PO Box 2900
College Station, Texas – 77841
Farm Service Agency Moves to Electronic Check Processing
(COLLEGE STATION, TX) -June 25, 2012– USDA Texas Farm Service Agency (FSA) Acting Executive Director James B. Douglass announced that FSA is moving towards an electronic method for processing check payments from customers.
Using the electronic method, when a producer submits a paper check payment, either in person or through the mail, the check will be converted into an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) using Over the Counter Channel (OTCnet), a web-based application. For 2012, OTCnet will be implemented in a select number of counties throughout the state, but all counties will be transitioned into OTCnet by the end of 2013.
“It is important for producers to have sufficient funds in their bank account because the electronic transfer of funds could occur within 24 hours,” said Douglass.
FSA will hold the paper check for up to 14 calendar days to ensure that the transaction was successfully processed and then the check will be shredded. The producer will not receive the paper check back from FSA.
“The new electronic check processing system will benefit the Agency and producers,” said Douglass. “The new system will reduce the possibility of losing or misplacing checks, speed up the check clearing process and reduce the potential for human error,” he said.
Final Acreage Reporting Dates Quickly Approaching
COLUMBUS, June 25, 2012 — The State Executive Director for Ohio’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Steve Maurer, reminds producers of the acreage reporting requirements that must be met prior to receiving program benefits. If producers miss the acreage reporting deadline dates, a late filing fee will be charged.
Maurer added, “Producers are required to file an FSA-578, Report of Acreage, certification for the farm by July 2 for small grains and by July 16 for all other crops except small grains.” To be considered timely, acreage reports on crops are due in the county office by July 2 for small grains and July 16 for all other crops, or 15 calendar days before the onset of harvest or grazing of the specific crop acreage being reported.
It is also very important that producers report crop losses, including those insured under Federal Crop Insurance (FCIC) and Non-insured Assistance Program (NAP) within 15 days of the date damage occurred or 15 days from the date damage is apparent. Losses and or damages to crops must be reported after each disaster occurrence and in a timely manner to insure continued eligibility for benefits.
Report Failed Crop Acreage Prior to Destruction
COLUMBUS, Ohio — June 25, 2012 — Steve Maurer, State Executive Director for Ohio’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), would like to encourage farmers to report failed crop acreage that will not be brought to harvest to their local FSA office. Failed acreage must be reported to FSA before destroying and replanting to allow time for a field check.
“It is very important that farmers report failed acreage that will not be brought to harvest to the FSA office prior to destruction,” said Maurer. “This simple act of insuring that failed acres are documented could be the determining factor in whether or not a farmer is eligible for future crop disaster program payments.”
Form CCC-576, Notice of Loss, is used to report failed acreage and may be completed by any producer with an interest in the crop. For crop losses covered by the Non-insured Assistance Program (NAP), producers must contact their local FSA office within 15 days of the occurrence of the disaster or when losses become apparent. Producers with crop insurance should also contact their local agent when losses occur and before destroying the crop.
Although low yield acreage does not need to be reported to FSA, producers are encouraged to keep good production records on acreage with a low crop yield to document crop losses. Reporting failed acreage to FSA will ensure compliance with current farm programs, and possible eligibility for future disaster programs.
Manhattan, Kansas, June 22, 2012 – Adrian J. Polansky, State Executive Director of USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Kansas reminds producers of the following program deadlines:
July 15, 2012 – Final date to report spring seeded crops, CRP and NAP acreages.
Prevented planting must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after the final planting date. Failed acreage must be reported within 15 days of the disaster occurrence or when the loss first becomes apparent, and before disposition of the crop. Producers who have NAP coverage will be required to report crop losses on Form CCC-576, Notice of Loss and Application for Payment Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.
August 1, 2012 – Final date for nominations for the FSA County Committee election.
August 1, 2012 – Final date to request fiscal year 2012 farm combination and/or farm division for a farm with base acres.
September 1, 2012 – Final application closing date for 2013 Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage on aquaculture, canola, Christmas trees, nursery crops, turf grass sod, and all small grain crops, except oats. FSA program eligibility may require NAP coverage on all non-insurable crops and crop insurance on insurable crops.
November 15, 2012 – Final date to report perennial rangeland forage (grass, alfalfa, clover, etc). Please note that this deadline is earlier than previous years.
December 15, 2012 – Final date to report fall-seeded crops for the 2013 crop year. Please note that this deadline is earlier than previous years.
In order to receive USDA program payments, each payment recipient must complete Form CCC-931, Average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) Certification and Consent to Disclosure of Tax Information.
Emergency loans are available to help qualified producers in disaster designated counties recover from production and physical losses due to natural disasters. Producers have eight months after the disaster designation to apply for a loan.
On-going programs include Direct and Guaranteed Farm Operating and Farm Ownership Loans, Rural Youth Loans, Farm Storage Facility Loans, and Continuous Conservation Reserve Program.
(RENO, NV) June 13, 2012 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today met with business and community leaders to discuss how continuing demand for American food and agricultural products abroad has led to the three best consecutive years for U.S. farm exports in our nation’s history. Vilsack said the success of American agriculture is a positive economic story that is creating jobs in rural America and benefitting people around the world. Vilsack also highlighted a report released this week by the White House Rural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture which notes progress that has been made in the agricultural economy and details steps the Obama Administration has taken to help strengthen the farm economy and support jobs in rural America.
“In 2010, President Obama committed to doubling U.S. exports in five years, and just two years later, we are on pace to meet that goal,” said Vilsack. “Meanwhile, people around the world continue to demand U.S. food and agricultural products, boosting American businesses and supporting our rural communities. To ensure these successes continue, USDA has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade. Less restrictions abroad, stronger trade deals for U.S. agriculture, and greater export assistance for U.S. businesses supports more than 1 million Americans jobs in industries from packing and shipping, to food processing, to transportation. This is an American-made success story worth sharing with our friends, family and neighbors.”
Speaking to business leaders in Iowa, one of the nation’s most productive agricultural economies, Vilsack pointed to the state’s low unemployment rate of 5.1 percent as proof of agriculture’s success story. Last year, Iowa exported a record $7 billion in agricultural products, which supported nearly 60,000 jobs on and off the farm. Thus far in 2012, the state’s farm exports show a 15-percent gain over last year’s record total.
Vilsack also highlighted a joint report released this week by the White House Rural Council and USDA, which notes how the President’s National Export Initiative has opened new markets for U.S. agricultural products and services and contributed to a historic level of agricultural exports. Other highlights from the report include:
Innovation: Innovation in U.S. agriculture has kept America’s farms among the most productive in the world. U.S. farm sector income reached a nominal record of $98.1 billion in 2011. Adjusting for general inflation, real farm income in 2011 recorded its 3rd highest level in the last 50 years.
Clean Energy: The Administration has pursued polices that promote domestic energy alternatives like biofuels, bioenergy, and wind power to provide new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and forest managers. Pursuit of an all-of-the-above clean energy and energy efficiency strategy saved Americans a projected 6.5 billion kWh – enough energy to power over 590,000 homes for a year – and nearly doubled the amount of installed wind energy generation in the U.S. over the past three years from about 25,000 MW in 2008 to 47,000 MW in 2011.
New Industries: The Administration has supported new industry diversification within the agricultural economy. The retail value of the organic industry grew to $31.4 billion in 2011, up from $21.1 billion in 2008. The number of operations certified organic grew by 1,109 – or more than 6% – between 2009 and 2011.
Community Investment: The rural economy has been strengthened by investments in over 6,250 new community facilities. Additionally, over the last three years, 12,000 USDA grants and loans have been issued to assist over 50,000 rural small businesses.
Just a few weeks ago, USDA forecast 2012 farm exports to reach the second highest level on record, after 2011, making the past three years the strongest collective performance in our nation’s history. Today, only 1 percent of U.S. companies export, and yet 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the borders of the United States, creating significant opportunities for U.S. food and agriculture.
Responding to that demand since 2009, U.S. farmers and ranchers have delivered three of the four highest levels of U.S. agricultural exports in American history. In fiscal year 2012, the latest forecast sees $134.5 billion in U.S. farm exports, the second highest level ever and $3.5 billion greater than the previous forecast. And Vilsack said he expects new trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and the European Union to deliver even greater returns for U.S. businesses.
Vilsack said USDA is committed to expanding export opportunities for all producers. When asked about outcomes of USDA’s March trade mission to China—the department’s largest trade mission to date—he highlighted that the delegation included 39 U.S. companies, representatives from six state departments of agriculture, and achieved nearly $2 million in immediate sales.
(RENO, NV) June 13, 2012 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to help promote sustainable economic development and job creation in rural communities.
“Cooperative enterprises often lead economic growth and job creation in rural areas,” Vilsack said. “USDA is offering grants to help organizations start cooperatives, expand existing ones or help develop business opportunities in rural areas.”
USDA is offering Rural Cooperative Development Grants (RCDG) to non-profit corporations and institutions of higher education. The grants also may be used to conduct feasibility studies, create and implement business plans, and help businesses develop new markets for their products and services.
One-year grants up to $175,000 are available. In most cases, grants may be used to pay for up to 75 percent of the cost of establishing and operating rural cooperative development centers. Recipients are required to match 25 percent of the award amount. The grant period should begin no earlier than October 1, 2012, and no later than January 1, 2013.
Many RCDG recipients have a long history of job creation and economic development. In Great Falls, MT, the Montana Cooperative Development Center has helped 123 entities and guided the formation of 37 cooperatives since its inception in 1999. One of these cooperatives, the Last Chance Café, in Sunburst, MT, near the Canadian border, would have closed without help from the development center and its USDA Rural Cooperative Development Grant. This iconic café is once again a successful local diner and a gathering spot for the local community.
Through this notice, USDA may award up to $5.8 million in grants. The deadline for RCDG applications is August 6, 2012. For additional information, see the June 7, 2012 Federal Register or contact the USDA Rural Development state office.
In addition, USDA is offering almost $2.37 million in grants through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG. The program promotes sustainable economic development in rural communities and regions with exceptional needs.
For example, in 2011, USDA Rural Development awarded Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission a $90,000 grant to assist with the development of a local food prospectus for rural areas in the tri-state region of Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. The Commission will use the grant award with partner agencies in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa to improve the local food opportunities in the tri-state region. The two-year effort will identify agricultural strengths, regional opportunities, and recommend a unified network of processing, storage, and distribution facilities throughout the region.
The RBOG program provides training and technical assistance grants for business development, entrepreneurs, and economic development officials and assists with economic development planning. Funding is available to rural public bodies, nonprofit corporations, Native American tribes and cooperatives with primarily rural members that conduct activities for the mutual benefit of the membership.
Applications for Rural Business Opportunity Grants are due August 6, 2012. Application instructions may be obtained from the June 7, 2012 Federal Register, or by contacting a USDA Rural Development State Office.
Since taking office, President Obama’s Administration has taken historic steps to improve the lives of rural Americans, put people back to work and build thriving economies in rural communities. From proposing the American Jobs Act to establishing the first-ever White House Rural Council – chaired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – the President is committed to using Federal resources more efficiently to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
(RENO, NEVADA) June 4, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that organic products certified in the United States or European Union may now be sold as organic in either market, as trade opened up on Friday, June 1, under a new U.S.-EU equivalency partnership. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan signed formal letters creating the partnership in February, along with Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator.
“This partnership will open new markets for American farmers and ranchers, create more opportunities for small businesses, and result in good jobs for Americans who grow, package, ship, and market organic products,” said Merrigan. “In the months ahead, USDA will continue to work hard to expand opportunities for all U.S. products, including organics. Equivalency arrangements such as this are critical to growing the U.S. organics industry—they require careful negotiation to ensure that we maintain existing U.S. trade policies while ensuring that U.S. agricultural products will compete on a level playing field in world markets.”
The United States signed a similar partnership with Canada in July 2009, and additional equivalency arrangement conversations have begun with South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
Previously, producers and companies wanting to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to two standards, which resulted in a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. The partnership existing now eliminates these significant barriers, which is especially helpful for small and medium-sized organic farmers. During negotiations, both parties conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs’ regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices were compatible.
“This agreement provides economic opportunities for certified organic farmers as well as additional incentives for prospective farmers,” said Miles McEvoy, National Organic Program Deputy Administrator. “We look forward to working with our European Union counterparts to support organic agriculture.”
Although there are slight differences between the United States and European Union organic standards, both parties individually determined that their programs were equivalent, thereby allowing the agreement that opened up trade today. The exception has to do with prohibition on the use of antibiotics. USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics except to control invasive bacterial infections (fire blight) in organic apple and pear orchards. The European Union organic regulations allow antibiotics only to treat infected animals. For all products traded under this partnership, certifying agents must verify that antibiotics are not used for any reason.
The United States and the European Union will continue to have regular discussions and review each other’s programs periodically to verify that the terms of the partnership are being met. Later this year, representatives from both markets will compare the USDA organic wine standards to the recently published European Union wine standards and determine how wine can fit into the trade partnership. In the interim, traded wine must meet the production and labeling requirements of the destination market.
The arrangement covers products exported from and certified in the United States or the European Union only. All products traded under the partnership must be shipped with an organic import certificate, which shows the location where production occurred, identifies the organization that certified the organic product, and verifies that growers and handlers did not use prohibited substances and methods. In addition to certifying that the terms of the partnership were met, the certificates also allow traded products to be tracked. Both parties are committed to ensuring that products traded under the agreement retain their organic integrity from farm to market. The European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development and the USDA National Organic Program—which oversees all U.S. organic products—will take on key oversight roles.
Estimates show the market for U.S. organics sales to the EU could grow substantially within the first few years of this arrangement. Today, more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly.
Under President Obama, USDA has continued to expand markets for American goods abroad, worked aggressively to break down barriers to trade, and assisted U.S. businesses with the resources needed to reach consumers around the world. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity and resourcefulness of our producers. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama’s National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
WINNEMUCCA, NV) June 6, 2012 — Farm Service Agency County Committee Chairman, Fred Wilkinson is pleased to announce that Katie Nuffer was selected as the new County Executive Director (CED) for the Humboldt and Lander County Office.
Katie is a native of Humboldt County and grew up on a cow/calf operation in Winnemucca. Her background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science-Production from the University of Idaho, Moscow. Katie joined the Farm Service Agency in 2005 as a Program Technician. From there she advanced to a County Office Trainee where she trained to become a CED and assisted offices throughout the states of Nevada and California. Prior to accepting her new CED position, she served as the State Disaster Program Specialist and will now continue these duties on a more limited basis. Clint Koble, Nevada State Executive Director, stated “Our FSA Team in Nevada has a stronger team with the addition of Katie in this critical county position”.
Katie will be managing farm program service delivery to farmers and ranchers in Humboldt and Lander Counties with the assistance of Denise Cerri and Marilyn Jones, Program Technicians. Daniel Ferraro, Farm Loan Officer Trainee, is also available to assist producers with the financial needs of their businesses. Katie and her team encourage producers to stop by the office any time for program information or call for an appointment for more detailed discussions.
Humboldt and Lander FSA County Committee Members are Fred Wilkinson, Chairman; Debbie Hummel, Vice-Chairperson; and Members Susan Kern, Theresa Marvel and Thomas Reichert. County committees have served as a direct link between the farm community and USDA for more than 75 years, helping to deliver FSA farm programs at the local level. Eligible farmers serving on committees provide feedback to USDA on the types of FSA agricultural programs that best serve the needs of local producers.
