The nomination period for the 2012 county committee elections opens today, June 15. This time allows farmers and ranchers to select themselves or others as candidates to sit on the local county committee and help make important agricultural decisions. Members of the committee deliver FSA farm programs at the local level and make decisions needed to administer the programs in their counties. The nomination period runs through Aug. 1. An interim rule that would allow Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to appoint members from socially disadvantaged groups onto county committees that lack fair representation was published this week in the Federal Register and is open for public comment. Learn more about the county committee elections, download an online application in English or Spanish, or read more about the interim rule to appoint minorities to county committees.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that it will create two new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas in New York and North Carolina and expand an already established BCAP project area in Arkansas. “Increasing the production of renewable, home-grown fuels is vital to reducing our country's reliance on foreign oil, while creating good-paying jobs and diversifying the agriculture economy,” said Vilsack. Administered by the Farm Service Agency, BCAP helps farmers and forest land owners with start-up costs of planting new energy crops that will reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil. Read more.
Demand for American food and agricultural products abroad has led to the three best consecutive years for U.S. farm exports in the nation’s history, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “In 2010, President Obama comitted to doubling U.S. exports in five years and just two years later, we are on pace to meet that goal,” said Vilsack. 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. Learn more.
There will not be an increase in the raw sugar tariff-rate quota (TRQ) or the domestic sugarcane or sugar beet processor marketing allotments, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A June review of the U.S. sugar market indicates a substantial increase in fiscal year (FY) 2012 supply due to higher Mexican imports and larger beet sugar production than expected. Additional adjustments to import TRQs and domestic marketing allotments are possible later in FY 2012 if needed to ensure an adequate sugar supply for the domestic market. Learn more.
Today, American agriculture is thriving. Farm income is strong, and we are in the three best years for agricultural exports in history.
The prosperity of our agriculture sector is driving the economy forward, creating jobs, and ensuring that Americans have the most affordable food supply of any developed nation. At USDA, we’re committed to supporting the farmers and ranchers who are creating this success.
One issue that is always critical for farmers and ranchers is access to credit – in particular for those who are just starting out or who have smaller farming operations. Read more (USDA blog).
Comments are being sought on a proposal to improve the Farm Service Agency operating loan program to better meet the needs of small farmers. The new microloan program would simplify and streamline the application process and cut the paperwork in half for producers who need a loan for less than $35,000. FSA expects the new microloan program to help meet the credit needs of small farm operations. Comments received by July 24 will be considered. Read more about microloans or submit a comment.
The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is contacting farmers and ranchers across the country to gather information for three simultaneous surveys that focus on agricultural acreage, crops produced and stored, and hog inventory. Trained NASS enumerators will personally interview some producers, while others have had questionnaires mailed. The questionnaire can be completed online or mailed back. Learn more about the surveys.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hopes to appoint voting members from socially disadvantaged groups to serve on Farm Service Agency county committees in jurisdictions that lack fair representation. An interim rule on the subject is published in the Federal Register and open 60 days for public comment. “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,” said Vilsack. County committees serve as a direct link between the farm community and USDA and help deliver FSA farm programs at the local level. Read more or review the Federal Register notice.
The USDA Commodity Credit Corporation, which helps stabilize, support and protect farm income and prices, released interest rates for June 2012. The borrowing rate-based charge is 0.125, which is unchanged from May 2012, while the 1996 and subsequent crop year commodity and marketing assistance loans dispersed during June is 1.125, unchanged from last month. Interest rates for Farm Storage Facility Loans and discount rates for the Tobacco Transition Payment Program also are available. Read more.
USDA has finalized changes to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), that will help reduce harmful sediments and fertilizers coming from farmland and entering into Pennsylvania rivers and streams. The improvement also will enhance waters downstream in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The changes will add 20,000 acres to CREP and make all Pennsylvania CREP practices eligible for sign-up in Chesapeake Bay watershed counties. “These changes will provide greater flexibility for more Pennsylvania farmers and other land owners to establish conservation cover and increase land stewardship within the Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse. Learn more.