USDA extends deadline for Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program

August 11th, 2008 Farm and Dairy Staff

HARRISBURG, Pa. — USDA has extended the application deadline to apply for coverage under Farm Service Agency’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Read the rest of this entry »

States renew support for Northeast Dairy Leadership Team

August 6th, 2008 Farm and Dairy Staff

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff, New York Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker and Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee have renewed their support for the Northeast Dairy Leadership Team, an alliance initiated by a memorandum of understanding signed among the three state departments of agriculture in 2006.

The leadership team was created to establish a vision and promote profitability for the region’s dairy industry.

More than 50 leaders representing all facets of the dairy industry in the three leading northeastern dairy states — New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont — are part of the organization.

The three states’ agriculture departments and Centers for Dairy Excellence fund the Northeast Dairy Leadership Team’s activities.

Strong policy

“Working as a region has been instrumental in helping to establish a new dairy policy, a stronger safety net, expanding forward contracting, and developing a new dairy revenue insurance program,” Secretary Wolff said about the issues that were integral parts of the federal farm bill debate.

The Northeast Dairy Leadership Team recommended nine issues for discussion in the farm bill. This collaborative effort had a positive affect on dairy policy, as eight of the nine areas were included in the farm bill.

“By coming together as a region, we have a greater opportunity to educate consumers on food safety, animal welfare and what we do as dairy producers everyday,” said Wolff.

Working together

“The relationship between our three states has been very positive, and has helped expand programs like the dairy profit team program first from Pennsylvania to New York and now into Vermont,” said Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Roger Allbee.

“We need to use the effort to embrace environmental stewardship and energy-related issues.”

“We see tremendous value in this effort, particularly through the exchange of ideas,” said Commissioner Hooker at the leadership team meeting in July.

“With fewer people involved in the dairy industry, we all need to treat each other with a level of deference and respect, which is what I see at these team meetings.”

Details

For more information, visit the Northeast Dairy Leadership Team Web page.

USDA takes next step toward COOL

August 4th, 2008 Andrea Zippay

SALEM, Ohio — Like it or not, mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) is coming your way.

The USDA issued its interim final rule for the program July 29, which leaves time for public comment toward the program’s final operation, but allows COOL to go into effect, as planned, Sept. 30.

Covered. COOL, which has been on the books since at least 2001, got its final push toward reality from the 2008 farm bill issued just weeks ago.

Under the mandatory program, retail commodities must carry a label to indicate their country of origin.

The rule covers muscle cuts and ground beef and veal, lamb, chicken, goat, and pork; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; macadamia nuts; pecans; ginseng; and peanuts.

Wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish have been subjected to mandatory country-of-origin labeling since 2006.

Changes

The newest farm bill made some changes to the controversial order, including adding more products that must carry the label, and defining when a product should be labeled.

The bill says ground meat labels “shall list all countries of origin contained therein or that may be reasonably contained therein” to account for commingling of meats.

USDA has also revised the definition of a processed food item so that items derived from a covered commodity that has undergone a physical or chemical change, like cooking or smoking, or that has been combined with other covered commodities, are excluded from COOL labeling.

Examples of items excluded from country of origin labeling include a flavored pork loin, breaded chicken tenders, mixed vegetables, or a salad mix that contains two or more vegetables.

Food service establishments, such as restaurants, lunchrooms, cafeterias, food stands, bars, lounges, and similar enterprises are exempt from the mandatory country of origin labeling requirements.

The requirements apply only to covered commodities produced or packaged after Sept. 30, 2008.

The law also was changed to ease recordkeeping for verifying an animal’s country of origin by allowing the use of existing on-farm records, such as normal business records or animal health papers, or import or customs documents.

Fines and penalties for violating the labeling rule were also decreased from $10,000 to $1,000.

Reactions

Initially opposed to the mandatory labeling, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has softened its stance and is “pleased” to have the interim final rule in place.

“NCBA worked to develop a compromise version of COOL during debate on the 2008 farm bill that promotes U.S. beef products without overburdening producers,” said Andy Groseta, NCBA president.

Groseta said the rule “incorporates provisions that make mandatory labeling more feasible for producers.”

“USDA did a rather straightforward job in writing these rules,” said R-CALF USA COOL committee chair Mike Schultz, noting the agency accepted many groups’ recommendations to simplify implementation of the program.

