USDA makes policy changes and launches new website to support next generation of farmers.
AS part of the new farm bill, U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy secretary Krysta Harden announced the implementation of new measures and other policy changes designed to improve the financial security of new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
Harden made the announcement at the inaugural meeting of the reconvened Beginning Farmer & Rancher Advisory Committee in Davis, Cal. The advisory committee, which was formed in 1998, has not been functioning since 2010 but is now being restarted.
Harden also unveiled www.usda.gov/newfarmers, a new website that will serve as a centralized resource for the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help beginning farmers and ranchers.
"New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture," Harden said. "The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy. The new policies announced will help give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed. Our new online tool will provide one-stop shopping for beginning farmers to learn more about accessing USDA services that can help their operations thrive."
The website includes in-depth information on, e.g., how to increase access to land and capital, build new market opportunities, participate in conservation opportunities, select and use the right risk management tools and access USDA educational and technical support programs.
The policy announcements include:
* Waiving service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for the 2014 crop year — or receive a service fee refund for those already enrolled for 2014. The program provides risk management tools to farmers who grow crops for which there is no crop insurance product.
* Eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for new and beginning farmers that will allow routine, prescribed and emergency grazing outside the primary nesting season on enrolled land, consistent with approved conservation plans.
Previously, farmers and ranchers using CRP land for grazing were subject to a reduction in CRP payments of up to 25%. Waiving these reductions for new and beginning farmers will provide extra financial support during times of emergencies like drought and other natural disasters.
* Increasing payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees & Farm-Raised Fish Program. Under this provision, beginning farmers and ranchers can claim up to 90% of losses of livestock and bees — a 50% increase from previous payment amounts.
USDA said it also will soon announce additional crop insurance program changes for beginning farmers and ranchers, including discounted premiums, waiving administrative fees and other benefits.