USDA Decides Not to Impose Additional Regulatory Requirements for Organic Producers and Handlers

Date:
Monday, March 12, 2018 – 11:45am
Contact Info:

WASHINGTON, March 12, 2018 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the decision to withdraw the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) final rule published on January 19, 2017. The rule would have increased federal regulation of livestock and poultry for certified organic producers and handlers. The withdrawal becomes effective May 13, 2018.

Significant policy and legal issues were identified after the rule published in January 2017. After careful review and two rounds of public comment, USDA has determined that the rule exceeds the Department’s statutory authority, and that the changes to the existing organic regulations could have a negative effect on voluntary participation in the National Organic Program, including real costs for producers and consumers.

“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” said USDA Marketing and Regulatory Program Undersecretary Greg Ibach. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”

According to USDA reports for 2017, the number of certified organic operations increased domestically by seven percent and globally by 11 percent. Industry estimates show that organic sales in the United States reached almost $47 billion in 2016, reflecting an increase of almost $3.7 billion since 2015.

The Department carefully considered public comments and the relative costs and benefits for both producers and consumers of imposing the proposed additional regulations.

More information on the OLPP final rule is available in the March 12, 2018, Federal Register, and on the USDA National Organic Program web page.

“A Visit to Slow Foods Nation, Denver 2017” Webinar available through SARE

A webinar is scheduled for Friday, March 16th at 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. as part of the Nebraska SARE Webinar Series. The webinar title is, “A Visit to Slow Foods Nation, Denver 2017”. This past summer Jerry and Renee Cornett of Prairie Plate Restaurant near Waverly, NE received a SARE Travel Scholarship to participate in this event. This event focuses on a number of food issues and there are several opportunities to participate in different discussions and programs. More than 10,000 chefs, policymakers, farmers and food lovers from all over the world will be talking about food justice, sustainability and management. There was discussion over agricultural issues and all kinds of food were there as well. Jerry and Renee will talk about their experience at this event during the webinar. The link to the webinar is:  https://unl.zoom.us/j/193166489. This webinar will be recorded if you are unable to participate at this time.  If you have questions, contact Gary Lesoing at (402) 274-4755.

Michelle Soll of the Farm and Ranch Program spoke at the Women in Ag Conference about available assistance

Michelle-SollThis past weekend, Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Michelle Soll from the Farm and Ranch Project, spoke at the Women in Ag conference in Kearney, NE. She spoke to the attendees over Saturday brunch, highlighting the struggles she is witnessing with her work. While there, she was interviewed by the Kearney Hub about the importance of her work with the Rural Response Hotline and the Farm and Ranch Program. Find the article titled, Michelle Soll there to provide assistance, advice for Nebraska Rural Response Hotline, here.

If you need assistance or would like more information, please call the Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258.

 

Assistance Available to Agricultural Producers through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

LINCOLN, Jan. 19, 2018 – Agricultural producers wanting to enhance current conservation efforts are encouraged to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

Through CSP, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners build their business while implementing conservation practices that help ensure the sustainability of their entire operation. NRCS plans to enroll up to 10 million acres in CSP in 2018.

While applications for CSP are accepted year round, applications must be received by March 2, 2018, to be considered for this funding period.

Through CSP, agricultural producers and forest landowners earn payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like nutrient and pest management, cover crops and tree plantings– all while maintaining active agriculture production on their land. CSP also encourages the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new management techniques such as precision agriculture applications, on-site carbon storage and planting for high carbon sequestration rate, and new soil amendments to improve water quality.

Some of these benefits of CSP include:

  • Improved cattle gains per acre;
  • Increased crop yields;
  • Decreased inputs;
  • Wildlife population improvements; and
  • Better resilience to weather extremes.

NRCS recently made several updates to the program to help producers better evaluate their conservation options and the benefits to their operations and natural resources. New methods and software for evaluating applications help producers see up front why they are or are not meeting stewardship thresholds, and allow them to pick practices and enhancements that work for their conservation objectives. These tools also enable producers to see potential payment scenarios for conservation early in the process.

Producers interested in CSP are recommended to contact their local USDA service center or visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted.

Farmer Veteran Coalition Fellowship Fund 2018

The Farmer Veteran Coalition will be opening up applications for their eighth annual fellowship fund on February 1, 2018. The application will be open until March 1st at 5 p.m. pacific time.

The Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund is a program that provides assistance to veterans who are beginning farmers and/or ranchers. The money does not go directly to the farmer, but instead goes to a third party or toward items that the veteran has indicated will help them with their farming.

Since the start of the fellowship fund, it has awarded over $1.5 million to veterans! Breeding of livestock, fencing, all-terrain vehicles and tractors are the most popular items that have been given.

For more information on eligibility and requirements for the fellowship fund, click here. The application, once open, will be posted there as well.

New Survey from the National Young Farmers Coalition

The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) conducted a survey named National Young Farmer Survey in 2017. They surveyed 3,517 current, former, and aspiring U.S. farmers under the age of 40. A few interesting findings from the responses were: 60% of the respondents were women, 75% of the respondents did not grow up on a farm, and 69% were highly educated, having degrees past high school. The highest percentage of respondents (30.48%) were in the Northeast part of the United States. The average age of the respondents was 29 and more than 10% of the respondents were farmers of color or indigenous farmers.

For the survey, the NYFC gathered information pertaining to the top challenges that beginning farmers face. They found that the top challenges were access to land, student loan debt, finding labor help, and health insurance. Money seems to be a big factor when it comes to young and beginning farmers. A lot do not have the current means to obtain land, whether it be because they have significant loan debt or do not have enough credit to apply or receive loans to launch their farms. Since farming can be a dangerous career, health insurance is a must. Health insurance also costs money, but respondents say the Affordable Care Act is the most helpful insurance policy for them.

