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Virginia Producers Have Until Aug. 1, to Submit FSA County Committee Nominations

Richmond, VA, July 17, 2017 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Acting Executive Director for Virginia, James M. Dunn today reminded farmers and ranchers that they have until Aug. 1, 2017, to nominate eligible candidates to serve on local FSA county committees.

County committees are made up of farmers and ranchers elected by other producers in their communities to guide the delivery of farm programs at the local level. Committee members play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of FSA. Committees consist of three to 11 members and meet once a month or as needed to make important decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs, county office employment and other agricultural issues. Members serve three-year terms. Nationwide there are over 7,700 farmer and ranchers serving on FSA county committees.

"The Aug. 1 deadline is quickly approaching,” said Dunn. "If you know of a great candidate or want to nominate yourself to serve on your local county committee, go to your county FSA office right now and submit the nomination form. I especially encourage the nomination of beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as women and minorities. This is your opportunity to have a say in how federal programs are delivered in your county.”

To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in an agency administered program, and reside in the local administrative area where the election is being held. A complete list of eligibility requirements, more information and nomination forms are available at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/elections.

All nominees must sign the nomination form FSA-669A. All nomination forms for the 2017 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA county office by Aug. 1, 2017. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters by Nov. 6 and are due back to the local USDA Service Centers on Dec. 4. The newly elected county committee members will take office Jan. 1, 2018.

USDA Farm Service Agency County Committee Nomination Period Begins June 15

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that the nomination period for local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees begins on Thursday, June 15, 2017.

“County committees allow farmers and ranchers to make important decisions about how federal farm programs are administered locally to best serve their needs,” said Acting FSA Administrator Chris Beyerhelm. “We strongly encourage all eligible producers to visit their local FSA office today to find out how to get involved in their county’s election. There’s an increasing need for representation from underserved producers, which includes beginning, women and other minority farmers and ranchers.”

County committees are made up of farmers and ranchers elected by other producers in their communities to guide the delivery of farm programs at the local level. Committee members play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of FSA. Committees consist of three to 11 members and meet once a month or as needed to make important decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs, county office employment and other agricultural issues.  Members serve three-year terms. Nationwide there are over 7,700 farmer and ranchers serving on FSA county committees.

Farmers and ranchers may nominate themselves or others. Organizations, including those representing beginning, women and minority producers, may also nominate candidates to better serve their communities. To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in an agency administered program, and reside in the local administrative area where the election is being held.

After the nomination period, candidates will encourage the eligible producers in their local administrative area to vote.  FSA will mail election ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 6, 2017. Ballots will be due back to the local county office either via mail or in person by Dec. 4, 2017. Newly-elected committee members and alternates will take office on Jan. 1, 2018.

To become a candidate, an eligible individual must sign an FSA-669A nomination form. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are available at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. All nomination forms for the 2017 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by Aug. 1, 2017.  Locate your local office at https://offices.usda.govand visit to get more information.

CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE COUNTDOWN BEGINS FOR AMERICA’S FARMERS AND RANCHERS

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2017 – America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.

“The Census of Agriculture remains the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every county in the nation,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “As such, census results are relied upon heavily by those who serve farmers and rural communities, including federal, state and local governments, agribusinesses, trade associations, extension educators, researchers, and farmers and ranchers themselves.”

The Census of Agriculture highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The 2012 Census of Agriculture revealed that over three million farmers operated more than two million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. This was a four percent decrease in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income, and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.

“Today, when data are so important, there is strength in numbers,” said Hamer. “For farmers and ranchers, participation in the 2017 Census of Agriculture is their voice, their future, and their opportunity to shape American agriculture – its policies, services and assistance programs – for years to come.”

Producers who are new to farming or did not receive a Census of Agriculture in 2012 still have time to sign up to receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture report form by visiting www.agcensus.usda.gov and clicking on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button through June. NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).

For more information about the 2017 Census of Agriculture and to see how census data are used, visit www.agcensus.usda.gov or call (800) 727-9540. 

Civil Rights/Discrimination Complaint Process

As a participant or applicant for programs or activities operated or sponsored by USDA you have a right to be treated fairly. If you believe you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or marital or familial status, you may file a discrimination complaint. The complaint should be filed with the USDA Office of Civil Rights within 180 days of the date you became aware of the alleged discrimination. To file a complaint of discrimination write to USDA,

Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326W, Whitten Building, 14th and Independence Avenue, SW, Washington DC 20250-9410 or call 202-720-5964 (voice or TDD), USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.A complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days from the date the complainant knew, or should have known, of the alleged discrimination.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency Expands Bridges to Opportunity Nationwide

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced the expansion of a unique service for farmers and ranchers. FSA’s Bridges to Opportunity program provides a one-stop-shop that connects producers with resources, programs and educational services offered across the department, as well as from other USDA partner organizations. Bridges to Opportunity, which currently provides enhanced customer support to more than 150,000 customers in 20 states, will expand to serve customers across the country before the end of the month using fiscal year 2016 funds.

“By partnering with numerous local, state, regional and national agricultural organizations, FSA employees now can provide farmers and ranchers with comprehensiveinformation aboutresources, grants, courses, events and activities provided throughout USDA and from external partner organizations,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. “Bridges to Opportunity is another example of how USDA is working to reconnect people to their government and provide enhanced services to farmers and ranchers, who, in turn, provide our nation and the world with safe, affordable and reliable food, fuel and fiber.”

FSA’s presence in over 2,100 county offices, in nearly every rural county, puts the agency in a unique position to partner with non-governmental organizations to reach thousands of agricultural producers who can benefit from the programs and services.  Bridges to Opportunity allows FSA employees to search and obtain a list of all local, state, regional and national organizations that may be able assist local producers with their specific need.  For example, FSA’s Houston County office in Texas partnered with many agricultural organizations to serve producers affected by severe drought.  When drought-stricken agricultural producers came to the county office looking for assistance, FSA employees were able to provide traditional services, such as the Livestock Forage Program and the Emergency loan program administered by FSA, as well as connect local farmers with local, regional, and national organizations that provide drought assistance and education.

