed.

To the extent possible, FNS will identify items for distribution that are appropriate for each potential outlet. The products discussed in this plan will be distributed to States for use in the network of food banks and food pantries that participate in TEFAP, elderly feeding programs such the Commodity Supplemental Foods Program, and tribes that operate the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

These outlets are in addition to child nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program, which may also benefit from these purchases.

Distribution:

AMS has coordinated with the Office of the Chief Economist, FNS, Industry, and other agency partners to determine necessary logistics for the purchase and distribution of each commodity including trucking, inspection and audit requirements, and agency staffing.

Background on Agricultural Trade Promotion Program:

The FAS will administer the ATP under authorities of the CCC. The ATP will provide cost-share assistance to eligible U.S. organizations for activities such as consumer advertising, public relations, point-of-sale demonstrations, participation in trade fairs and exhibits, market research, and technical assistance. Applications for the ATP will be accepted until November 2, 2018 or until funding is exhausted. Funding should be allocated to eligible participants in early 2019. The ATP is meant to help all sectors of U.S. agriculture, including fish and forest product producers, mainly through partnerships with non-profit national and regional organizations.

Agricultural Trade Promotion Program

  Est. Amount (in $1,000s)
Ag Products Total $200,000
mdol-rule-change

USDA Forest Service Announces New Strategy for Improving Forest Conditions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (USFS) announced today a new strategy for managing catastrophic wildfires and the impacts of invasive species, drought, and insect and disease epidemics.

Specifically, a new report titled Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes: An Outcome-based investment Strategy (PDF, 3.7 MB) outlines the USFS’s plans to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted treatments in areas with the highest payoffs.

“On my trip to California this week, I saw the devastation that these unprecedented wildfires are having on our neighbors, friends and families,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We commit to work more closely with the states to reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. We commit to strengthening the stewardship of public and private lands. This report outlines our strategy and intent to help one another prevent wildfire from reaching this level.”

Both federal and private managers of forest land face a range of urgent challenges, among them catastrophic wildfires, invasive species, degraded watersheds, and epidemics of forest insects and disease. The conditions fueling these circumstances are not improving. Of particular concern are longer fire seasons, the rising size and severity of wildfires, and the expanding risk to communities, natural resources, and firefighters.

“The challenges before us require a new approach,” said Interim USFS Chief Vicki Christiansen. “This year Congress has given us new opportunities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with state leaders to identify land management priorities that include mitigating wildfire risks. We will use all the tools available to us to reduce hazardous fuels, including mechanical treatments, prescribed fire, and unplanned fire in the right place at the right time.”

A key component of the new strategy is to prioritize investment decisions on forest treatments in direct coordination with states using the most advanced science tools. This allows the USFS to increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that protect communities and create resilient forests.

The USFS will also build upon the authorities created by the 2018 Omnibus Bill, including new categorical exclusions for land treatments to improve forest conditions, new road maintenance authorities, and longer stewardship contracting in strategic areas. The agency will continue streamlining its internal processes to make environmental analysis more efficient and timber sale contracts more flexible.

The Omnibus Bill also includes a long-term “fire funding fix,” starting in FY 2020, that will stop the rise of the 10-year average cost of fighting wildland fire and reduce the likelihood of the disruptive practice of transferring funds from Forest Service non-fire programs to cover firefighting costs. The product of more than a decade of hard work, this bipartisan solution will ultimately stabilize the agency’s operating environment.

Finally, because rising rates of firefighter fatalities in recent decades have shifted the USFS’s approach to fire response, the report emphasizes the agency’s commitment to a risk-based response to wildfire.

The complete strategy is available at www.fs.fed.us/sites/default/files/toward-shared-stewardship.pdf (PDF, 3.7 MB).

Photographs of the event are available at: https://flic.kr/s/aHskGkVYkN

The mission of the USFS, an agency of the USDA, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

USDA Adds New Tools, Resources to Farmers.gov to Aid Producers

Agricultural producers have new resources available to them to prepare for and recover from the impacts of natural disasters on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new website, farmers.gov. The site has updated tools and information to help agricultural producers identify the right programs and make decisions for their operations.

