It's a record! At least that's what USDA is saying about producer participation in the 2014 Farm Bill requirement to certify their operations under the new conservation compliance guidelines. In fact 98.2% of producers have met the requirement under the program.
Implementing the new conservation compliance program under 2014 Farm Bill provisions is expected to extend conservation provisions for an added 1.5 million acres of highly erodible lands and 1.1 million acres of wetlands. This will reduce soil erosion, enhance water quality and create wildlife habitate.
Says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: "This overwhelming response is a product of USDA's extensive outreach and the commitment of America's farmers to be stewards of the land. By investing in both American farmers and the health of our productive lands, we are ensuring future generations have access to fertile soil, healthy food supplies and a strong rural economy."
USDA did plenty to inform impacted farmers about the June 1 deadline to certify their conservation compliance. For example, all 2015 crop insurance contracts included conservation compliance notifications. USDA sent out more than 50,000 reminder letters and postcards to individual producers, made more than 25,000 phone calls, conducted informational meetings and training sessions for nearly 6,000 stakeholders across the country, including in major specialty crop producing states with affected commodity crops and more.
Since December 2014, USDA collaborated with crop insurers to ensure they had updated lists for agtents to continue contacting producers to also remind them of the filing deadline.
As for the1.8%? USDA records suggest the majority may no longer be farming, or may have filed forms with discrepancies that can still be reconciled. The Farm Service Agency is reaching back out to all of those producers before their sales closing date and working with individuals facing extenuating circumstances who have not filed to form in order to assist them with certifying compliance.
Says Vilsack: "I've asked the agencies to contact the producers again before their sales closing date. I want to ensure that every producer that turned in an AD-1026 by June 1, 2015, knows they can still make corrections and remain eligible for premium support."
USDA is providing additional flexibility to help the newly insured producers to certify their conservation compliance. For example, producers, who began farming or ranching after June 1, or producers who have not participated in USDA programs prior to June 1, can file an exemption to the conservation compliance certification for reinsurance year 2016 and still be eligible for the crop insurance premium support.
The Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form (AD-1026) is available at local USDA Service Centers or online at www.fsa.usda.gov/AD1026form.