What Federal Programs Are Available?

We are frequently asked what federal programs are available for farmers and ranchers.  Now, with the updated publication Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities: A Guide to Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, Entrepreneurship, Conservation, Food Systems, and Community Development a resource exists that lists available programs, eligibility requirements, funding parameters, contact information, and when applicable, project examples.

The guide lists the approximately 70 programs available, from grants, loans, to technical assistance and information and educational resources.

While the guide lists the programs in alphabetical order, the programs are also listed by category.  Categories include:

  • Economic Development for Farms, Small Businesses and Communities
  • Farm Loans
  • Insurance and Risk Management
  • Natural Resources Conservation and Management
  • Nutrition and Consumer Food Access
  • Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation
  • Research and Outreach
  • Value Added and Marketing Innovations

The guide is available for free online or a paper copy is available for a $3 handling fee.

The guide is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was produced in cooperation with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). USDA agencies and programs that provided major support for the publication include Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), U.S. Forest Service; and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Early CRP Opt-Out Ending January 30, 2015

Pursuant to the 2014 Farm Bill, some CRP participants may elect to opt-out of any current CRP contractsThe deadline is January 30, 2015.

In order to be eligible, CRP contracts must be in effect for at least five years during fiscal year 2015.  There are restrictions on the type of land that are eligible for the opt-out.

Give your local FSA office a call to determine if the opt-out may be something you are interested in pursuing.  But remember to make that call before January 30!

Livestock Disaster Assistance Deadline Approaching

If you are a livestock producer who wants to request assistance for losses suffered from October 1, 2011 through December 31, 2014, the deadline to apply for assistance is fast approaching.  The deadline to apply is January 30, 2015.

Assistance is available via two programs: the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program.

The Livestock Indemnity Program provides financial assistance to eligible producers for livestock deaths due to adverse weather, extreme temperatures, disease, wildfires, or attacks by animals re-introduced into the wild by the federal government or protected by federal law, including wolves and avian predators.

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program provides financial compensation to livestock producers that suffered grazing loss due to drought or fire.  Qualifying droughts are based upon the U.S. Drought Monitor severity ratings and qualifying fires are those on rangeland managed by a federal agency and normally permitted for grazing.

Contact your local FSA office for more information on whether you potentially qualify, the types of records required to document losses, and any other questions you may have.

Nebraska DriftWatch 2015 Renewal Now Open

DriftWatch is an online map that shows specialty and pesticide sensitive crops for pesticide applicators.  For Nebraska producers and pesticide applicators, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture is the data steward.

What crops are eligible for inclusion on DriftWatch?  First, the crops must be commercial, meaning they are sold in some manner and not strictly for personal use.  Second, eligible crops are:

  • Grapes
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beehives
  • Greenhouse — high tunnel
  • Nursery Crops
  • Orchards
  • Fish Farms
  • Non-specialty certified organic
  • Other (plants grown for seed, cut flowers, flowers for scented products, woody florals, hops, and certain non-herbicide resistant crops)

Certified organic crops, including alfalfa, pasture, and native prairie, are considered eligible if they are part of a commercial operation.

DriftWatch does require annual renewal, which is currently open for 2015.  If you do not renew, your crop locations will not show on the map and pesticide applicators will not see your locations.

While DriftWatch is a voluntary program, it may be a program that is of use to you.  Look into it if you it is a ‘new-to-you’ program or renew if you are already a member and find it useful!


A little food and wine

Some days it is interesting to explore growth industries in agriculture.  Like wineries and breweries.

The Washington Post has an interesting infographic today, showing the nearly 10,000 winemakers and 4,500 commercial breweries across the United States.  There are some obvious conclusions, such as California, Oregon, and Washington having a high concentration of wineries and the Denver area having a large number of breweries.

But what is interesting, at least to me, is that every state has wineries and breweries.  Which require agricultural products, such as grapes and hops.  The growth of wine-making and breweries augers an increase in niche, small-scale agriculture production.

So check out a local winery or brewery, support a local business and (more than likely) some local agriculture because there is something in every state!

Conservation Compliance and Crop Insurance

Pursuant to the 2014 Farm Bill, crop insurance premium subsidies are now linked to conservation compliance.  The Risk Management Agency has put together a good FAQ about conservation compliance but here are some highlights:

What type of compliance is required?

For production on highly erodible land, a producer of annually tilled crops or sugarcane is required to use a Natural Resources Conservation Service approved conservation plan.  If production occurs on a converted wetland, certain USDA benefits are not available.

Are there any deadlines?  If so, what is required to be done before the deadline?

Yes.  To be eligible for a crop insurance subsidy, a completed and signed form AD-1026 must be on file at the Farm Service Agency by June 1, 2015 for the 2016 reinsurance year (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) and you, and any affiliated person, must be in compliance.

What is a form AD-1026?

Form AD-1026 is also called a “certificate of compliance” and is the form used to certify compliance with highly erodible land and wetlands conversion provisions.

Who determines if my farm has highly erodible land or wetland conservation?

The National Resource Conservation Service makes the determination.

How do I know if I am already in compliance?

If you are currently eligible for commodity, conservation, or disaster programs administered by FSA and the USDA, you are in compliance for crop insurance subsidy purposes.  If you are unsure if you are eligible for commodity, conservation, or disaster programs, you may contact your local USDA service center.

Can I obtain crop insurance if I do not file the proper documentation and/or am not in compliance?

Yes, although you will pay the full crop insurance premium.

I do not grow annual crops; I insure only livestock and pasture.  Must I still file a certificate of compliance?

Yes.  To be eligible for any crop insurance premium subsidy, you must have a completed and signed form AD-1026 on file with the Farm Service Agency by June 1, 2015.

There are more technical questions and answers posted on the RMA FAQ.  Feel free to take a look at the FAQs and if you have further questions, you are welcome to contact us!

Upcoming Training and Education Opportunities!

A new year is always a good time to brush up on one’s knowledge and skills.  If any of the below opportunities interest you, sign up — you never know what you can learn!

  • Women in Ag Learning Network is hosting a webinar January 20, 2015 at noon EST titled “Marketing Your Products: Turning Samples Into Sales”  As the webinar states, “Providing product samples is a great way to help increase sales at your farmers market booth or farm stand.  However, it is also important to do it in a way that does not give away all your product (and therefore profits!) and that also will provide a safe product that meets regulatory requirements.  In this webinar, you’ll learn how to choose which products to sample, how to control costs in sampling, and generally how to make the most of sampling.”  There are other webinars offered by the Women in Ag Learning Network, so check it out!
  • Another free webinar, this one focused upon Managing risks on an Urban Farm, is scheduled for January 15, 2015 at noon EST.  Offered by National Center for Appropriate Technology, you may register only here.
  • If you are interested in Farm-to-Preschool programs and food safety, the University of Massachusetts Department of Nutrition and the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension have developed a free, online, interactive food safety program, available here.  You learn at your own pace, so if you are interested, take a look at the units available.
  • Farm Commons has webinars currently available concerning legal issues for farmers, as well as more webinars planned this winter.

Hopefully there is something available in the above that you find interesting and informative.  If there is, let us know!