“Agriculture is a risky business,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “At USDA, we’re here to help you prepare, recover, and build long-term resilience to natural disasters. Whether you want to visit your local USDA service center or visit our new farmers.gov, we want to help you get the help you need.”

New additions to the site – being built for farmers, by farmers – include a farmers.gov portal for secure business transactions and a disaster assistance discovery tool. The discovery tool walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of what USDA disaster assistance programs meet their needs. The farmers.gov portal is the first edition of a secure dashboard for producers to manage program applications and other USDA documents.

These resources are in addition to other currently available through Farmers.gov, including:

  • Our mobile-friendly Service center locator, connecting users with USDA assistance at the location nearest them,
  • Information about the new 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program, which provides disaster payments to producers to offset losses from hurricanes and wildfires during 2017,
  • Routinely updated farmers.gov blog where producers can read stories about other farmers across the nation containing insight into how other producers address challenges in running successful agricultural operations,
  • A soil health webpage, where producers can read about the soil health management practices offered by USDA, and
  • An online playbook, where people can track the latest developments of the site.

“USDA’s vision for farmers.gov is to provide farmers, ranchers and foresters with online self-service applications, educational materials, engagement opportunities and business tools,” Perdue said. “Our goal is to provide you, America’s farmers, with the best customer service, and this website is one of many ways we’re working to do so.”

USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Risk Management Agency are collaborating with partners in the government and private sector to build farmers.gov. Work began in fall 2017, and the site launched in 2018.

USDA Partners to Improve Rural Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in 23 States including Montana

New Partnerships Support More Prosperous Futures for More than 73,000 People

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett visited the state today to announce that USDA is investing more than $124 million (PDF, 155.4 KB) to help rebuild and improve rural water infrastructure in 23 states. Five projects in Louisiana are receiving funding.

“Modern, reliable water infrastructure provides a foundation for economic growth and prosperity,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s partnerships with rural communities underscore Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s commitment to ensuring that rural places have the infrastructure needed to thrive.”

USDA is providing the funding through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

Hazlett announced that the following projects in Louisiana will receive USDA funding:

  • The Poland Water Association, Inc. is receiving a $1 million loan and a $161,000 grant to construct two water wells. The booster station will be restored to service with a new chlorination facility and a pad-mounted natural gas generator to provide emergency power. The office building will be brought into compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act accessibility standard. Radio-read water meters will be installed to improve billing efficiency. The Poland Water Association, Inc. serves 909 customers in Rapides Parish.
  • The Alberta Water System, Inc. will use a $164,000 loan and a $1.5 million grant to construct an additional well. Water meters will be replaced with radio-read meters to reduce water loss. Carbon treatment systems will be added to both booster stations to mitigate disinfection byproducts. Generators will be added to both booster stations to provide emergency power supply. The Alberta Water System serves 1,858 customers in Bienville Parish. Additional funding includes a $30,000 Rural Development Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households grant and a $2,000 contribution from the water system.
  • The Lena Water System, Inc. will receive a $3 million loan to adjust the discharge pressure for the booster stations, construct two water wells and a ground storage tank with booster pumps, and install radio-read meters. The improvements will provide additional production and storage capacity to meet the System’s growing demand. Lena serves 1,185 customers in Rapides Parish.
  • The town of Delcambre will use a $291,000 loan and a $183,000 grant to upgrade water distribution lines that service residents in Vermilion Parish. Funds will also be used to install meters to prevent water loss. Delcambre’s water system serves approximately 762 residential customers and 70 commercial customers. In FY 2015, the project received a $1,722,000 USDA loan and a $1,179,220 USDA grant.
  • The Waterworks District No. 3 – Parish of St. Landry will receive a $500,000 loan to extend water lines under Three Mile Lake to serve the North Wilderness subdivision. The Water District currently serves 154 customers. The project will enable it to extend services to 116 new customers within St. Landry Parish.

Below are examples of other infrastructure projects across the nation that USDA is helping to support.