Bridges to Opportunitywas developed by FSA to provide producers with a more comprehensive customer service experience by connecting them with other USDA agencies and nonfederal partners. Through Bridges to Opportunity, FSA county office employees have the tools to connect farmers, ranchers and anyone interested in agriculture with customized expertise on topics ranging including organic production, beginning farmer resources, integrated pest management, disaster assistance, conservation practices, agricultural educational courses, loans, grants and other financial assistance that can start, grow or benefit farming and ranching operations.

“Bridges to Opportunity embodies FSA's modernized approach to customer service. By providing a broader array of resources than FSA or USDA alone, FSA is bringing farmers and ranchers one step closer to achieving their version of the American Dream,” said Dolcini.

For more information about Bridges to Opportunity, please contact your local FSA county office. To locate your FSA county office, please see https://offices.usda.gov.

Over the past eight years, USDA has taken big, bold steps to forge a new era for civil rights and ensure all Americans who come to USDA for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Through coordinated outreach and consistent engagement, USDA is forming new partnerships in diverse communities and regaining trust where it was once lost. Learn more about our progress during the Obama Administration to increase access to opportunity for all Americans, and to create a more equal and inclusive USDA in chapter 8 of our yearlong results project: The People’s Department: A New Era for Civil Rights at USDA.

Foreign Persons Must Report U.S. Agricultural Land Holdings

The Executive Director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Greensville County, Melvin E. Hill, Jr., CED, reminds foreign persons with an interest in agricultural lands in the United States that they are required to report their holdings and any transactions to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Any foreign person who acquires, transfers or holds any interest, other than a security interest, including leaseholds of 10 years or more, in agricultural land in the United States is required by law to report the transaction no later than 90 days after the date of the transaction.

Foreign investors must file Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) reports with the FSA county office that maintains reports for the county where the land is located.

Failure to file a report, filing a late report or filing an inaccurate report can result in a penalty with fines up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land

For AFIDA purposes, agricultural land is defined as any land used for farming, ranching or timber production, if the tracts total 10 acres or more.

Disclosure reports are also required when there are changes in land use. For example, reports are required when land use changes from nonagricultural to agricultural or from agricultural to nonagricultural. Foreign investors must also file a report when there is a change in the status of ownership such as the owner changes from foreign to non-foreign, from non-foreign to foreign or from foreign to foreign.

Data gained from these disclosures is used to prepare an annual report to the President and Congress concerning the effect of such holdings upon family farms and rural communities in the United States.

For more information regarding AFIDA and FSA programs, contact the Greensville County FSA office at 434-634-2462 or visit the USDA website at http://www.usda.gov.

USDA Farm Service Agency Offers Text Alerts to Greensville County Producers

Subscribers Can Receive Important Program Reminders and Updates

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Melvin E. Hill, Jr. in Greensville County announced that farmers and ranchers in Virginia now can receive notifications from their FSA county office through text messages on their cell phone.

"In addition to the free FSA GovDelivery email news, customers now can choose to receive text message alerts from their county office," said Hill. "These text messages inform producers of important program deadlines, reporting requirements, outreach events, and updates.”

Whether producers are in the field, on a tractor or even on horseback, this service will enable FSA customers and stakeholders to receive notifications while on the go.

Producers can text VAGreensville to FSANOW (372-669) to subscribe to text message alerts from Greensville County. Standard text messaging rates apply. Contact your wireless carrier for details associated with your particular data plan. Participants may unsubscribe at any time.

To receive GovDelivery email notifications, subscribe online at www.fsa.usda.gov/subscribeor contact the Greensville County FSA office for subscription assistance.  Producers can establish subscriber preferences by choosing to receive federal farm program information by topic, by state or by county. Producers can select as many subscriber options as they want, which allows producers who farm in multiple counties or across state lines to receive updates from each county in which they operate or have an interest.

According to Hill, GovDelivery is a one-stop shop for the most up-to-date USDA program information.

Please contact your local FSA office at 434-634-2462 Ext. 2 if you have questions regarding FSA’s electronic news service or new text message option.

USDA works to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. Since 2009, USDA has provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,700 biobased products through USDA's BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency Expands Bridges to Opportunity Nationwide

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2017 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) today announced the expansion of a unique service for farmers and ranchers. FSA’s Bridges to Opportunity program provides a one-stop-shop that connects producers with resources, programs and educational services offered across the department, as well as from other USDA partner organizations. Bridges to Opportunity, which currently provides enhanced customer support to more than 150,000 customers in 20 states, will expand to serve customers across the country before the end of the month using fiscal year 2016 funds.

“By partnering with numerous local, state, regional and national agricultural organizations, FSA employees now can provide farmers and ranchers with comprehensiveinformation aboutresources, grants, courses, events and activities provided throughout USDA and from external partner organizations,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. “Bridges to Opportunity is another example of how USDA is working to reconnect people to their government and provide enhanced services to farmers and ranchers, who, in turn, provide our nation and the world with safe, affordable and reliable food, fuel and fiber.”

FSA’s presence in over 2,100 county offices, in nearly every rural county, puts the agency in a unique position to partner with non-governmental organizations to reach thousands of agricultural producers who can benefit from the programs and services.  Bridges to Opportunity allows FSA employees to search and obtain a list of all local, state, regional and national organizations that may be able assist local producers with their specific need.  For example, FSA’s Houston County office in Texas partnered with many agricultural organizations to serve producers affected by severe drought.  When drought-stricken agricultural producers came to the county office looking for assistance, FSA employees were able to provide traditional services, such as the Livestock Forage Program and the Emergency loan program administered by FSA, as well as connect local farmers with local, regional, and national organizations that provide drought assistance and education.

Bridges to Opportunitywas developed by FSA to provide producers with a more comprehensive customer service experience by connecting them with other USDA agencies and nonfederal partners. Through Bridges to Opportunity, FSA county office employees have the tools to connect farmers, ranchers and anyone interested in agriculture with customized expertise on topics ranging including organic production, beginning farmer resources, integrated pest management, disaster assistance, conservation practices, agricultural educational courses, loans, grants and other financial assistance that can start, grow or benefit farming and ranching operations.

“Bridges to Opportunity embodies FSA's modernized approach to customer service. By providing a broader array of resources than FSA or USDA alone, FSA is bringing farmers and ranchers one step closer to achieving their version of the American Dream,” said Dolcini.

