USDA Supports of Small Farmers Created by rrummel on 3/11/2014 5:33:44 PM
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced new andexpanded efforts to connect small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers with USDA resourcesthat can help them build stronger businesses, expand to reach new and largermarkets and grow their operations. Vilsack says the recent Census ofAgriculture shows there is tremendous growth potential for small and mid-sizedproducers in the American agricultural landscape. He says USDA is taking a hardlook at existing resources to ensure they work for producers of all sizes.Vilsack says policies have been adjusted, programs strengthened and outreachintensified to meet the needs of small and mid-sized producers. He says theseproducers are critical to the country’s agricultural and economic future.Efforts include improved access to USDA resources, revised risk managementtools that better fit the needs of smaller producers, additional support forhoop houses and expanded collection of valuable market news information. USDAis also introducing a series of education tools focusing on opportunities forfarmers engaged in local and regional food systems. USDA will roll outadditional information about tools and resources available to small andmid-sized farmers in the coming months.
Here are the new efforts announced by Secretary Vilsack Monday asprovided by USDA:
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
* Changes to the Farm Storage and Facility Loan (FSFL) Program tohelp small and midsized fruit and vegetable producers access the program forcold storage and related equipment like wash and pack stations. Diversifiedand smaller fruit and vegetable producers, including Community SupportedAgriculture programs, are now eligible for a waiver from the requirement thatthey carry crop insurance or NAP coverage when they apply for a FSFL loan. FSFLcan also be used to finance hay barns and grain bins.
* Funding for producers under the popular microloan program. USDAlaunched the microloan program to allow beginning, small and mid-sized farmersto access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process. Sincetheir debut in 2013, USDA has issued more than 4,900 microloans totaling $97million.
* Funding for hoop houses to extend the growing season. Hoophouses provide revenue opportunities while also promoting conservation forsmall and mid-sized farmers. The hoop house cost share program began as a pilotin 2010. Since then, more than 10,000 hoop houses have been contracted. USDAwill soon announce an additional $15 million for hoop house development inpersistent poverty counties in nineteen states as part of USDA's StrikeForcefor Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative.
* Developing tools to help small and midsized farmers and ranchersmake sound financial decisions as they plan for their future. USDA isdeveloping a whole farm insurance policy that will better meet the needs ofhighly-diversified producers, particularly small and midsized fruit andvegetable growers. Using new tools provided by the Farm Bill, USDA is workingto reduce crop insurance costs for beginning farmers and ranchers. And organicproducers will benefit from the elimination of a previously-required fivepercent surcharge on crop insurance premiums.
LOCATING MARKET OPPORTUNITIES
* USDA's Farm to School Program has put seven new Farm to SchoolCoordinators on the ground in regional offices to help build directrelationships between small and mid-sized producers and school districts. Onepriority area for Farm to School is creating more opportunities for small andmid-sized livestock and poultry producers. Since 2013, USDA has invested nearly$10 million in Farm to School grants that support schools as they purchase fromlocal and regional sources. In the 2011-2012 school year alone, schools spentnearly $355 million on local and regional food purchases.
* Expanded price, volume, supply and demand information throughMarket News. Market News is now collecting price data on grass-fed beef to armproducers will real pricing information from the sector. Market News will alsosoon begin collecting data about local food prices and volume, valuable tosmall and mid-sized producers engaged in that marketplace. Market News providesreal time price, volume, supply, and demand information for producers to use inmaking production and marketing decisions. Access to timely, unbiased marketinformation levels the playing field for all producers participating in themarketplace.
* Broadened the National Farmers Market Directory to include CSAs,on-farm stores and food hubs. This information will help smalland mid-sized producers find new market opportunities. USDA will begincollecting data to update the directory for the 2014 season this spring. TheUSDA National Farmers Market Directory receives over 2 million hits annually.
* Launched pilot projects in five states to help small andmid-sized farmers achieve Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification. GAPcertification indicates farmers have met food safety standards required by manyretail buyers. Under these pilot programs, small and mid-sized producers willbe able to share the costs and fees associated with the certification processas a group. Group GAP efforts are being developed in partnership with small andmid-sized producer groups in Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Pennsylvania andMissouri.
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES AND OUTREACH
* Created a Learning Guide Series for small and mid-sizedproducers to help them navigate available USDA resources, available on the KnowYour Farmer, Know Your Food website. The first in this serieswill be for small and mid-sized livestock and poultry producers. AdditionalLearning Guides will be released later this year. USDA field staff andStrikeForce teams will increase outreach to small and mid-sized producers usingthe Learning Guides.
* Launched Small Scale Solutions for Your Farm, a series ofeducational resources designed for both small livestock and fruit and vegetableproducers. This includes tips on simple management activities such asplanting cover crops to complex structural practices such as animal wastemanagement systems or innovative irrigation devices.
2014 FARM BILL
The recently-signed 2014 Farm Bill provides USDA with more direct resourcesto support small and mid-sized farmers, including:
* Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), whichprovides grants to organizations that train, educate and provide outreach andtechnical assistance to new and beginning farmers on production, marketing,business management, legal strategies and other topics critical to running asuccessful operation. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $100 million total to BFRDPover the next 5 years.
* Value-Added Producer Grant Program wasmodified to allow USDA to better target small and mid-sized family farms,beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers, and veterans. The 2014 Farm Billprovides $63 million over the next 5 years.
* Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program isexpanded to support both direct-to-consumer opportunities and other supplychain projects such as food hubs. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $30 millionannually.
USDA FY2015 BUDGET PROPOSAL
USDA last week released its FY2015 Budget, which includesadditional resources to help small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers,including:
*$2.5 million to provide food safety training to owners and operators of smallfarms, small food processors, and small fruit and vegetable vendors affected byFood Safety Modernization Act.
*$3million for Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producers Grants Program to ensurehistorically underprivileged rural Americans have opportunities for cooperativedevelopment.
*$2.5million for a new Food and Agriculture Resilience Program for Military Veterans(FARM-Vets) that promotes research, education, and extension activity forveterans.
*$11 million for the Value-Added Producer Grants Program. The 2014 Farm Billprovides an additional $63 million in mandatory funding that is available untilexpended.
*$2.5 million in funding for the National Agricultural Statistics Service toconduct a survey on land ownership and farm financial characteristics. Thissupports an Administration priority that will provide additional demographicdata related to small and beginning farmers and ranchers.
*$1.2 million for the Office of Advocacy and Outreach to carry out theseresponsibilities and the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill related to outreachto beginning, small, and socially disadvantaged farmers, and ranchers,including veterans, and rural communities.
*$25.7 million for Departmental Administration to maintain critical supportactivities and oversight for the Department, including management of small anddisadvantaged business utilization programs.