Farm Bill Program to Provide Relief to Farmers Affected by Severe Weather

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new Farm Bill initiative that will provide relief to farmers affected by drought and other severe weather. The Actual Production History Yield Exclusion (APH) allows eligible producers to receive a higher approved yield on their insurance policies through the federal crop insurance program. Spring crops eligible for APH include corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, barley, canola, sunflowers, peanuts and popcorn. The new initiative is available to farmers nationwide beginning next spring. Learn more.

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Dolcini Makes Rounds, Promotes FSA Programs in Pennsylvania

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini met with Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer and other Farm Bureau members during his visit to Pennsylvania

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini (right) met with Farm Bureau President Carl Shaffer and other Farm Bureau members during his visit to Pennsylvania

New FSA Administrator Val Dolcini traveled to Pennsylvania to meet with producers, employees and community organizations to promote FSA programs and offer ideas of his vision as leader of the Farm Service Agency.

“He was well received,” said Bill Wehry, Pennsylvania state executive director. “The state committee and other associations were thrilled to have an opportunity to speak one-on-one, and employees appreciated him taking time out of his busy schedule to listen to their thoughts and concerns.” Continue reading

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Disaster Funding Brings Joy Just in Time for Christmas

Terry and Cheryl Hammerstrom lost 90 percent of their herd when winter storm Atlas hit South Dakota last October. “One of the first things that came to my mind after the blizzard, and I know it sounds kind of silly in the scope of things, but it was that, gosh, we wouldn’t be able to buy Christmas presents for the grandchildren,” said Cheryl. But all was not lost. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed for disaster assistance to be made available to farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters. The financial assistance didn’t cover all of their losses, but it was a huge help. Lynn Stoltenburg of the South Dakota Farm Services Agency said a total of $37.1 million had been distributed, mostly to ranchers in the area of the storm, but some to other areas of the state, too, after about 1,670 applications were made at FSA offices. He said that as of Oct. 1, only about 100 requests were pending. Read more (Tri-State Neighbor).

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Secretary: Family Farmers do More Than Feed the World

vilsackSecretary Vilsack posted a guest column on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations blog in honor of World Food Day. The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 “International Year of Family Farming.” This is a strong signal that the international community recognizes the important contribution of family farmers to world food security.

The headlines today can often seem bleak: worries of terrorism, global health, climate change, drought and hunger dominate the news cycle. These are extraordinarily complex and challenging issues that will impact and forever transform the lives of future generations.

Solving them is not simply about military or economic might. While they are not always fully appreciated and recognized for their capacity to address these challenges, I believe the role that agriculture and family farmers can play is significant. Read more (USDA blog).

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FSA Loans Provide Boost to Young Farmers

Young people in their 20s and 30s are farming and the USDA Farm Service Agency is getting them started. Andy Birch, 27, put his dreams of owning a dairy farm on hold due to low wholesale milk prices throughout the 2000s. As those prices reached record levels, Birch and his wife, Sarah, were motivated to jump in. Birch leaded his parent’s farm and with a loan from the Farm Service Agency, the couple was able to buy 35 cows and repair the barn and milking system. Read more (USAToday).

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Farming In The Heartland

Val Combine

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini (left) helps Ken Gardner and Don Garver, with the harvest in Shelby County, Indiana.

By Val Dolcini, FSA Administrator

I have experienced a lot of agricultural seasons in my lifetime, most recently witnessing another great season last week — a harvest in the heartland.

For my first visit outside of the Nation’s capital as the Administrator, I traveled to the Great State of Indiana, joining my friend and colleague, Julia Wickard, who is both the Indiana FSA state executive director and an agricultural producer. We journeyed to Kelsay’s Dairy, just south of Indianapolis. As Joe Kelsay shared with me the operations of his sixth-generation family farm, his wife, Amy, hosted 400 preschoolers on the agritourism operation, sharing the story of agriculture with these young minds. Members of the agricultural media joined us and stayed throughout the day. Continue reading

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USDA Expands Access to Credit to Help More Beginning and Family Farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is increasing lending limits to help more beginning and family farmers. Beginning next month, the borrowing limit for the microloan program will increase from $35,000 to $50,000. The lending process also has been simplified allowing the required “farming experience” to include other valuable experiences. The microloan changes will allow beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access an additional $15,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay. “USDA is continuing its commitment to new and existing family farmers and ranchers by expanding access to credit,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. “These new flexibilities, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, will help more people who are considering farming and ranching, or who want to strengthen their existing family operation.” Learn more.

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Changing of the Guard at FSA

FSA Administrator Juan M. Garcia retired in September. The headquarters’ staff thanked him at a gathering. Garcia began working at USDA 38 years ago, spending most of his career with FSA, serving as the Texas state executive director and the deputy administrator of Farm Programs. The last two years he served as administrator.  His contributions were recognized by colleagues in Washington, D.C., but also by visiting field staff and State Executive Directors who gave Garcia a standing ovation when he spoke at a training session for the Dairy Margin Protection Program.

New FSA Administrator Val Dolcini arrived Sept. 12. He drove across a dozen states from Davis, Calif., stopping at several county offices to get acquainted with employees and to see his agency in action where it touches the customer.

Dolcini stepped on stage and quickly became re-acquainted with D.C. staff at a Meet-the-Administrator event in the South Building’s Lincoln Auditorium. He was praised during introductory remarks from Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary Michael Scuse. Then Administrator Dolcini spoke about his trek across the country, his family, his previous time in Washington, D.C. , and his eagerness to help implement the 2014 Farm Bill. Watch a video recording of the event on YouTube.

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Children Get Hands-On Experience During North Dakota Ag Expo

North Dakota Ag Expo

The North Dakota Farm Service Agency hosted an Ag Expo/Field Day for several school children to expose them to the different types of farm animals involved in farming and ranching. It also helped them get a close-up look and hands-on interaction with different animals.

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FSA Says Online Tools Offer Help to Farmers

USDA is working to educate farmers about the new safety net programs available as part of the 2014 Farm Bill. Recently appointed USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Val Dolcini made a stop this week in Indiana to visit one on one with farmers. He says the first thing farmers will need to do is update their yields — which hasn’t happened since 2002 and from there, he says, they may want to update their base acres. And, Dolcini adds USDA has set deadlines to give farmers plenty of time to make these important changes.  “It’s a process that will go through the end of February of 2015,” he says. “During that period of time there are some great web-based tools that I encourage farmers all over the country to utilize and familiarize themselves with — so they can decide which the best program option for them is.” Read More (Brownfield Ag News).

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