USDA Names First Military Veteran Liaison

15533590600_ec1b67eac8_mThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has named Karis T. Gutter as the first Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. Gutter is a Marine Corps Reserve veteran and current Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. In this position, Gutter will coordinate USDA leadership across the Department to provide information, resources and support for active duty military and veterans interested in agriculture. Since 2009, USDA has invested in housing, job training and financial assistance for veterans, including integrating veterans into USDA efforts for new and beginning farmers, investing $5.4 million  to veterans through Farm Service Agency Emergency Loans and providing safe and sound housing through Rural Development’s Rural Housing Service by making 9,301 single family guaranteed housing loans, 952 direct home loans, 766 home improvement loans and 1,445 home improvement grants to veterans and their families. Read more.

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USDA and Partners Complete First-of-its-Kind Sale of Carbon Credits

A U.S. Department of Agriculture grant has helped initiate a partnership that is improving the environment. Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, purchased nearly 40,000 carbon dioxide reduction tons generated on working ranch grasslands in the Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota. The amount of carbon dioxide removed from our atmosphere by Chevrolet’s purchase of carbon credits equals the amount that would be reduced by taking more than 5,000 cars off the road,” Secretary Vilsack said. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded $161,000 through a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to Ducks Unlimited in 2011 to develop the necessary methodology to quantify the carbon stored in the soil by avoiding grassland conversions, resulting in the generation of carbon credits.  Learn how the carbon credit system works by reading more.

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Agricultural Prices Program Modified

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service is modifying the agricultural prices program. Only full month prices will be published starting January 2015. Preliminary prices will be discontinued after December 2014. Adjusted base prices will be published in the February report instead of the January report and the annual average group indexes published in the January report will be based on an annual weight rather than a simple average as in previous years. Each report will have the previous full month price instead of the current preliminary or mid-month price. Read more.

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Coverage Selection for New 2014 Farm Bill Safety Net Programs Begins Nov. 17

Producers can begin enrolling in one of two safety net programs beginning Monday, Nov. 17. The Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs were created under the 2014 Farm Bill and are designed to help producers better manage risk. “The new ARC and PLC programs provide a more rational approach to helping farmers manage risk by ensuring families don’t lose the farm because of events beyond their control,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. Online tools are available to help producers with the decision process. Farmers can enter information about their operation and see projections that show what ARC and/or PLC will mean for their operation under possible future scenarios. Learn more about ARC/PLC or use the online tools.

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Corn, Soybeans Expected to Reach Record-High Yields

Corn production is expected to reach 14.4 billion bushels this year, up 3 percent from 2013, according to the Crop Production report released this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows. Soybean production is forecast at 3.96 billion bushels this year, up 18 percent from 2013. Both crops are on target for record-high yields and production. Based on conditions as of November 1, yields for corn are expected to average 173.4 bushels per acre, down 0.8 bushel from the October forecast, but 14.6 bushels above the 2013 average. As for soybeans, yields are expected to average a record high 47.5 bushels per acre, up 0.4 bushel from October and up 3.5 bushels from last year. Read the report.

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Microloan Cap Grows to $50,000 Starting Today, Nov. 7

The FSA borrowing limit for microloans increased today from $35,000 to $50,000. Microloans offer borrowers simplified lending with less paperwork and makes borrowing from FSA a “first opportunity” to farm or quickly expand an existing operation. The microloan change allows 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. Microloans are part of USDA’s continued commitment to small and midsized farming operations. Learn more.

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Agricultural Exports Hit Record Levels in 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its final total for U.S. agricultural exports in fiscal year 2014, which hit a record high of $152.5 billion, up from $141 billion from last year. “American farmers and ranchers have once again achieved another year of record exports Agricultural exports have climbed 41 percent in value over the past five years. U.S. agricultural exports have increased in volume as well as in monetary value, which demonstrates an increasing global appetite for high-quality, American-grown products,” said Vilsack.

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Proud to be an American…

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Veterans Day Celebration – Honoring All Who Served, at the USDA headquarters’ Jefferson Auditorium, in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Keynote speaker (U.S. Army) Lt. General (Retired) Russel L. Honoré. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Veterans Day Celebration – Honoring All Who Served, at the USDA headquarters’ Jefferson Auditorium, in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014.
Keynote speaker (U.S. Army) Lt. General (Retired) Russel L. Honoré. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

By Latawnya Dia, FSA Public Affairs Specialist

This week, USDA honored its military veterans who have served and are serving in the Armed Forces during a program at the national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Before I entered the auditorium, I took a minute to speak to the Color Guards — each one looking so proud to serve in the military. Looking at their faces and stature, I had a quick flashback of a United Service Organizations (USO) show I saw while serving in the Army in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO.

In 1986, I saw my one and only USO show, and I will never forget it. At the end of the show, the cast sang Lee Greenwood’s, “God Bless the USA.”  While the cast sang the song, every soldier joined hands. As I listened to the words, I found myself crying with pride. I looked around and noticed that I wasn’t the only one crying. I don’t think there was a dry face in the room and there had to be at least 1,000 or more soldiers at the show. I stood there holding hands with the soldiers to my left and right and I continued to listen to the words…

“Cause the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away…Well there’s pride in every American heart, and it’s time we stand and say…  [CHORUS]  I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.  And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.  And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.  ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the USA.”

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Vote in the 2014 County Committee Elections

Voting for the 2014 County Committee Elections is underway. Ballots were mailed last week. Eligible Producers who have not received a ballot may obtain one in their local county office. County committee members provide an important link between the local agricultural community and USDA. Farmers and ranchers elected to county committees help deliver FSA programs at the local level, applying their knowledge and judgment to make decisions on commodity support programs; conservation programs; indemnity and disaster programs; emergency programs and eligibility. Producers must return ballots to their local FSA offices by the Dec. 1, 2014, deadline to ensure their vote is counted. Learn more or find your local county office.

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FSA Encourages Farmers to Work With Decision Tools

It’s a busy time for Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees across the nation as they assist farmers and ranchers in signing up for new assistance programs, field questions about a farm bill that’s different from any program in recent memory and go through comprehensive training sessions to master those new programs.

“It’s a complex new program,” said Val Dolcini, FSA’s newly appointed administrator. Dolcini was in San Antonio Monday for a National Noninsured Crop Assistance Program (NAP) Buy-up farm bill training session. Continue reading

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