  • In Nettleton, Miss., the Cason Water District is receiving a $2.1 million loan and a $1.9 million grant to install surface water transmission lines from the Northeast Mississippi Water Supply District to the Cason Water District. A booster station, an elevated storage tank and larger distribution lines will also be installed. This project will correct water supply loss and accommodate future growth. The improvements will provide improved water service to 1,657 customers.
  • McLouth, Kan., is receiving a $1.3 million loan to improve the city’s water infrastructure. The project will replace approximately 9,400 feet of pipe and 4,100 feet of antiquated service line. In addition, 420 old water meters will be replaced with automatic meter readers and control panels at the water treatment facility. The upgrade will serve more than 860 residents.
  • The town of Black Oak, Ark., will use a $687,000 loan and a $1.9 million grant to construct a wastewater collection system for the town and the surrounding rural area. The new collection system will serve 135 residents. Most of the individual septic systems are malfunctioning. A public wastewater system that meets current health and sanitary standards also will be constructed.

The funding that USDA is announcing today will benefit communities in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

In FY 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.8 billion in FY 2017. The bill also directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.

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. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

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.

USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure; $4 Billion Available

Department’s Latest Investments to Benefit 165,000 People in Rural Communities in 24 States

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure.
“USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”
Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.
USDA is providing the funding through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage, and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
Below are a few examples of USDA’s latest investment (PDF, 162 KB) of $164 million for 54 projects nationwide:
  • Wadesboro, N.C., is receiving a $706,000 loan and an $815,000 grant to improve its water distribution system. The town will install 7,000 linear feet of eight- and 12-inch PVC and dip water main, and 11 hydrants and service re-connections. The project will benefit the town’s 2,012 residential users, 84 commercial users, eight industrial users and five institutional users. Wadesboro, population 5,841, is in Anson County.
  • The village of Greenview, Ill., is receiving a $4.9 million loan and a $3.7 million grant to construct a wastewater collection and treatment facility. The system will collect and convey wastewater via a centralized pumping station. Wastewater will be transferred to a contained mechanical treatment system. Treated wastewater will then be released to Grove Creek. This project will alleviate health hazards due to private septic or aeration systems that discharge effluent into drainage fields, causing raw sewage backups in homes during major rainfalls. The new system will serve the town’s 778 residents.
  • In Baudette, Minn., the Wheelers Point Sanitary District is receiving a $300,000 loan and a $638,000 grant to construct a sewer collection system. The District is on the shores of Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River in Lake of the Woods County in northern Minnesota. Homes and businesses in the district have individual septic systems that need to be replaced. If these systems were to fail, the contamination would affect the river and the lake. The state considers this project a priority due to the possibility of environmental contamination. The new system will protect the environment and area waters.
USDA is announcing investments today in Alabama, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
In FY 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.2 billion in FY 2017. The bill also directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.
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. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
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.
Source: USDA

USDA Assists Farmers Impacted by Unjustified Retaliation

(Washington, D.C., July 24, 2018) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation. President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets, in the long run, to help American farmers compete globally.  Specifically, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. These programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.

“This is a short-term solution to allow President Trump time to work on long-term trade deals to benefit agriculture and the entire U.S. economy,” Secretary Perdue said.  “The President promised to have the back of every American farmer and rancher, and he knows the importance of keeping our rural economy strong. Unfortunately, America’s hard-working agricultural producers have been treated unfairly by China’s illegal trading practices and have taken a disproportionate hit when it comes illegal retaliatory tariffs.  USDA will not stand by while our hard-working agricultural producers bear the brunt of unfriendly tariffs enacted by foreign nations. The programs we are announcing today help ensure our nation’s agriculture continues to feed the world and innovate to meet the demand.”

