The USDA on Monday rolled out a new website tailored to providing resources and information about beginning farmer and rancher programs offered by the agency.
U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced availability of the website, www.usda.gov/newfarmers, which she stressed would help new farmers find needed resources. In addition to the website, Harden announced financial benefits for new ranchers, like waiving selected USDA program fees.
The financial measures are part of changes prescribed in the 2014 Farm Bill.
"New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture," Harden said in a press statement. "The new policies announced today will help give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed. Our new online tool will provide one-stop shopping for beginning farmers to learn more about accessing USDA services that can help their operations thrive."
USDA's New Farmers website has in depth information for new farmers and ranchers, including how to increase access to land and capital; build new market opportunities; participate in conservation opportunities; select and use the right risk management tools; and access USDA education, and technical support programs. New farmers have identified these areas as priority issues, USDA says.
The website will also feature instructive case studies about beginning farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources to start or expand their business operations.
Policy announcements include:
• Waiving service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for the 2014 crop year. NAP provides risk management tools to farmers who grow crops for which there is no crop insurance product.
Under this waiver, announced via an official notice to Farm Service Agency offices, farmers and ranchers whom already enrolled in NAP for the 2014 crop year are eligible for a service fee refund.
• Eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program for new and beginning farmers which will allow routine, prescribed, and emergency grazing outside the primary nesting season on enrolled land consistent with approved conservation plans.
Previously, farmers and ranchers grazing on CRP land were subject to a reduction in CRP payments of up to 25%. Waiving these reductions for new and beginning farmers will provide extra financial support during times of emergency like drought and other natural disasters, USDA says.
• Increasing payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program. Under this provision, beginning and farmers can claim up 90 percent of losses for lost livestock, such as bees, under ELAP. This is a 50% increase over previously available payment amounts to new and beginning farmers.
USDA is expected to announce additional crop insurance program changes for beginning farmers and ranchers – including discounted premiums, waiver of administrative fees, and other benefits.
The transfer program provides two additional years of payments for retired farmers and ranchers who transition expiring CRP acres to socially disadvantaged, military veteran, or beginning producers who return the land to sustainable grazing or crop production.