Farm Policy Roundup—August 8, 2014

U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces RCPP Projects for Full Proposals

rcppblogThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced that 230 projects will be invited to submit full proposals for program funding under the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). American Farmland Trust is leading or supporting 5 projects in multiple states which are eligible for a full proposal.

Result from the first RCPP call for pre-proposals include:

  • RCPP funding available for FY14-15: $394 million
  • Approx. 600 requests at $2.8 billion with $3 billion offered as significant contributions.
  • 540 requests were eligible (278 state, 202 CCA and 60 national)
  • CCA requests: 202

o   Prairie Grasslands: 41
o   Mississippi River Basin: 61
o   Longleaf Pine: 7
o   Great Lakes: 13
o   Columbia River Basin: 22
o   Colorado River Basin: 14
o   Chesapeake Bay: 15
o   California Bay Delta: 28

  • All 50 states applied. California had the most requests at 19.
  • Requests ranged from $6,000 to $20 million.
  • 5,000 partners involved

Additional graphics and info are available from NRCS.

Full proposals will be due to the Natural Resources Conservation Service by October 2 according to a recent update. Authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP will provide $1.2 billion for targeted, outcome-based conservation projects with potential to attract a total of $2.4 billion in public and private sector funding.

USDA, USPS Celebrate National Farmers Market Week

FMStampAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe this week unveiled a new postage stamp that showcases the nation’s growing number of farmers markets. USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Farmers Market Directory now lists 8,268 markets, an increase of 76 percent since 2008, and reflects continued demand and growth of farmers markets in every region of the country.

The limited-edition stamp was announced in a ceremony at the FRESHFARM Market in Washington, D.C. The Farmers Markets Forever stamps depict a table with various products found at a typical farmers market including baked goods, artisan cheeses and eggs; vegetables and fruits; cut flowers and live plants.

JPresizeAmerican Farmland Trust staff attended the ceremony, which also featured USDA’s AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo and Artist Robin Moline who illustrated the stamp.

Champion your family farmer by pledging in AFT’s I Love My Farmers Market Celebration today and help family farms thrive.

USDA Provides Farm Bill Implementation Update

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week provided a 6-month update on the department’s progress implementing the 2014 Farm Bill.

Title by title highlights include:

TITLE I – Commodity Programs

  • Supplemental Agricultural Disaster Assistance: On April 14, USDA published a final rule to implement the disaster assistance provisions. Sign up for these programs began on April 15, 2014.
  • As of July 31, 2014, approximately 238,000 applications have been received and $1.85 billion in payments have been disbursed through the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and Tree Assistance Program.
  • On July 31, USDA extended the deadline for the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program to August 15, 2014.
  • On July 22, USDA announced Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) assistance for losses to bush or tree fruit crops due to frost or freeze during the 2012 crop year.
  • Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: On June 23, USDA announced new support for beginning farmers and ranchers, including waiving fees for certain disaster assistance programs, eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and increasing payment rates by 50 percent under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).

TITLE II – Conservation

  • Regional Conservation Partnership Program: In May, the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) was announced. RCPP streamlines conservation efforts by combining four programs (the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, and the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion) into one. USDA will provide $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program and can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation. $400 million in USDA funding is available in the first year. On August 4, USDA announced that nearly 5,000 organizations partnered together to submit nearly 600 pre-proposals by the July deadline.
  • Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program: On May 1, USDA announced the availability of $20 million through this program.
  • Conservation Programs: Applications are currently being accepted for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
  • On June 4, USDA announced the continuation of programs to conserve sensitive land and help new, minority and veteran farmers get their start in agriculture. Farmers, ranchers and landowners committed to protecting and conserving environmentally sensitive land may sign up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) during specified continuous sign-up periods. Secretary Vilsack also announced that retiring farmers enrolled in CRP could receive incentives to transfer a portion of their land to beginning, disadvantaged or veteran farmers through the Transition Incentives Program (TIP). TIP funding was increased by more than 30 percent in the 2014 Farm Bill, providing up to $33 million through 2018.
  • On June 19, USDA pledged $5 million to state and local partnerships in six states for accelerating tree planting along the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • On June 23, USDA announced that producers with expiring CSP contracts have from July 11 until September 12, 2014 to renew and add conservation activities that will support their natural resource improvement activities and fine-tune their conservation plans.
  • Conservation Compliance: On July 22, USDA updated procedures that implemented Farm Bill requirements on highly erodible land and wetland conservation for crop insurance purposes.

TITLE IV – Nutrition Programs

  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Pilot: On April 7, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced an RFP for this pilot program, which will take place during the 2014-2015 school year.

TITLE V – Credit

  • Modifications to Farm Loan Programs: On March 24, FSA implemented changes to various farm loans, such as expanding eligibility for beginning, disadvantaged and veteran farmers and urban youth, increasing maximum amounts, eliminating some term limits, and lowering some interest rates.

TITLE VI – Rural Development

  • Rural Cooperative Development Grants: On April 29, USDA announced the availability of $5.8 million through this program.
  • Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG): On March 25, RD published a notice in the Federal Register extending the application period for Fiscal Year 2013 and 2014 funding for VAPG, with up to $25.5 million available for these grants.

TITLE VII – Research and Related Matters

  • Pollinator Research: On August 6, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced a $6.9 million grant to Michigan State University to develop sustainable pollination strategies for specialty crops in the United States so specialty crop growers are better able to manage pollinators for improved crop yields.
  • Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR): On July 23, Secretary Vilsack announced the creation of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the appointment of a 15-member board of directors.
  • Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative: On March 17, NIFA released a Notice of Funding Availability for the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, with $20 million available in FY 2014.
  • Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP): On April 11, USDA announced the availability of more than $19 million in grants to help train, educate, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of agricultural producers through the BFRDP, including funding for a cooperative agreement to maintain an online clearinghouse to make information available.

TITLE X – Horticulture

  • Farmers Market Promotion Program: On May 8, USDA announced the availability of $15 million through this program.
  • Local Foods Promotion Program: On May 8, USDA announced the availability of $15 million through this program.
  • Specialty Crop Block Grants: On April 17, USDA announced the availability of approximately $66 million through this program.

TITLE XI – Crop Insurance

  • Changes to Crop Insurance Provisions to Benefit New Farmers: On June 30, USDA announced new beginning farmer benefits and other changes to crop insurance that provide flexibility to farmers.
  • Organic Certification Cost-Share Assistance: On July 17, USDA announced that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance, making certification more accessible than ever for small certified producers and handlers.
  • Whole-Farm Revenue Protection: On May 21, USDA announced Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, which will provide flexible coverage options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers.
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