“For the most part, USDA properly adopted the legislative language that minimizes requirements on producers and other suppliers by allowing them to use their own affidavits to prove an animal’s origin,” he said.

The rule also allows meatpackers to use foreign import markings to verify animals of foreign origin, such as ear tags and brands on cattle from Mexico and Canada, he said.

But Schultz found faults in the program, too, in that USDA requires every person in the supply chain to maintain COOL records for one year. He called it “one step forward and one step back” in the supply chain.

“For instance, a cow-calf producer would need to maintain records of who they sold their cattle to, and that person would need to keep records about who he or she purchased the cattle from and then who he or she sold them to,” Schultz explained.

Comments

The interim final rule was published in the Aug. 1 Federal Register and calls for a 60-day public comment period.

USDA acknowledged the program as merely a way for consumers to know where their food comes from to aid in purchasing decisions. COOL does not provide a basis for addressing food safety, according to USDA.

USDA increases limits for direct loans

July 29th, 2008 Farm and Dairy Staff

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer has put into place a new farm bill provision, increasing the limits on loans to $300,000 — up from $200,000 — for direct farm ownership and operating loans.

Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan limits remained unchanged since 1984.

“Our Farm Service Agency has already started making loans with today’s costs of running a farm our top consideration,” Schafer said.

“We are proud to help the hard-working Americans who were struggling with the high costs of running a family farm — especially beginning and socially disadvantaged producers. USDA is working together with farmers at the local level to make this happen.”

Direct loans

Direct loans are a resource for farmers to get the credit they need to build and sustain family farms and ranches. The increased loan limits are expected to help farmers whose credit requirements could not previously be met by the FSA loan limits.

In addition, some existing FSA borrowers who have already reached the previous limit of $200,000 will now be eligible to obtain additional credit from FSA.

Direct farm loans are made by FSA with government funds. FSA also services these loans and provides direct loan borrowers with supervision and business planning so they have a better chance for success.

Farm ownership, operating, emergency and youth loans are the main types of loans available under the direct program.

Direct loan funds are also set aside each year for loans to socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers.

Information

Farmers interested in applying for a direct operating or farm ownership loan, should contact their local FSA office.

For more information about these and other types of loans, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov and click on “Farm Loan Programs.”

Clearing some things up

July 15th, 2008 FSA Andy

Hi again,

In last week’s article, I mentioned that qualifying for the Quality Loss Program required certain actions on behalf of producers. I wanted to clarify a couple of issues that may have been misleading.

First, a producer does have to have a quantity loss application on file. However, that application does not have to already be filed, as you can file that at the same time you file for quality loss.

In addition, I mentioned that you had to have Crop Insurance or NAP for the applicable years of 2005-2007. That is true, but not the requirement that you have insurance for all three years.

The years that you didn’t have insurance will be ineligible for quality loss. Producers also must have suffered a 25 percent reduction in expected value for the crop they are applying for.

Quality loss requires that production evidence be verifiable . This will probably limit most producers to sales receipts or measurement services performed by FSA offices.

I’d suggest, for those who believe they qualify, digging out the sales receipts for grain/produce/hay or any other crops that you marketed that have definite poor quality factors.

Poor test weight, high percentage foreign material toxins or even sales for secondary use markets are a good place to start.

RFV tests and sales receipts or measurement services must match for cutting and type of hay.

The new farm bill ushered into law five new disaster assistance programs: Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments program (SURE), Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), Livestock Indemnity program, Tree Assistance program (TAP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees and Farm-Raised Fish (EALHF) Program.

Producers interested in these programs will be required to have purchased at least CAT coverage insurance from FCIC for each crop on their farm/operation and if the crop is uninsurable they must have obtained noninsured coverage through FSA via the NAP program and paid the applicable fees for such.

The deadline to obtain this insurance has been extended until Sept. 16.

Future articles will provide more details about these programs as these programs will be replacing the ad-hoc disaster programs.

In addition, the program regulation and implementation procedures are just now starting to hit FSA offices.

That’s all for now,

FSA Andy

FSA Andy for July 10, 2008

July 10th, 2008 FSA Andy

Hello again,

The start of July doesn’t seem to have brought much help to us in the hay making department.

Thank God for Sunfilm and tube wrappers as dry hay is just about impossible in central eastern Ohio.

