Sunday, February 25, 2024

USDA announces new programs to help farmers, ranchers and producers

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. — In January, the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack attended the American Farm Bureau Federation’s yearly convention, in which he announced several initiatives to help farmers, ranchers and producers.

“At USDA, our goal is to provide all farmers, including new and underserved producers, with the opportunity to receive the assistance they need to continue farming, to build and maintain their competitive-edge, and to access more, new, and better markets,” Vilsack said.

“Working together we can ensure American agriculture is as resilient as ever and will do so by implementing a holistic approach to emergency assistance, by lowering input costs through investments in domestic fertilizer production, and by promoting competition in agricultural markets,” he added. “The USDA and the Biden-Harris administration have been working coherently to provide low costs, increases in competition, give access to market opportunities and developing programs to help producers.”

Vilsack also reported that USDA is ready to make headway in the following areas:

  • Assisting producers facing high input costs to access domestic, innovative fertilizer capacity.
  • Improving risk protection for underserved producers.
  • Investing in new choices and meat processing capacity for livestock producers.
  • Providing relief for producers impacted by disaster and the pandemic.
  • Assisting producers facing high input costs to access domestic, innovative fertilizer capacity.

There are 21 likely projects in the works at the USDA to expand fertilizer production around the United States. The total cost of these projects is about $88 million.

The organization is also seeking feedback from the public about these projects and how they relate to National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). Applicants have requested the first round of grant funding through the USDA’s recently instituted Fertilizer Production Expansion Program. When investments are made into these types of projects like fertilizer supply, it will bring employment, and stimulate competition, the department added.

The USDA is discussing new fertilizer ventures in several states such as, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Improving risk protection

The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) helps producers of non-insurable crops receive financial assistance when crop loss occurs during a natural disaster. For basic coverage, congress mandated a fee waiver when unexpected disasters occur and underserved producers can be assisted. However, there was much red tape and bureaucracy to get through, so many producers could not receive the basic coverage. A new rule establishes that an underserved producer can receive coverage and breaks down the bureaucracy. The producer with a CCC-860 or is socially disadvantaged, has limited resources, is a beginning and veteran farmer or has a rancher certification on file must apply before the closing date.

If producers did file an application before the closing date, they will receive basic coverage automatically for any NAP-eligible harvests they plant. Underserved producers that were on file in 2022 will also be eligible to obtain retroactive basic coverage. Similar to covered producers, underserved producers must file a notice of loss and apply for benefits. Along with the basic coverage under the NAP, producers can also purchase advanced levels of coverage by paying a premium. Underserved producers will also get a discount of 50 percent on any premiums. Any farmer that is interested in coverage should contact their local Farm Service Agency.

Meat processing capacity

The USDA has invested $12 million into meat processing facilities in Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio. At the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention, Vilsack declared that the Meat and Poultry Processing Expansion Program grants will fund new meat processing projects. International Foods Solutions Inc., based out of Ohio, will be given approximately $9,575,250 to aid in redeveloping and expanding a vacant structure in Cleveland.

The vacant structure will be converted into a plant having the capability to produce 60 million pounds of poultry. The new development will include cold and dry storage, along with two processing lines. The plant will create 227 employment opportunities. Michigan Turkey Producers, which is grower-owned, will be given $1,531,204 to provide several renovations to their facility. The renovations will include a new hot water system, new water treatment systems and new refrigerated trailers for transport to the plant in the Great Rapids. With the new upgrades being done to the facility, the plant will be able to add one more shift and will be able to double its turkey production by 10 million turkeys annually.

The innovations will also increase the back up for similar facilities in other states. Ben + Turner Foods Inc., which is out of Minnesota, will be given $962,954 to begin construction on a 6,788-square-foot cow and hog processing plant. It will be built on the White Earth Indian Reservation and store front near Waubun. The money will be used to aid the local market in providing livestock and it will provide producers the opportunity to market the livestock by using USDA processing.

All these investments back the meat and poultry processing industry, along with the current announcements of $74 million in 22 MPPEP projects, $75 million in grants through the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program, $3.9 million in Value Added Producer Grants, and $5.7 million in Food Supply Chain Loan Guarantees.

Providing relief

The USDA is naming two new programs that will close the inequalities in prior natural disaster and pandemic aid. To qualify for the second phase of ERP, producers must have suffered a severe loss of gross revenue and eligible crops in 2020 or 2021 due to a qualified natural disaster.

Most assistance will go towards producers that were not covered by the first phase of NAP. Most crops are covered by Federal Crop insurance and NAP in the first phase of ERP. To qualify for PARP, a producer should have been farming for at least part of the calendar year of 2020.

He or she must have lost 15 percent or more of gross revenue during 2020, equated to the baseline year. To apply for the ERP phase 2 or PERP, a producer must contact their local USDA department and the application time is open from now to June 2, 2023.

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