For more information about Bridges to Opportunity, please contact your local FSA county office. To locate your FSA county office, please see https://offices.usda.gov.

Over the past eight years, USDA has taken big, bold steps to forge a new era for civil rights and ensure all Americans who come to USDA for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Through coordinated outreach and consistent engagement, USDA is forming new partnerships in diverse communities and regaining trust where it was once lost. Learn more about our progress during the Obama Administration to increase access to opportunity for all Americans, and to create a more equal and inclusive USDA in chapter 8 of our yearlong results project: The People’s Department: A New Era for Civil Rights at USDA.

Farm Service Agency Extends Voting Deadline for County Committee Elections

Virginia Producers Now Have Until Dec. 13 to Submit Ballots

RICHMOND, VA Nov. 29, 2016 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Virginia Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director, Dr. Jewel Hairston Bronaugh, today announced that the deadline to submit ballots for the 2016 County Committee Elections has been extended to ensure farmers and ranchers have sufficient time to vote.Eligible voters now have until Dec. 13, 2016 to return ballots to their local FSA offices. Producers who have not received their ballot should pick one up at their local FSA office.

“We’re extending the voting deadline to Dec. 13 to give farmers and ranchers a few additional days to get their ballots in,” said Dr. Bronaugh. “I urge all eligible producers, especially minorities and women, to get involved and make a real difference in their communities by voting in this year’s elections. This is your opportunity to have a say in how federal programs are delivered in your county.”

FSA has modified the ballot, making it easily identifiable and less likely to be overlooked. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Dec. 13, 2016. Newly elected committee members will take office Jan. 1, 2017.

Nearly 7,700 FSA County Committee members serve FSA offices nationwide. Each committee has three to 11 elected members who serve three-year terms of office. One-third of County Committee seats are up for election each year. County Committee members apply their knowledge and judgment to help FSA make important decisions on its commodity support, conservation, indemnity, disaster and emergency programs.

Producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program to be eligible to vote in the County Committee election. Approximately 1.5 million producers are currently eligible to vote. Farmers and ranchers who supervise and conduct the farming operations of an entire farm, but are not of legal voting age, also may be eligible to vote.

For more information, visit the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. You may also contact your local USDA service center or FSA office. Visit http://offices.usda.gov to find an FSA office near you.

USDA works to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. Since 2009, USDA has provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,700 bio-based products through USDA's Bio-Preferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.

Virginia Producers Reminded of Nearing Deadline to Submit Nominations for Farm Service Agency County Committees

RICHMOND, VA, July 25, 2016 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Virginia Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director, Dr. Jewel Hairston Bronaugh, today reminded farmers, ranchers and other agricultural producers that they have until

Aug. 1, 2016, to nominate eligible candidates to serve on local FSA county committees.

"The August 1 deadline to submit nominations is quickly approaching,” said Dr. Bronaugh.

"If you’ve been considering nominating a candidate or nominating yourself to serve on your local county committee, I encourage you to go to your county office right now to submit that nomination form. I especially encourage the nomination of beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as women and minorities. This is your opportunity to have a say in how federal programs are delivered in your county.”

FSA county committees help local farmers through their decisions on commodity price support loans, conservation programs and disaster programs, and by working closely with county executive directors.

To be eligible to hold office as a county committee member, individuals must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and live in the local administrative area where they are running. A complete list of eligibility requirements, more information and nomination forms are available at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/elections.

All nominees must sign the nomination form FSA-669A. All nomination forms for the 2016 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center by close of business on Aug. 1, 2016. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters by Nov. 7 and are due back to the local USDA Service Centers on Dec. 5. The newly elected county committee members will take office Jan. 1, 2017.

Since 2009, USDA has worked to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. USDA has also provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,500 biobased products through USDA's BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.

Farm Service Agency County Committee Nomination Period Begins June 15

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that the nomination period for farmers and ranchers to serve on local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees begins Wednesday, June 15, 2016.

“Through the county committees, farmers and ranchers have a voice. Their opinions and ideas get to be heard on federal farm programs,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. “I encourage all eligible farmers and ranchers across the spectrum of American agriculture, to get involved in this year's elections. We have seen an increase in the number of qualified nominees, especially among women and minorities, and I hope that trend continues.”

To be eligible to serve on a FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in an FSA administered program, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area where they are nominated.

Farmers and ranchers may nominate themselves or others. Organizations representing minorities and women also may nominate candidates. To become a candidate, an eligible individual must sign an FSA-669A nomination form. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are available at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. 2016 nomination forms must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center by close of business on Aug. 1, 2016.

FSA will mail election ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 7, 2016. Ballots must be returned to the local county office via mail or in person by Dec. 5, 2016. Newly-elected committee members and alternates will take office on Jan. 1, 2017.

Nationwide, there are approximately 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving on FSA county committees. These individuals make decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs, and other agricultural issues. Committees consist of three to 11 members that are elected by eligible producers, and members serve three-year terms.

To learn more about county committees, contact your local FSAcounty office or visit http://offices.usda.govto find a county office near you.

Since 2009, USDA has worked to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. USDA has also provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,500 biobased products through USDA's BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.

USDA Provides Targeted Assistance to Cotton Producers to Share in the Cost of Ginning

One-time Payments to Begin in July to Assist with 2016 Ginning Season

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide an estimated $300 million in cost-share assistance payments to cotton producers through the new Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, in order to expand and maintain the domestic marketing of cotton.

“Today's announcement shows USDA continues to stand with America’s cotton producers and our rural communities,” said Vilsack. “The Cotton Ginning Cost Share program will offer meaningful, timely and targeted assistance to cotton growers to help with their anticipated ginning costs and to facilitate marketing. The program will provide, on average, approximately 60 percent more assistance per farm and per producer than the 2014 program that provided cotton transition assistance.”

Through the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, eligible producers can receive a one-time cost share payment, which is based on a producer’s 2015 cotton acres reported to FSA, multiplied by 40 percent of the average ginning cost for each production region. With the pressing need to provide assistance ahead of the 2016 ginning season this fall, USDA will ensure the application process is straight-forward and efficient. The program estimates the costs based on planting of cotton in 2015, and therefore the local FSA offices already have this information for the vast majority of eligible producers and the applications will be pre-populated with existing data. Sign-up for the program will begin June 20 and run through Aug. 5, 2016 at the producer’s local FSA office. Payments will be processed as applications are received, and are expected to begin in July.