Background: Of the total unjustified retaliatory tariffs imposed on the United States, a disproportionate amount was targeted directly at American farmers. Trade damage from such retaliation has impacted a host of U.S. commodities, including field crops like soybeans and sorghum, livestock products like milk and pork, and many fruits, nuts, and other specialty crops. High tariffs disrupt normal marketing patterns, affecting prices and raising costs by forcing commodities to find new markets. Additionally, there is evidence that American goods shipped overseas are being slowed from reaching the market by unusually strict or cumbersome entry procedures, which can affect the quality and marketability of perishable crops.  This can boost marketing costs and discount our prices, and adversely affect our producers.  USDA will use the following programs to assist farmers:

  • The Market Facilitation Program, authorized under The Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by Farm Service Agency (FSA), will provide payments incrementally to producers of soybeans, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hogs. This support will help farmers manage disrupted markets, deal with surplus commodities, and expand and develop new markets at home and abroad.
  • Additionally, USDA will use CCC Charter Act and other authorities to implement a Food Purchase and Distribution Program through the Agricultural Marketing Service to purchase unexpected surplus of affected commodities such as fruits, nuts, rice, legumes, beef, pork and milk for distribution to food banks and other nutrition programs.
  • Finally, the CCC will use its Charter Act authority for a Trade Promotion Program administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) in conjunction with the private sector to assist in developing new export markets for our farm products.

Nearly $2 Billion Now Available for Eligible Producers Affected by 2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2018 – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that agricultural producers affected by hurricanes and wildfires in 2017 now may apply for assistance to help recover and rebuild their farming operations. Sign up begins July 16, 2018, and continues through November 16, 2018.

“Hurricanes and wildfires caused billions of dollars in losses to America’s farmers last year. Our objective is to get relief funds into the hands of eligible producers as quickly as possible,” said Secretary Perdue. “We are making immediate, initial payments of up to 50 percent of the calculated assistance so producers can pay their bills.”

Additional payments will be issued, if funds remain available, later in the year.

The program, known as the 2017 Wildfires and Hurricanes Indemnity Program (2017 WHIP) was authorized by Congress earlier this year by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Eligible crops, trees, bushes, or vines, located in a county declared in a Presidential Emergency Disaster Declaration or Secretarial Disaster Designation as a primary county are eligible for assistance if the producer suffered a loss as a result of a 2017 hurricane. Also, losses located in a county not designated as a primary county may be eligible if the producer provides documentation showing that the loss was due to a hurricane or wildfire in 2017. A list of counties that received qualifying hurricane declarations and designations is available at www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/wildfires-and-hurricanes-indemnity-program/index. Eligibility is determined by Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees.

Agricultural production losses due to conditions caused by last year’s wildfires and hurricanes, including excessive rain, high winds, flooding, mudslides, fire, and heavy smoke, could qualify for assistance through the program. Typically, 2017 WHIP is only designed to provide assistance for production losses, however, if quality was taken into consideration under the insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy, where production was further adjusted, the adjusted production will be used in calculating assistance under this program.

Eligible crops include those for which federal crop insurance or NAP coverage is available, excluding crops intended for grazing. A list of crops covered by crop insurance is available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Actuarial Information Browser at webapp.rma.usda.gov/apps/actuarialinformationbrowser.

Eligibility will be determined for each producer based on the size of the loss and the level of insurance coverage elected by the producer. A WHIP factor will be determined for each crop based on the producer’s coverage level. Producers who elected higher coverage levels will receive a higher WHIP factor.

The 2017 WHIP payment factor ranges from 65 percent to 95 percent, depending upon the level of crop insurance coverage or NAP coverage that a producer obtained for the crop. Producers who did not insure their crops in 2017 will receive 65 percent of the expected value of the crop. Insured producers will receive between 70 percent and 95 percent of expected value; those who purchased the highest levels of coverage will receive 95-percent coverage.

Each eligible producer requesting 2017 WHIP benefits will be subject to a payment limitation of either $125,000 or $900,000, depending upon their average adjusted gross income, which will be verified. The payment limit is $125,000 if less than 75 percent of the person or legal entity’s average adjusted gross income is average adjusted gross farm income. The payment limit is $900,000 if 75 percent or more of the average adjusted gross income of the person or legal entity is average adjusted gross farm income.