Wheat harvest will need to crank up soon or I don’t see too many double crop beans getting put in. I guess that’s farming.

DCP. There is plenty happening at your local FSA office. The 2008 Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment program sign-up is taking place as this is written. The new farm bill authorized a continuation of the Direct and Counter-Cyclical Payment (yearly sign-up) program through 2012.

FSA will continue to use the bases previously established for farms, there will be no new base farms created, with the exception of some crops typically not raised here.

The payments will be based on the base acres and payment yields established for each farm. Eligible producers will receive direct payments at rates established by statute. They are almost identical to the rates received in the past.

Advance payments will be offered in the amount of 22 percent of the projected payment. Payments will be made as soon as practical.

Counter-cyclical payments (payments dependent on market prices) will also be made when the price is determined to be below the target price, and those have changed.

Sign-up will be ongoing through Sept. 30.

Producers who have farms that need reconstituted (i.e.: sale of land from farm ground) need to request a reconstitution before Aug. 1.

FSA has to have all recons initiated by Aug. 14.

Changes. One change in the farm bill is that no payments will be issued to farms having less than 10 base acres unless (the owner) is a socially disadvantaged producer or a limited resource person.

FSA will determine who is a limited resource person and combinations of farms of less than 10 base acres are not permissible.

Quality loss. Quality loss sign-ups for 2005, 2006 and 2007 are also underway. Producers must have applied for a quantity loss payment to be eligible, but did not need to qualify to be eligible for quality payments. Sounds goofy huh?

Quality loss participants will need to provide actual evidence showing quantity price and quality factors to receive a payment.

Bottom line — if you didn’t have Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program insurance or Federal Crop Insurance Corporation for the above years you are not eligible.

Don’t forget that sign-up ends July 18 for Livestock Compensation Program and Livestock Indemnity Program.

Sign-up was for pasture losses, animal losses and increased feed cost for the years ’05, ’06 and ’07. Producers with eligible losses qualify.

Many new things are going on at FSA and we will try to keep you updated on those issues as best as possible. When in doubt or if you have questions, don’t hesitate to call your local FSA office.

That’s all for now,
FSA Andy

USDA releases county loan rates for 2008

June 16th, 2008 Farm and Dairy Staff

WASHINGTON — Within three weeks of commodity title enactment in the 2008 farm bill, USDA is implementing marketing assistance loan and loan deficiency payment (LDP) provisions.

USDA also announced county loan rates for 2008 crop of wheat, corn, grain sorghum, barley, oats, soybeans, and other oilseeds.

The national loan rates for the 2008 crops of wheat, feed grains, oilseeds, rice, and pulses are at the following levels:

Wheat: $2.75 per bushel

Corn: $1.95 per bushel

Grain sorghum: $1.95 per bushel

Barley: $1.85 per bushel

Oats: $1.33 per bushel

Soybeans: $5 per bushel

Other oilseeds: $9.30 per hundredweight

As required by the 2008 farm bill, these national loan rates are established at the same levels as those established for the 2007 crop, with the exception of rice.

Marketing assistance loans provide producers interim financing at harvest time to meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are typically at harvest-time lows.

A producer who is eligible to obtain a loan, but who agrees to forgo the loan, may obtain a loan deficiency payment if such payments are available.

Anti-ethanol effort led by grocers

May 29th, 2008 Alan Guebert

According to two documents posted on Sen. Charles Grassley’s, R-Iowa, congressional Web site, the “grassroots” anti-ethanol media blitz that’s hitched today’s climbing food prices to farmer-backed biofuels is as fake as astro-turf.

Indeed, Grassley explained to Senate colleagues during his May 15 endorsement of the new farm bill, “It turns out that a $300,000, six-month retainer of a Beltway public relations firm is behind the smear campaign, hired by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.”

True, the grocery gang — a wealthy lobby of over 300 food and beverage makers and marketers like Kraft Foods, Miller Brewing, Dean Foods and ConAgra — made, then marketed, today’s highly believable, highly fake food vs. fuel debate.

Public relations

And how they did it, according to the Grassley-posted documents, was as simple as hiring a Washington public relations firm, The Glover Park Group, and writing a check. (Grocery Manufacturers Association’s call to arms can be read at http://grassley.senate.gov/public/releases/2008/05152008.pdf and Glover Park’s 26-page battle plan is posted at http://grassley.senate.gov/public/releases/2008/051520082.pdf.)