Since 2011, cotton fiber markets have experienced dramatic changes. As a result of low cotton prices and global oversupply, cotton producers are facing economic uncertainty that has led to many producers having lost equity and having been forced to liquidate equipment and land to satisfy loans. The ginning of cotton is necessary prior to marketing the lint for fiber, or the seed for oil or feed. While the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program makes payments to cotton producers for cotton ginning costs, the benefits of the program will be felt by the broader marketing chain associated with cotton and cottonseed, including cotton gins, cooperatives, marketers and cottonseed crushers and the rural communities that depend on them.

The program has the same eligibility requirements as were used for the 2014 Cotton Transition Assistance Program, including a $40,000 per producer payment limit, requirement to be actively engaged in farming, meet conservation compliance and a $900,000 adjusted gross income limit.

To learn more about the Cotton Ginning Cost-Share program, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/cgcsor contact a local FSA county office. To find your local FSA county office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

Since 2009, USDA has worked to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 11 American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials. USDA has also provided $5.6 billion in disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; expanded risk management tools with products like Whole Farm Revenue Protection; and helped farm businesses grow with $36 billion in farm credit. The Department has engaged its resources to support a strong next generation of farmers and ranchers by improving access to land and capital; building new markets and market opportunities; and extending new conservation opportunities. USDA has developed new markets for rural-made products, including more than 2,500 biobased products through USDA's BioPreferred program; and invested $64 billion in infrastructure and community facilities to help improve the quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/results.

FArm Service Agency County Committee Workshop

The Greensville County FSA Office has scheduled a Public Workshop on Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 2:00 pm at the Greensville USDA Service Center located at 706 South Main Street, Emporia, Virginia 23847.

This informative meeting will explain; the general role of FSA in the community; COC committee role and responsibilities; the ballot and voting process and the voter eligibility and how the elections are held.

Person with disabilities who require accommodations to attend or participate in this meeting should contact Melvin E. Hill, Jr. at 434-634-2462 Ext.2 or Federal Relay Service at 1-800-877-8339 by June 3, 2016.

USDA Offers New Loans for Portable Farm Storage and Handling Equipment

Portable Equipment Can Help Producers, including Small-Scale and Local Farmers, Get Products to Market Quickly

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will provide a new financing option to help farmers purchase portable storage and handling equipment. The loans, which now include a smaller microloan option with lower down payments, are designed to help producers, including new, small and mid-sized producers, grow their businesses and markets.

The program also offers a new “microloan” option, which allows applicants seeking less than $50,000 to qualify for a reduced down payment of five percent and no requirement to provide three years of production history. Farms and ranches of all sizes are eligible. The microloan option is expected to be of particular benefit to smaller farms and ranches, and specialty crop producers who may not have access to commercial storage or on-farm storage after harvest. These producers can invest in equipment like conveyers, scales or refrigeration units and trucks that can store commodities before delivering them to markets. Producers do not need to demonstrate the lack of commercial credit availability to apply.

Earlier this year, FSA significantly expanded the list of commodities eligible for Farm Storage Facility Loan. Eligible commodities now include aquaculture; floriculture; fruits (including nuts) and vegetables; corn, grain sorghum, rice, oilseeds, oats, wheat, triticale, spelt, buckwheat, lentils, chickpeas, dry peas sugar, peanuts, barley, rye, hay, honey, hops, maple sap, unprocessed meat and poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and renewable biomass. FSFL microloans can also be used to finance wash and pack equipment used post-harvest, before a commodity is placed in cold storage.

To learn more about Farm Storage Facility Loans, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/pricesupport or contact the Sussex/Prince George FSA Office at 434-246-8541.

USDA To Offer Certificates for Farm Commodities Pledged to Marketing Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that producers who have crops pledged as collateral for a marketing assistance loan can now purchase a commodity certificate that may be exchanged for the outstanding loan collateral. The authority is provided by the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act, legislation enacted by Congress in December. Commodity certificates are available beginning with the 2015 crop in situations where the applicable marketing assistance loan rate exceeds the exchange rate. Currently, the only eligible commodity is cotton.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) routinely provides agricultural producers with marketing assistance loans that provide interim cash flow without having to sell the commodities when market prices are at harvest time lows.  The loans allow the producer to store and delay the sale of the commodity until more favorable market conditions emerge, while also providing for a more orderly marketing of commodities throughout the marketing year.

These loans are considered “nonrecourse” because the loan can be redeemed by delivering the commodity pledged as collateral to the government as full payment for the loan upon maturity. Commodity certificates are available to loan holders having outstanding nonrecourse loans for wheat, upland cotton, rice, feed grains, pulse crops (dry peas, lentils, large and small chickpeas), peanuts, wool, soybeans and designated minor oilseeds.  These certificates can be purchased at the posted county price (or adjusted world price or national posted price) for the quantity of commodity under loan, and must be immediately exchanged for the collateral, satisfying the loan.

Producers may contact their FSA office that maintains their loan or their loan service agent for additional information. Producers who do business with Cooperative Marketing Associations (CMA) or Designated Marketing Associations (DMA) may contact their respective associations for additional information.  To learn more about commodity certificates, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/pricesupportor contact your local FSA office. To find your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

USDA Issues Safety-Net Payments to Farmers Facing Market Downturn

 

The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that beginning today, nearly one half of the 1.7 million farms that signed up for either the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs will receive safety-net payments for the 2014 crop year.

“Unlike the old direct payments program, which paid farmers in good years and bad, the 2014 Farm Bill authorized a new safety-net that protects producers only when market forces or adverse weather cause unexpected drops in crop prices or revenues,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “For example, the corn price for 2014 is 30 percent below the historical benchmark price used by the ARC-County program, and revenues of the farms participating in the ARC-County program are down by about $20 billion from the benchmark during the same period. The nearly $4 billion provided today by the ARC and PLC safety-net programs will give assistance to producers where revenues dropped below normal.”