(RENO, NEVADA) June 5, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that he intends to appoint voting members from socially disadvantaged (SDA) communities to serve on county committees in county jurisdictions that lack fair SDA representation.USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), which works collaboratively with county committees, published an interim rule today in the Federal Register that is open for public comment for 60 days.
County committees have served as a direct link between the farm community and USDA for more than 75 years, helping to deliver FSA farm programs at the local level. Eligible farmers serving on committees provide feedback to USDA on the types of FSA agricultural programs that best serve the needs of local producers.
“As we continue to build a USDA that is responsive to the needs of an evolving, 21st century agricultural economy, we must ensure a strong and sustainable future for these important committees,” said Vilsack. “Appointing new voting members to committees that lack representation will help ensure that county committees continue to play a vital and relevant role in delivering important federal farm programs to citizens of rural communities across our nation.”
County committees were formed in the 1930s to oversee federal farm programs, a tool for grassroots engagement whereby locally elected committees give farmers effective self-government authority. That authority continues today, making farmers primary stewards of farm programs passed by Congress, including administration and outreach to all farmers and ranchers in their area.
Secretarial appointments would add SDA voting members to county jurisdictional areas where representation is lacking, according to a statistical review conducted by USDA. The appointments will supplement the existing election process where currently there are 7,700 elected county committee members representing 2,244 county jurisdictions.
“We are proud of the great diversity that makes up our rural communities,” said FSA Administrator Bruce Nelson, “and appointing voting members to committees that lack representation is an important step in helping to maintain a robust county committee system for all producers.”
Authority to appoint voting SDA members was granted in the 2002 Farm Bill passed by Congress. The interim rule allows the Secretary of Agriculture to ensure fair representation on county committees by appointing a voting member in areas identified under-representing the diversity of area producers. Each year, USDA will conduct a fresh statistical analysis, and appointments with voting authority will continue to occur in areas identified under-representing the diversity of area producers.
A copy of this interim rule is on display in today’s Federal Register. To submit comments, use any of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
- Mail: Barbara Boyd, Field Operations Program Manager, FSA, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Mail Stop 0542, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-0542.
- Hand Delivery or Courier: Deliver comments to the above address.
Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA is ushering in “a new era of civil rights” for the Department. In May 2011, USDA released its Civil Rights Assessment, which includes support for appointing voting SDA members.
The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, implement the Farm Bill, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. For example, in response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. In the past 3 years, USDA provided 103,000 loans to family farmers totaling $14.6 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
(RENO, NV) June 18, 2012 — Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its fiscal year 2011 scorecard on sustainability and energy performance. In FY 2011, USDA met or exceeded requirements in five of the seven sustainability areas that the scorecard addresses. Using the scorecard as a benchmark, USDA will continue to identify and track opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve efficiency and cut costs. Under Executive Order 13514, President Obama directed Federal agencies to lead by example in clean energy as well as meet a range of energy, water, pollution and waste reduction targets.
“This scorecard serves as an important tool to help measure progress in reducing waste and increasing efficiency in our operations,” said Robin Heard, USDA’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Administration. “Although the Department is doing relatively well, the scorecard identifies areas for continued focus and improvement.”
USDA is meeting goals that reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions, decrease energy use per square foot, decrease potable water use per square foot, incorporate sustainable building practices in new and existing buildings and increase renewable energy use. For example, in FY 2011 USDA made significant progress in reducing indirect greenhouse gas emissions, largely associated with employee travel and commuting and promoted sustainable acquisition by leading the Federal government’s efforts to increase the purchase of biobased products under the Department’s BioPreferred® program.
Areas in which USDA needs to improve include decreasing fleet petroleum use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with fleet use. To address those areas, USDA plans to (1) increase the use of alternative fuels in appropriate vehicles where it is available, (2) acquire low emission and high fuel economy vehicles, (3) acquire the optimal alternative fuel vehicle for each vehicle’s mission and (4) place alternative fuel vehicles where there is access to alternative fuel.
To view USDA’s Sustainability/Energy Scorecard, go to http://www.dm.usda.gov/emd.