Both insured and uninsured producers are eligible to apply for 2017 WHIP. However, all producers receiving 2017 WHIP payments will be required to purchase crop insurance and/or NAP, at the 60 percent coverage level or higher, for the next two available crop years to meet statutory requirements. Producers who fail to purchase crop insurance for the next two applicable years will be required to pay back the 2017 WHIP payment.

To help expedite payments, a producer who does not have records established at the local USDA service center are encouraged to do so early in the process. To establish a record for a farm, a producer needs:

  • Proof of identity: driver’s license and Social Security number/card;
  • Copy of recorder deed, survey plat, rental, or lease agreement of the land. A producer does not have to own property to participate in FSA programs;
  • Corporation, estate, or trust documents, if applicable

Once signup begins, a producer will be asked to provide verifiable and reliable production records. If a producer is unable to provide production records, USDA will calculate the yield based on the county average yield. A producer with this information on file does not need to provide the information again.

For more information on FSA disaster assistance programs, please contact your local USDA service center or visit www.farmers.gov/recover/whip.

Source: USDA

USDA Report Highlights Benefits of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for Farmers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today highlighted a new report showing the positive impacts of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on American farms. Six months after the President signed the tax cuts and reforms into law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) has released a report, titled “Estimated Effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Farms and Farm Households.”  The report examines in detail how the historic tax cuts and reforms will alleviate the tax burden on American farms to help them grow and prosper.  According to the report, average tax rates are expected to decline across all farm sizes and commodity specializations and fewer farm estates will be subject to the Death Tax.

“Most family farms are run as small businesses, and they should be able to keep more of what they earn to reinvest in their operations and take care of their families,” Perdue said.  “Simplifying the tax code and easing the burden on farmers will free them up to make choices for themselves, create jobs, and boost the overall American economy.  This report just shows what we knew all along: the tax cuts and reforms will benefit farmers.”

The TCJA significantly reformed the Federal income tax system, including individual and business income tax rates, business expenses, taxable income deductions, and the alternative minimum tax. The TCJA also doubled the Federal estate tax exclusion. The USDA ERS report estimates the impact of current Federal income tax provisions on farm households by using 2016 tax-year data.

Montana Department of Agriculture Awarded USDA Farm to School Grant

Funding will help schools with procurement, distribution of local foods

Helena, Mont. – Producers and students throughout Montana have reason to celebrate, as the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) has been awarded a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to enhance farm to school efforts throughout the state. MDA was awarded $99,980 and will partner with the National Center for Appropriate Technology and Montana Farm to School to increase the procurement and distribution of local food in K-12 schools in Montana.

“Farm to school initiatives continue to grow throughout Montana and this grant will build upon those efforts,” said Ben Thomas, Director of MDA. “When we can give our producers another market opportunity, while also providing our students with nutritious, local foods, everyone wins.”

The project will focus on three school districts in Montana: Browning, Fort Benton, and Malta. Each of these districts are in the early stages of implementing farm to school activities but have limited access to local foods. Sourcing and access to Montana foods is one of the key challenges to farm to school initiatives in Montana. The Montana Farm to School Leadership Team will research distribution opportunities and challenges on a statewide level while learning first-hand from the participating school districts. By coordinating with state-level farm to school partners, including supply-chain stakeholders, and bringing together local teams in each of the communities, the project will create a plan that will impact the entire state.

“By working with local-level teams in these communities, we expect to expand connectivity and distribution of local foods throughout the state, especially in north and eastern Montana,” said Aubree Roth, Montana Farm to School Coordinator, Montana Team Nutrition. “Our larger goal here is to take the lessons learned from this project, and scale it up so that we can better implement these activities on a state-wide level.”

The Montana Farm to School Leadership Team, sponsored by Montana Office of Public Instruction, works through partnerships across the state to build farm to school initiatives that help kids eat healthy, connect kids with agriculture and nutrition through education, support Montana farmers and food producers, foster economic vitality, and strengthen communities.

The Montana Department of Agriculture’s mission is to protect producers and consumers, and to enhance and develop agriculture and allied industries. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit www.agr.mt.gov.