The ARC/PLC programs primarily allow producers to continue to produce for the market by making payments on a percentage of historical base production, limiting the impact on production decisions.

Nationwide, 96 percent of soybean farms, 91 percent of corn farms, and 66 percent of wheat farms elected the ARC-County coverage option.  Ninety-nine percent of long grain rice and peanut farms, and 94 percent of medium grain rice farms elected the PLC option. Overall, 76 percent of participating farm acres are protected by ARC-County, 23 percent by PLC, and 1 percent by ARC-Individual. For data about other crops, as well as state-by-state program election results, final PLC price and payment data, and other program information including frequently asked questions, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.

Crops receiving assistance include barley, corn, grain sorghum, lentils, oats, peanuts, dry peas, soybeans, and wheat.  In the upcoming months, disbursements will be made for other crops after marketing year average prices are published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Any disbursements to participants in ARC-County or PLC for long and medium grain rice (except for temperate Japonica rice) will occur in November, for remaining oilseeds and also chickpeas in December, and temperate Japonica rice in early February 2016. ARC-individual payments will begin in November. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, passed by Congress, requires USDA to reduce payments by 6.8 percent. For more information, producers are encouraged to visit their local Farm Service Agency office. To find a local Farm Service Agency office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

The Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs were made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

FSA County Committee Elections to Begin; Producers to Receive Ballots Week of Nov. 9

Farmers and Ranchers Have a Voice in Local Farm Program Decisions

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2015 – Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will begin mailing ballots to eligible farmers and ranchers across the country for the 2015 FSA County Committee elections on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. Producers must return ballots to their local FSA offices by Dec. 7, 2015, to ensure that their vote is counted.

“County committee members represent the farmers and ranchers in their communities,” said Dolcini. “Producers elected to these committees have always played a vital role in local agricultural decisions. They are essential to the daily operation of nearly 2,200 offices across the country. It is a valued partnership that helps us better understand the needs of the farmers and ranchers we serve.”

Nearly 7,700 FSA County Committee members serve FSA offices nationwide. Each committee has three to 11 elected members who serve three-year terms of office. One-third of county committee seats are up for election each year. County committee members apply their knowledge and judgment to help FSA make important decisions on its commodity support programs; conservation programs; indemnity and disaster programs; emergency programs and eligibility.

Producers must participate or cooperate in an FSA program to be eligible to vote in the county committee election. Approximately 1.9 million producers are currently eligible to vote.  Farmers and ranchers who supervise and conduct the farming operations of an entire farm, but are not of legal voting age, also may be eligible to vote.

Farmers and ranchers will begin receiving their ballots the week of Nov. 9. Ballots include the names of candidates running for the local committee election. FSA has modified the ballot, making it more easily identifiable and less likely to be overlooked. Voters who do not receive ballots in the coming week can pick one up at their local FSA office. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Dec. 7, 2015. Newly elected committee members and their alternates will take office Jan. 1, 2016.

For more information, visit the FSA website at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections.  You may also contact your local USDA Service Center or FSA office.  Visit http://offices.usda.govto find an FSA office near you.

USDA Commits $2.5 Million to Expand New Farmer Education

Training Will also Help Returning Service Members, Underserved, and Urban Producers

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 22, 2015 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced that $2.5 million in grants is now available for projects to educate new and underserved farmers about more than 20 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency programs that can provide financial, disaster or technical assistance to the agricultural community.

The grants will be awarded to nonprofits and public higher education institutions that develop proposals to improve farmer education on topics such as financial training, value-added production, recordkeeping, property inheritance, and crop production practices.

“We want to partner with nonprofits, colleges and universities who share USDA’s priority of helping more Americans enter farming as a profession, whether they are new or underserved farmers, returning Service members, minorities, women, and urban producers or those who sell their crops locally,” said Harden.

USDA will conduct four evaluation periods to review applications, with the deadlines of Nov. 20, 2015, Jan. 22, 2015, Mar. 18, 2016, and May 27, 2016. Awards between $20,000 and $100,000 per applicant will be available. To learn more about the funding solicitation and the related Farm Service Agency programs, details can be found at www.grants.govwith the reference number USDA-FSA-CA-2015-001.  For nonprofits and public institutions of higher education that are considering participation, an online informational session will be conducted on Sept. 28, 2015.  Additional information is posted on the Web at www.fsa.usda.gov/outreach.  

This funding builds on historic investments made in rural America over the past six years and supports programs enacted by the 2014 Farm Bill, which achieved meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has progressively implemented each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

USDA Announces Restart of Biomass Crop Assistance Program for Renewable Energy

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that incentives will resume this summer for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy. The support comes through the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. BCAP provides financial assistance to establish and maintain new crops of energy biomass, or who harvest and deliver forest or agricultural residues to a qualifying energy facility.

Financial assistance is available through BCAP for costs associated with harvesting and transporting agriculture or forest residues to facilities that convert biomass crops into energy. Eligible crops may include corn residue, diseased or insect infested wood materials, or orchard waste. The energy facility must first be approved by USDA to accept the biomass crop. Facilities can apply for, or renew, their BCAP qualification status beginning today.  $11.5 million of federal funds will be allocated to support the delivery of biomass materials through December 2015. Last year, more than 200,000 tons of dead or diseased trees from National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands were removed and used to produce renewable energy, while reducing the risk of forest fire. Nineteen energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.

Farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can also receive financial assistance to grow biomass crops that will be converted into energy in selected BCAP project areas. New BCAP project area proposals will be solicited beginning this summer and accepted through fall 2015, with new project area announcements and enrollments taking place in early spring 2016.  The extended proposal submission period allows project sponsors time to complete any needed environmental assessments and allows producers enough lead time to make informed decisions on whether or not to pursue the BCAP project area enrollment opportunity. This fiscal year USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will allocate up to $8 million for producer enrollment to expand and enhance existing BCAP project areas. Additionally, in accordance with the 2014 Farm Bill, underserved farmers are eligible for a higher establishment cost share. BCAP projects have supported over 50,000 acres across 74 counties in 11 different project areas. 

BCAP wasmade possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing, and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Farm Service Agency County Committee Nomination Period Began June 15

The nomination period for local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees began Monday, June 15, 2015.

“County committees are a vital link between the farm community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Vilsack. “I hope that every eligible farmer and rancher will participate in this year's county committee elections. Through the county committees, farmers and ranchers have a voice; their opinions and ideas get to be heard on federal farm programs.”

Vilsack added, “We’ve seen an increase in the number of nominations of women and minority candidates, and I hope that trend continues.”

To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area where the person is nominated.

Farmers and ranchers may nominate themselves or others. Organizations representing minorities and women also may nominate candidates. To become a candidate, an eligible individual must sign the nomination form, FSA-669A. The form and other information about FSA county committee elections are available at www.fsa.usda.gov/elections. Nomination forms for the 2015 election must be postmarked or received in the local USDA Service Center by close of business on Aug. 3, 2015. Elections will take place this fall.

While FSA county committees do not approve or deny farm ownership or operating loans, they make decisions on disaster and conservation programs, emergency programs, commodity price support loan programs and other agricultural issues. Members serve three-year terms. Nationwide, there are about 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving on FSA county committees. Committees consist of three to 11 members that are elected by eligible producers.

FSA will mail ballots to eligible voters beginning Nov. 9, 2015. Ballots are due back to the local county office either via mail or in person by Dec.7, 2015. Newly elected committee members and alternates take office on Jan. 1, 2016.

USDA Opens Enrollment Period for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage Safety-Net Programs

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2015 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that eligible producers may now formally enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC)programs for 2014 and 2015. The enrollment period begins June 17, 2015, and will end Sept. 30, 2015.

"The extensive outreach campaign conducted by USDA since the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted, along with extending deadlines, is central to achieving an expected high level of participation,” said Vilsack. “We worked with universities to simplify these complex programs by providing online tools so producers could explore how program election options would affect their operation in different market conditions; these tools were presented to almost 3,000 organizations across the country. The Farm Service Agency also sent more than 5 million educational notices to producers nationwide and participated in over 4,880 educational events with more than 447,000 attendees. I am proud of the many committed USDA employees who worked hard over the last several months to provide producers support to help them make these important decisions.”

The new programs, established by the 2014 Farm Bill, trigger financial protections for agricultural producers when market forces cause substantial drops in crop prices or revenues. More than 1.76 million farmers have elected ARC or PLC. Previously, 1.7 million producers had enrolled to receive direct payments (the program replaced with ARC and PLC by the 2014 Farm Bill). This means more farms have elected ARC or PLC than previously enrolled under previously administered programs.

Nationwide, 96 percent of soybean farms, 91 percent of corn farms, and 66 percent of wheat farms elected ARC. 99 percent of long grain rice farms, 99 percent of peanut farms, and 94 percent of medium grain rice farms elected PLC.  For data about other crops and state-by-state program election results go to www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.

Covered commodities under ARC and PLC include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

USDA Reminds Farmers to Certify Conservation Compliance by June 1 Deadline

Producers May Need to Take Action to Remain Eligible for Crop Insurance Premium Support

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds farmers that the 2014 Farm Bill requires producers to file a Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form (AD-1026) with their local USDA service center by June 1, 2015, in order to become or remain eligible for crop insurance premium support.

Most farmers already have a certification form on file since it’s required for participation in most USDA programs such as marketing assistance loans, farm storage facility loans and disaster assistance. However farmers, such as specialty crop growers who receive federal crop insurance premium support, but may not participate in other USDA programs, also must now file a certification form to maintain their crop insurance premium support.

“USDA employees are working very hard to get the word out about this new Farm Bill provision,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “While many producers will not need to take action, we want to help make sure that those who are required to act do so by the June 1 deadline. We want all eligible producers to be able to maintain their ability to protect their operations with affordable insurance.”

Producers should visit their local USDA service centerand talk with their crop insurance agent before the June 1, 2015, deadline to ask questions, get additional information or learn more about conservation compliance procedures. Producers that file their form by the deadline will be eligible for federal crop insurance premium support during the 2016 reinsurance year, which begins July, 1, 2015. USDA will publish a rule outlining the linkage of conservation compliance with federal crop insurance premium support. Go to http://go.usa.gov/3Wy5Jto view a copy of the rule.

The Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation Certification form is available at local USDA service center or online at www.fsa.usda.gov/AD1026form. When a farmer completes this form, USDA Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff will outline any additional actions that may be required for compliance with highly erodible land and wetland provisions. USDA’s Risk Management Agency, through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, manages the federal crop insurance program that provides the modern farm safety net for America’s farmers and ranchers.

Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has implemented many provisions of this critical legislation, providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

USDA Extends ARC and PLC Deadlines

Farmers Have Until April 7 to Update Yields, Reallocate Base Acres, and Make Final Selections

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today provided farm owners and producers one additional week, until April 7, 2015, to choose between Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), the safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill. The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres also will be April 7, 2015.

“This is an important decision for producers because these programs help farmers and ranchers protect their operations from unexpected changes in the marketplace,” said Vilsack. “Nearly 98 percent of owners have already updated yield and base acres, and 90 percent of producers have enrolled in ARC or PLC.  These numbers are strong, and continue to rise. This additional week will give producers a little more time to have those final conversations, review their data, visit their local Farm Service Agency offices, and make their decisions,” said Vilsack.

If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by the deadline, the farm's current yield and base acres will be used. If a program choice of ARC or PLC is not made, there will be no 2014 crop year payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage for the 2015 through 2018 crop years.Producers who have an appointment at their local FSA offices scheduled by April 7 will be able to make an election between ARC and PLC, even if their actual appointment is after April 7.

These safety-net programs provide important financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. As part of the strong education and outreach campaign launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in September, to date more than 5 million educational postcards, in English and Spanish, have been sent to producers nationwide, and more than 5,000 events with more than 430,000 attendees, including training sessions and speaking engagements, have been conducted to educate  producers on the programs. The online tools, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc, which allow producers to explore how ARC or PLC coverage will affect their operation, have been presented to more than 3,400 groups.   

Covered commodities under ARC and PLC include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain and sweet rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

Producers need to contact the Farm Service Agency by April 7. To learn more, farmers can contact their local Farm Service Agency county office. To find local offices, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

USDA Finalizes Procedures for Sorghum Referendum

WASHINGTON, March, 19, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing procedures for the upcoming referendum regarding the continuation of the Sorghum Checkoff Program and is announcing the dates it will conduct the referendum.

The Sorghum Promotion, Research, and Information Order requires that a referendum be conducted no later than seven years after the start of assessments, which began on July 1, 2008. For the program to continue, a majority of those voting must favor the continuation of the order.

USDA will conduct the referendum beginning on March 23, 2015, through April 21, 2015, at county USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices for producers and the Agricultural Marketing Service office for importers. Ballots may be obtained in person, by mail or facsimile at county FSA offices, or via the Internet.

Any eligible person engaged in the production or importation of sorghum from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2014, is eligible to participate. Individuals are required to provide documentation such as a sales receipt or remittance form that shows they engaged in the production or importation of sorghum.

The Sorghum Checkoff Program, and its 13-member board, is authorized by the Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996. The Sorghum Checkoff is intended to be a national, coordinated, self-help marketing program designed to strengthen the position of sorghum in the marketplace, maintain and expand existing domestic and foreign markets and uses for sorghum, and develop new markets and uses for sorghum.

The final procedures were published in the Nov. 18, 2010, Federal Register. The notice announcing the dates of the referendum were published in the Feb. 19, 2015, Federal Register.

For more information, contact Craig Shackelford, Marketing Specialist, Research and Promotion Division, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, AMS, USDA, 22 Jamesport Lane, White, GA

30184; Telephone: (470) 315-4246; craig.shackelford@ams.usda.gov. Procedures and additional information about the referendum can be found at: www.ams.usda.gov/SorghumReferendum.

USDA Provides One-Time Extension of Deadline to Update Base Acres or Yield History for ARC/PLC Programs

Farmers Now Have Until March 31 to Update Yields and Reallocate Base Acres; Deadline for Choosing Between ARC and PLC also Remains March 31

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended one additional month, from Feb. 27, 2015 until March 31, 2015.  The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31, 2015.  

“This is an important decision for producers, because these programs provide financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. Producers are working to make the best decision they can.  And we’re working to ensure that they’ve got the time, the information, and the opportunities to have those final conversations, review their data, and to visit the Farm Service Agency to make those decisions,” said Vilsack

If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by March 31, 2015, the farm's current yield and base will be used.  A program choice of ARC or PLC coverage also must be made by March 31, 2015, or there will be no 2014 payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage through the 2018 crop year.

“These are complex decisions, which is why we launched a strong education and outreach campaign back in September.  Now we’re providing a one-time extension of an additional month so that every producer is fully prepared to enroll in this program, “ said Vilsack.

Nationwide, more than 2.9 million educational postcards, in Englishand Spanish, have been sent to producers, and over 4,100 training sessions have been conducted on the new safety-net programs. The online tools, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc, allow producers to explore projections on how ARC or PLC coverage will affect their operation under possible future scenarios.

Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

To learn more, farmers can contact their local Farm Service Agency county office.  To find your local office visit http://offices.usda.gov.

The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

USDA Provides One-Time Extension of Deadline to Update Base Acres or Yield History for ARC/PLC Programs

Farmers Now Have Until March 31 to Update Yields and Reallocate Base Acres; Deadline for Choosing Between ARC and PLC also Remains March 31

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended one additional month, from Feb. 27, 2015 until March 31, 2015.  The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31, 2015.  

“This is an important decision for producers, because these programs provide financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. Producers are working to make the best decision they can.  And we’re working to ensure that they’ve got the time, the information, and the opportunities to have those final conversations, review their data, and to visit the Farm Service Agency to make those decisions,” said Vilsack

If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by March 31, 2015, the farm's current yield and base will be used.  A program choice of ARC or PLC coverage also must be made by March 31, 2015, or there will be no 2014 payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage through the 2018 crop year.

“These are complex decisions, which is why we launched a strong education and outreach campaign back in September.  Now we’re providing a one-time extension of an additional month so that every producer is fully prepared to enroll in this program, “ said Vilsack.

Nationwide, more than 2.9 million educational postcards, in Englishand Spanish, have been sent to producers, and over 4,100 training sessions have been conducted on the new safety-net programs. The online tools, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc, allow producers to explore projections on how ARC or PLC coverage will affect their operation under possible future scenarios.

Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

To learn more, farmers can contact their local Farm Service Agency county office.  To find your local office visit http://offices.usda.gov.

The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

USDA Farm Service Agency Announces Key Dates for New 2014 Farm Bill Safety Net Programs

Land Owners Can Update Yield History and/or Reallocate Base Acres through Feb. 27, 2015;

Producers Select the Safety Net Program Best for Their Operation

Beginning Nov. 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing key dates for farm owners and producers to keep in mind regarding the new 2014 Farm Bill established programs, Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The new programs, designed to help producers better manage risk, usher in one of the most significant reforms to U.S. farm programs in decades.

“The ARC and PLC programs are a significant reform in the farm safety net,” said Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini. “FSA wants to keep producers well informed on all steps in the process. We will continue our outreach efforts and maintain resources online to help them understand the new programs before they come in to make decisions for their operations.”

Dates associated with ARC and PLC that farm owners and producers need to know:

  • Sept. 29, 2014 to Feb. 27, 2015: Land owners may visit their local Farm Service Agency office to update yield history and/or reallocate base acres.
  • Nov. 17, 2014 to March 31, 2015: Producers make a one-time election of either ARC or PLC for the 2014 through 2018 crop years.
  • Mid-April 2015 through summer 2015: Producers sign contracts for 2014 and 2015 crop years.
  • October 2015: Payments for 2014 crop year, if needed.

USDA leaders will visit with producers across the country to share information and answer questions on the ARC and PLC programs.

USDA helped create online tools to assist in the decision process, allowing farm owners and producers to enter information about their operation and see projections that show what ARC and/or PLC will mean for them under possible future scenarios. The new tools are now available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc. Farm owners and producers can access the online resources from the convenience of their home computer or mobile device at any time. USDA provided $3 million to the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M (co-leads for the National Association of Agricultural and Food Policy), along with the University of Illinois (lead for the National Coalition for Producer Education) to develop these online tools.

Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

Today's announcement was made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Key Dates

Sept. 29, 2014 to Feb. 27, 2015

Nov. 17, 2014 to March 31, 2015

Mid-April through Summer 2015

October 2015

Land owners make base reallocation/yield updates

Producers make election between ARC/PLC

Producers sign contracts for 2014 and 2015 crop years

Payments for 2014 crop year, if needed

Farm Bill Producer Meetings

The Greensville County FSA will have two very important sessions on the 2014 Farm Bill Program. The ARC-PLC Programs will be discussed.

  • January 28, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. at the Greensville Extension Office: Topics: Base and yield updates - Melvin E. Hill, Jr.
  • February 11, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. at the Greensville Extension Office: Topics: Election of ARC-PLC Programs and Election Tools Update. Melvin E. Hill, Jr. Greensville CED, Herbert A. Brown Jr., Brunswick CED and Dr. Jim Pease, Extension Economist, Virginia Tech.

Please attend both important sessions to meet upcoming deadlines.  For more information call (434) 634-2462, Ext. 2.

Reasonable accommodations will be made, upon request, for individuals with disabilities, vision impairment, or hearing impairment to attend meetings sponsored by the Farm Service Agency. If you require special accommodations to attend one of our meetings,please call the FSA County Office and we will be happy to make any needed arrangements.

USDA Provides Greater Protection for Fruit, Vegetable and Other Specialty Crop Growers

Free Basic Coverage Plans and Premium Discounts Available for New, Underserved and Limited Income Farmers

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that greater protection is now available from the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. The new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup, and energy crops.

“These new protections will help ensure that farm families growing crops for food, fiber or livestock consumption will be better able to withstand losses due to natural disasters,” said Vilsack. “For years, commodity crop farmers have had the ability to purchase insurance to keep their crops protected, and it only makes sense that fruit and vegetable, and other specialty crop growers, should be able to purchase similar levels of protection. Ensuring these farmers can adequately protect themselves from factors beyond their control is also critical for consumers who enjoy these products and for communities whose economies depend on them.”

Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.

The expanded protection will be especially helpful to beginning and traditionally underserved producers, as well as farmers with limited resources, who will receive fee waivers and premium reductions for expanded coverage. More crops are now eligible for the program, including expanded aquaculture production practices, and sweet and biomass sorghum. For the first time, a range of crops used to produce bioenergy will be eligible as well. 

“If America is to remain food secure and continue exporting food to the world, we need to do everything we can to help new farmers get started and succeed in agriculture,” Vilsack said. “This program will help new and socially disadvantaged farmers affordably manage risk, making farming a much more attractive business proposition.”

To help producers learn more about the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and how it can help them, USDA, in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, created an online resource. The Web tool, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap, allows producers to determine whether their crops are eligible for coverage. It also gives them an opportunity to explore a variety of options and levels to determine the best protection level for their operation.

If the application deadline for an eligible crop has already passed, producers will have until Jan. 14, 2015, to choose expanded coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. To learn more, visit the Farm Service Agency (FSA) website at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap or contact your local FSA office.  The Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers the program, also wants to hear from producers and other interested stakeholders who may have suggestions or recommendations on the program. Written comments will be accepted until Feb. 13, 2015 and can be submitted through www.regulations.gov.

These new provisions under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program were made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.  For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Sign-up Now for 2015 Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Emporia, VA, October 2, 2014 – Virginia farmers and forest land owners can now apply for assistance to protect the health and productivity of their land under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

EQIP is one of USDA’s most popular Farm Bill conservation programs.  Under this program, NRCS offers technical and financial assistance to plan and install conservation practices on cropland, pastureland and non-industrial private forestland. In 2014, NRCS provided nearly $20 million in EQIP contracts to help Virginia farmers improve water quality, soil quality and wildlife habitat.

NRCS accepts applications year-round but makes funding selections at specific times. Application cutoff dates for the first FY15 EQIP ranking period is November 21, 2014.

Wade Biddix, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, noted it is important for farmers to get program applications in early to be eligible for limited funding. “Conservation plans must be developed for the area that is included in an EQIP contract,” he said. “When farmers develop a complete conservation plan for their farm, it speeds up the application process and oftentimes practices are applied more strategically.”

Eligible producers who sign up for the program may receive a payment based on the statewide average cost for installing planned conservation practices. Socially disadvantaged, limited resource and beginning farmers and ranchers are eligible for a higher payment rate. Veteran farmers who are also new or beginning farmers receive the higher payment rate and will be funded first.

Special pools are also available for On-Farm Energy, Specialty Crops and Organic, Longleaf Pine and Seasonal High Tunnel conservation practices, as well as a number of landscape based initiatives. All offer technical and financial assistance through the EQIP program.

  • On-Farm Energy:NRCS and producers develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans (AgEMP) or farm energy audits that assess energy use on the farm and recommend ways to reduce energy use. Funding is available for implementation after farmers get an approved energy audit.
  • Longleaf Pine:  NRCS has special funding dedicated to the establishment and management of longleaf pines within the historical range of that species in Southeastern Virginia.
  • Specialty Crops and Organic:NRCS helps certified organic growers working to achieve organic certification and farmers who have specialty crops install conservation practices to address resource concerns on their operations.
  • Seasonal High Tunnel (Hoop House):NRCS helps producers plan and implement high tunnels - steel-framed, polyethylene-covered structures that extend growing seasons in an environmentally safe manner. Farmers who completed a hoop house under the 2008 Farm Bill are also eligible to apply for a hoop house under the current 2014 Farm Bill.

The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) was rescinded by the 2014 Farm Bill.  However the wildlife concerns were included in the EQIP Program and a minimum of five percent of the available EQIP funding is to be used for wildlife purposes.  Landowners interested in establishing wildlife practices or pollinator habitat can apply under the EQIP program.

If you are interested in Farm Bill programs, contact your local NRCS office to identify and plan the conservation measures you would like to implement on your land.  NRCS staff will help you develop a plan, identify recommended practices, and pursue funding through one of the many Farm Bill program options available. 

USDA service center locations are listed online at http://offices.usda.gov or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS Virginia website at www.va.nrcs.usda.gov.

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