The survey also discusses how lawmakers can help young farmers start their farms despite the obstacles. Lawmakers can help young farmers by addressing land access and affordability, helping them manage their student debt, increase the skilled agriculture workforce, protect affordable health care, enable farmers to invent on-farm conservation, improve finances, and address racial inequality. If lawmakers helped with the above, young and beginning farmers would not face as many challenges of beginning a farming career.

Although beginning farming comes with challenges and risks, this generation has the skills to power through the ups and downs of starting a farming business. The NYFC survey results indicate that the young farmers of this generation are more diverse than those who have been farming for several years. Young farmers now are interested in operating smaller farms, committed to sustainable farming, and are optimistic about the future. The responses surely show that there isn’t one just type of farmer and that you don’t need to have farming history or past experience to want to be in the farming business.

If you are interested in reading the entire NYFC survey report, you can view it here.

 

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act H.R. 4316

On November 8, 2017, Representatives Tim Walz (D-MN) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), introduced The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (H.R. 4316). This legislation supports the next generation of farmers and ranchers through changes to pertinent programs and issues including credit, technical skill development, crop insurance, and conservation. The farm and ranch community is aging; the average national age of a farmer is 58.  Millions of agricultural land acres will be changing hands in the next decade. This legislation focuses on breaking down some of those barriers that keep beginning farmers and ranchers from succeeding. For example, limitations on the number of acres enrolled in the Conservation Resources Program (CRP) will be removed, along with increasing the flexibility of CRP landowners to contract with socially disadvantage or veteran farmers in the last 3 years of their CRP contract. Additionally, this legislation prioritizes skill development for beginning farmers and ranchers by supporting service providers in their states to increase training and information gathering. Limits on lending by FSA for Direct Farm Ownership Loan will be increased to $500,000 to help purchase a farm or ranch. To learn more about The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act, please visit this Sectional Outline or the Full Text of the legislation.

Farm transition and succession is the main focus of Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. We work daily with established farmers and ranchers on transitioning their farm. Additionally, we work closely with beginning farmers and ranchers with their legal needs, along with financial guidance, to ensure their enterprises are sustainable and successful. If you have any questions about farm and ranch transitions please call the Rural Response Hotline 1-800-464-0258.

SARE Webinar Series November 7 at 10 am

You are invited to join a free webinar on Tuesday, November 7th at 10 am. Ashley Conway, PhD student in Animal Science under the direction of Dr. Mary Drewnoski received a SARE Graduate Student Grant.  Ashley will discuss the project and results of the first year of the study.  The title and a description of the webinar are below:

“Cattle management and performance in an integrated crop-livestock system”

Integrated crop-livestock systems offer tremendous potential for backgrounding cattle. Incorporating cereal rye as a winter cover crop and then grazing in the spring is one potential strategy to capture added value to an agricultural system. Year one of a two-year study designed to investigate the impact of cattle and residue management in this type of system specifically looks at the use of ionophore supplementation of cattle grazing cereal rye in the spring.”

The link to the webinar is: https://nebraskaextension.zoom.us/j/800634168  . If you are unable to participate during the live webinar, it will be recorded for future viewing. Please pass this information on to others who you think may be interested.

If you have any questions feel free to contact Gary Lesoing at glesoing2@unl.edu  or (402) 274-4755.

Crop Insurance Survey by NCAT

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (www.ncat.org) is conducting this survey of attitudes and opinions about crop insurance. The survey is open to anyone who is farming or ranching commercially in the United States. Results will be used to plan educational efforts and make recommendations to the USDA.

The survey takes an average of 20-30 minutes to complete. Your answers will remain anonymous. We do not collect your e-mail or IP address, and you are not required to provide any personally-identifiable information.

As a small gesture of appreciation for your time, we are happy to offer you a $20 check as a “thank you” for  completing the survey.

Please share the link to this survey with others who may be interested: www.ncat.org/cropinsurance.

We welcome your comments and feedback at cropinsurance@ncat.org.

Funding for this survey was provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award #2014-51300-22224.

South Dakota Workshops Ranch/Farm Succession Planning & USDA Loan Programs and FSA Disaster and Drought Programs

Two separate free workshops will be offered to farmers and ranchers in Belle Fourche, South Dakota at the Branding Iron Café with a light lunch provided.  These workshops are not limited to Beginning Farmers and are open to the public. To register (and for questions) call the Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258.

The first workshop is from 9 am to 12:00 pm on Tuesday, August 29, 2017, it will address both farm and ranch succession planning, and USDA loan programs, including those loan programs intended to support beginning farmers and ranchers.  The succession planning portion will cover basic estate and transitioning planning issues and tools, including federal transfer taxes, incapacity planning, transfer tools (wills, titling and trusts), balancing the interests of on-farm and off-farm heirs (access to land and operational assets, contribution & compensation, management and control, asset protection, leases, tools for co-ownership), and decision making steps in the transition planning process.  The USDA loan segment will cover Farm Service Agency loan programs, including direct and guaranteed loans, beginning farmer loans, microloans, and storage facility loans.

The second workshop is from 9 am to 12:00 pm on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, it will address Farm Service Agency disaster programs, including the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish (ELAP), and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).   We will discuss program benefits and coverage and eligibility criteria.

There will also be an opportunity to engage in one-on-one discussions with the presenters by signing up for free ½ hours sessions after the workshop.

These workshops and clinics are made available through The Nebraska Network for Beginning Ranchers and Farmers, which includes services in South Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado, and the Farm Law Project of Legal Aid of Nebraska.

Presenters:

Joe Hawbaker, Agricultural Law Attorney, with Hawbaker Law Office, Omaha, Nebraska.

Amy Swoboda, Farm and Food Attorney with Legal Aid of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska.