FAQ: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack held a press conference August 6 to provide a 6-month update on the new 2014 Farm Bill that is now being carried out. He reported on how the various programs in the bill are progressing and moving along now that the bill has become a law. What is the status of the new USDA farm programs?
Answer: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced continued progress is being made in writing the rules and implementing the Agricultural Act of 2014 (the 2014 Farm Bill), which President Obama signed into law nearly six months ago on Feb. 7, 2014. The 2014 Farm Bill reforms agricultural policy, as well as reduces the deficit and helps grow America's economy, said Vilsack.
"I'm pleased to report that we have made tremendous progress in the first six months since the Farm Bill was signed," Vilsack said. "Thousands of farmers and ranchers have received critical disaster assistance, innovative new conservation programs are up and running, new risk management programs for producers are available with more tools to come, the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research has been incorporated, and much more. Thanks to the hard work of thousands of USDA employees across the country, we are continuing to get new initiatives off the ground and make important reforms to existing programs that are helping to boost the country's economy."
Progress is being made on every title of Farm Bill
Since the Farm Bill was signed into law, USDA has made progress throughout all 12 titles of the 2014 Farm Bill, he said.
Among the first major Farm Bill initiatives to be implemented were disaster relief programs for livestock producers, many of whom have been waiting years for assistance. After the 2008 Farm Bill passed, it took over one year to set up disaster assistance programs. In 2014, it took under 10 weeks. As of July 31, 2014, approximately 165,000 claims have been processed totaling $1.85 billion disbursed through the Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program, and Tree Assistance Program.
Farmers are being educated on new commodity programs
The 2014 Farm Bill established new risk management programs for producers, some of which USDA is in the process of developing and others that are in operation already. In May, USDA awarded $3 million to the University of Illinois, the University of Missouri and Texas A&M to develop online tools and outreach training that will help farmers and ranchers determine which new risk management options can best protect their businesses. USDA also awarded $3 million to state Cooperative Extension services to provide in-person education to help producers make the most educated decisions regarding new Farm Bill programs.
New conservation programs are also being offered
Innovative new soil and water conservation programs have also been established, including the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), an entirely new approach to conservation, said Vilsack. RCPP brings together businesses, universities, tribes, municipalities and other non-government partners to identify and invest in creative solutions to the conservation issues in their local areas.
The program has drawn an overwhelming response from partners across the nation, with more than 600 initial proposals being submitted requesting more than six times the $394 million that is available in funding for the first year. In the coming months, USDA will begin awarding funding for RCPP projects designed by local partners specifically for their region. With participating partners investing along with the Department, USDA's $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners, for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation.
What is the new Foundation for Food & Ag Research?
Additionally, USDA recently incorporated the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) and announced the appointment of a 15-member board of directors. Vilsack says the new foundation will leverage public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation, and partnerships critical to boosting America's agricultural economy.
"USDA's Farm Bill implementation team is composed of key sub-cabinet officials and experts from every mission area of the U.S. Ag Department," noted Vilsack. "Through outreach and listening sessions we are sharing information and hearing from stakeholders." To stay up-to-date on USDA's Farm Bill implementation progress, visit USDA's Farm Bill web page.