USDA Supports of Small Farmers Created by rrummel on 3/11/2014 5:33:44 PM
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced new and
expanded efforts to connect small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers with USDA resources
that can help them build stronger businesses, expand to reach new and larger
markets and grow their operations. Vilsack says the recent Census of
Agriculture shows there is tremendous growth potential for small and mid-sized
producers in the American agricultural landscape. He says USDA is taking a hard
look at existing resources to ensure they work for producers of all sizes.
Vilsack says policies have been adjusted, programs strengthened and outreach
intensified to meet the needs of small and mid-sized producers. He says these
producers are critical to the country’s agricultural and economic future.
Efforts include improved access to USDA resources, revised risk management
tools that better fit the needs of smaller producers, additional support for
hoop houses and expanded collection of valuable market news information. USDA
is also introducing a series of education tools focusing on opportunities for
farmers engaged in local and regional food systems. USDA will roll out
additional information about tools and resources available to small and
mid-sized farmers in the coming months.
Here are the new efforts announced by Secretary Vilsack Monday as
provided by USDA:
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
* Changes to the Farm Storage and Facility Loan (FSFL) Program to
help small and midsized fruit and vegetable producers access the program for
cold storage and related equipment like wash and pack stations. Diversified
and smaller fruit and vegetable producers, including Community Supported
Agriculture programs, are now eligible for a waiver from the requirement that
they carry crop insurance or NAP coverage when they apply for a FSFL loan. FSFL
can also be used to finance hay barns and grain bins.
* Funding for producers under the popular microloan program. USDA
launched the microloan program to allow beginning, small and mid-sized farmers
to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process. Since
their debut in 2013, USDA has issued more than 4,900 microloans totaling $97
* Funding for hoop houses to extend the growing season. Hoop
houses provide revenue opportunities while also promoting conservation for
small and mid-sized farmers. The hoop house cost share program began as a pilot
in 2010. Since then, more than 10,000 hoop houses have been contracted. USDA
will soon announce an additional $15 million for hoop house development in
persistent poverty counties in nineteen states as part of USDA's StrikeForce
for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative.
* Developing tools to help small and midsized farmers and ranchers
make sound financial decisions as they plan for their future. USDA is
developing a whole farm insurance policy that will better meet the needs of
highly-diversified producers, particularly small and midsized fruit and
vegetable growers. Using new tools provided by the Farm Bill, USDA is working
to reduce crop insurance costs for beginning farmers and ranchers. And organic
producers will benefit from the elimination of a previously-required five
percent surcharge on crop insurance premiums.
LOCATING MARKET OPPORTUNITIES
* USDA's Farm to School Program has put seven new Farm to School
Coordinators on the ground in regional offices to help build direct
relationships between small and mid-sized producers and school districts. One
priority area for Farm to School is creating more opportunities for small and
mid-sized livestock and poultry producers. Since 2013, USDA has invested nearly
$10 million in Farm to School grants that support schools as they purchase from
local and regional sources. In the 2011-2012 school year alone, schools spent
nearly $355 million on local and regional food purchases.
* Expanded price, volume, supply and demand information through
Market News. Market News is now collecting price data on grass-fed beef to arm
producers will real pricing information from the sector. Market News will also
soon begin collecting data about local food prices and volume, valuable to
small and mid-sized producers engaged in that marketplace. Market News provides
real time price, volume, supply, and demand information for producers to use in
making production and marketing decisions. Access to timely, unbiased market
information levels the playing field for all producers participating in the
* Broadened the National Farmers Market Directory to include CSAs,
on-farm stores and food hubs. This information will help small
and mid-sized producers find new market opportunities. USDA will begin
collecting data to update the directory for the 2014 season this spring. The
USDA National Farmers Market Directory receives over 2 million hits annually.
* Launched pilot projects in five states to help small and
mid-sized farmers achieve Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification. GAP
certification indicates farmers have met food safety standards required by many
retail buyers. Under these pilot programs, small and mid-sized producers will
be able to share the costs and fees associated with the certification process
as a group. Group GAP efforts are being developed in partnership with small and
mid-sized producer groups in Michigan, Wisconsin, Montana, Pennsylvania and
EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES AND OUTREACH
* Created a Learning Guide Series for small and mid-sized
producers to help them navigate available USDA resources, available on the Know
Your Farmer, Know Your Food website. The first in this series
will be for small and mid-sized livestock and poultry producers. Additional
Learning Guides will be released later this year. USDA field staff and
StrikeForce teams will increase outreach to small and mid-sized producers using
the Learning Guides.
* Launched Small Scale Solutions for Your Farm, a series of
educational resources designed for both small livestock and fruit and vegetable
producers. This includes tips on simple management activities such as
planting cover crops to complex structural practices such as animal waste
management systems or innovative irrigation devices.
2014 FARM BILL
The recently-signed 2014 Farm Bill provides USDA with more direct resources
to support small and mid-sized farmers, including:
* Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), which
provides grants to organizations that train, educate and provide outreach and
technical assistance to new and beginning farmers on production, marketing,
business management, legal strategies and other topics critical to running a
successful operation. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $100 million total to BFRDP
over the next 5 years.
* Value-Added Producer Grant Program was
modified to allow USDA to better target small and mid-sized family farms,
beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers, and veterans. The 2014 Farm Bill
provides $63 million over the next 5 years.
* Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program is
expanded to support both direct-to-consumer opportunities and other supply
chain projects such as food hubs. The 2014 Farm Bill provides $30 million
USDA FY2015 BUDGET PROPOSAL
USDA last week released its FY2015 Budget, which includes
additional resources to help small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers,
$2.5 million to provide food safety training to owners and operators of small
farms, small food processors, and small fruit and vegetable vendors affected by
Food Safety Modernization Act.
million for Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producers Grants Program to ensure
historically underprivileged rural Americans have opportunities for cooperative
million for a new Food and Agriculture Resilience Program for Military Veterans
(FARM-Vets) that promotes research, education, and extension activity for
$11 million for the Value-Added Producer Grants Program. The 2014 Farm Bill
provides an additional $63 million in mandatory funding that is available until
$2.5 million in funding for the National Agricultural Statistics Service to
conduct a survey on land ownership and farm financial characteristics. This
supports an Administration priority that will provide additional demographic
data related to small and beginning farmers and ranchers.
$1.2 million for the Office of Advocacy and Outreach to carry out these
responsibilities and the provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill related to outreach
to beginning, small, and socially disadvantaged farmers, and ranchers,
including veterans, and rural communities.
$25.7 million for Departmental Administration to maintain critical support
activities and oversight for the Department, including management of small and
disadvantaged business utilization programs.