Taken together, the revealing memos are today’s tried-and-true recipe for public policy: A wealthy special interest cooks up a batch of anti-whatever Kool-Aid through careful and creative use of facts.

Then media experts like Glover Park carry the Kool-Aid to “elite” opinion shapers — newspaper editors, pundits, Internet bloggers — who dispense it to the thirsty public for free.

The masses, looking for a cure to $4 milk and $5 corn flakes, take a sip and, presto! Their tired eyes light up with clear understanding and ethanol becomes the worst idea since the pockets in underwear.

Money

Why would 300 of the world’s largest, richest food companies (many of which are foreign-based) have their Washington hired gun take aim at ethanol? The answer is, of course, money.

The higher prices Grocery Manufacturers Association’s members are now paying for basic inputs like corn, soy, wheat, milk and rice have moved their cost curves up and their profit curves down. It’s an intolerable trend, and something needed to be done.

“ … the grocery gang … made, then marketed, today’s highly believable, highly fake food vs. fuel debate.”

Since the grocery gang cannot influence global commodity production and prices, the easiest “influence” path to take is public policy: Undermine “the primary reason” for today’s higher food prices, explains the March 4 association memo, the mandated “2007 Energy Bill requiring gasoline refiners to blend 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol in the nation’s gasoline supply by 2015.”

Tricky business

Doing so, however, is tricky business. The gang prefers to be seen as white hats fighting for lower food prices, not black hats protecting profits and marketshare. That means someone else must carry the fight. And, as its memo explains, it knows just the right folks.

“Develop a global center-left coalition of environmental, hunger, food aid, poverty, development, senior, children, business, nutrition, farm, consumer and labor groups” movement to “amplify the links between (biofuel) mandates and food prices.”

Within 48 hours, Glover Park, a public relations firm with tight links to Congressional Democrats, answers the call with an extraordinary media plan to sell “a federal agency-level or legislative solution to the economically, environmentally and socially untenable ethanol policies now in place … ”

Within weeks, anti-ethanol seeds, bought by Grocery Manufacturers Association and planted by Glover Park, take root. Everyone from the New York Times to World Bank President Robert Zoellick is linking American ethanol to starving Sudanese children or worse.

Market forces

But wait. Aren’t other, more powerful market forces — global grain demand outpacing production seven of the last nine years, crude oil prices 500 percent taller than 10 years ago, inclement weather — propelling grain prices more than U.S. ethanol?

Sure, but don’t tell the grocery gang. Falling profit margins, not honesty, is behind their nasty, divisive campaign. Even worse, these truth-challenged food giants are using the poorest of the poor, “ … hunger, food aid, poverty, development, senior, children,” to reclaim their fat margins.

In a town long-known for its shameless demagogues, these folks take the cake.

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May 19th, 2008 Jordan Roberts

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Deadline extended to May 30 for Conservation Security Program

May 9th, 2008 Farm and Dairy Staff

COLUMBUS — The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently extended the deadline to apply for the Conservation Security Program to May 30.

Farmers in Ohio’s Sandusky Watershed, encompassing 12 counties in northern Ohio, are encouraged to take advantage of this extension. These counties include: Crawford, Erie, Hancock, Hardin, Huron, Marion, Ottawa, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Wood and Wyandot.

Two weeks

“This extension will allow two additional weeks to gather the proper documentation and make an appointment for an interview with the NRCS staff,” said Terry Cosby, Natural Resources Conservation Service state conservationist.

The Conservation Security Program, a voluntary program, encourages and rewards producers who practice outstanding stewardship on working agricultural land by offering financial incentives that increase with the level of conservation effort.

In the Sandusky Watershed, the average farm practicing the highest level of conservation could qualify for payments as high as $15,000 per year for a five-year period. Payments may be more or less depending on farm size and may be subject to annual enhancement and contract payment caps.

Limited sign-up

This may be the only sign-up for many years available to farmers in the Sandusky Watershed.

As outlined in the 2002 farm bill, the Conservation Security Program is offered on a rotational basis nationwide, with all watersheds in the country scheduled to offer the program at some point in an eight-year time frame, beginning with 2004.

To learn more about the Conservation Security Program, visit
www.oh.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/csp_2/csp_home_2008.html or contact your local USDA Service Center.