Here’s an update on the latest progress in implementing the 2018 Farm Bill.
TITLE I – Commodity Programs
Margin Protection Program for Dairy:
- Dairy producers who elected to participate in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program in 2018 were able to retroactively participate in the MPP-Dairy for 2018. This enrollment opportunity ended on May 10, with more than $7 million dollars paid out to assist producers through this retroactive coverage as of May 28, 2019.
- Farm Service Agency (FSA) began offering reimbursements to eligible producers for MPP-Dairy premiums paid between 2014-2017 on May 8, 2019. As of May 28, more than $1.7 million in cash refunds have been paid to dairy producers.
Dairy Margin Coverage:
- Dairy producers now have access to a new web-based decision tool, developed in a partnership with the University of Wisconsin, to evaluate various scenarios using different coverage levels available through the new Dairy Margin Coverage program.
- Sign-up began on June 17 with margin payments made to qualifying producers beginning in early July.
Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage: FSA will open ARC/PLC elections for the 2019 and 2020 crop years beginning in September 2019.
TITLE II – Conservation
Conservation Reserve Program:
- FSA began accepting applications on June 3, 2019, for certain practices under the continuous CRP, offering a one-year extension to existing CRP participants who have expiring CRP contracts of 14 years or less, and reopening enrollment for existing Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program agreements.
- FSA plans to offer a General CRP sign-up in December 2019.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program:
- On April 26, 2019, Natural Resources Conservation Service released guidance to state committees to identify RCPP coordinators in each state.
Conservation Stewardship Program:
- On May 10, 2019, NRCS posted guidance for state conservationists regarding the handling of participant requests to apply for new contracts, as well as extending unexpired contracts from 2014. Additional guidance was posted regarding changes needed for existing RCPP partnership agreements to enroll in new CSP contracts.
Technical Changes to NRCS Conservation Programs:
- On May 6, 2019, NRCS published an interim final rule to make existing regulations consistent with the 2018 Farm Bill. These include:
- Waiving duplicative requirements under the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Program;
- Expanding the purposes of the Healthy Forests Reserve Program to allow protection of at-risk species and allowing permanent easements on Tribal lands;
- Authorizing that certification of technical service providers be through a qualified non-federal entity; and
- Requiring that $3 million of funds to implement the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program be used to encourage public access for hunting and other recreational activities on wetlands enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
Conservation Innovation Grants:
- On May 15, 2019, NRCS announced that it is investing $25 million per year over the next five years to help support On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, part of the CIG and available to farmers eligible to participate in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. NRCS will accept proposals through July 15, 2019 for the new On-Farm Trials.
- On May 30, 2019, NRCS announced the availability of $12.5 million to support CIG on agricultural lands. NRCS will accept proposals through July 30, 2019.
TITLE III – Trade
Borlaug Fellowship Program 2019:
- On May 6, 2019, Foreign Agricultural Service announced Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Borlaug Fellowship Program.
Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement:
- On May 20, 2019, Secretary Perdue signed the Local and Regional Food Aid Procurement Program report and it was sent to Congress.
Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation:
- On May 28, 2019, FAS announced a Notice of Funding Availability for FY 2020 Market Access Program, Foreign Market Development Program, Emerging Markets Program, and Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops Program funding. Submissions were due on June 28, 2019.
TITLE IV – Nutrition Programs
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program:
- On April 12, 2019, Food and Nutrition Service published the solicitation for the FY 2019 SNAP Process and Technology Improvement Grants required by Section 4010 of the Farm Bill. Responses were due by June 10, 2019.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program:
- On April 15, 2019, FNS issued an information memorandum on TEFAP state plan changes and information on TEFAP food funding.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program:
- On April 16, 2019, SNAP staff provided key technical assistance to National Institute of Food and Agriculture for the 2019 Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program solicitation. The Request for Funding was updated on May 9, 2019, and applications were due June 10, 2019.
- On April 18, 2019, FNS launched the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot. This pilot will be evaluated to help inform the regulations required by Section 4001 of the Farm Bill.
- On May 17, 2019, FNS issued three associated documents to the states: (1) a set of Q&As to follow up on the informational memo; (2) an addendum to the E&T State Plan Handbook to provide instructions on reflecting the new self-enacting Farm Bill requirements in the state plan; and (3) information the new 100% funds reallocation process for 2020 that will be shared with the states.
TITLE V – Credit
- On May 17, 2019, FSA issued an amendment to increase the loan limits as authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill – specifically, to $600,000 for direct loans and $1,750,000 for guaranteed loans.
Farm Ownership Loans:
- On May 8, 2019, FSA issued an amendment to clarify eligibility requirements for farm ownership loans, including increased loan limits, and waiver authority for the 3-year experience requirement in the case of a qualified beginning farmer or rancher.
TITLE VI – Rural Development
Cushion of Credit:
- On June 7, 2019, the Rural Utilities Service published the announcement of new Cushion of Credit Program Provisions affecting RUS borrower participation on the Federal Register. The current 5% rate will be paid to borrowers until Sept. 30, 2020. Beginning on Oct. 1, 2020, CoC deposits will earn 4% interest until Sept. 30, 2021. Starting on Oct. 1, 2021, and thereafter, account balances will earn the applicable, variable 1-year Treasury rate.
BioPreferred Program C:
- Completed the transfer of the BioPreferred / BioBased Markets program from Department Administration to Rural Business Cooperative Service.
Interagency Task Force on Rural Water Quality:
- The Rural Utility Service will host the kick-off meeting on July 10, at the USDA Whitten Building.
Council on Rural Community Innovation and Economic Development:
- Rural Development is holding the next meeting with support from the Office of Science Technology Policy on July 10, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
TITLE IX – Energy
Definition update for Biorefinery Assistance Program: (9001 & 9003) On April 23, 2019, a Notice in the Federal Register was published with a definition update.
Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels: (Section 9005) The workplan was published in the Spring Regulatory agenda on May 22, 2019.
Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grants: (Section 9007) The workplan was published in the Spring Regulatory agenda on May 22, 2019.
TITLE X – Horticulture
Report on Plant Biostimulants:
- On April 22, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and representatives from the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Office of the Secretary and industry met to discuss the biostimulant report. The objective of the meeting was to outline the steps necessary to get the report completed, through clearance and to Congress by the December 21 deadline.
Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program:
- On April 18, 2019, AMS announced the availability of funding for the FMLFPP. These programs are part of the Local Agriculture Market Program (Sec. 10102).
- On February 27, 2019, AMS issued a Notice to Trade stating that USDA had begun the process of gathering information to initiate rulemaking to implement a program for the commercial production of hemp. AMS also stated that under the 2018 Farm Bill tribes and institutions of higher education could continue operating under authorities of the 2014 until 12 months after USDA establishes the plan and regulations required under the 2018 Farm Bill.
- On April 18, 2019, AMS issued a Notice to Trade regarding importation of hemp seeds.
- On May 28, 2019, AMS issued two Notices to Trade regarding hemp production. The first of these speaks to questions raised concerning provisions pertaining to the interstate transportation of hemp and who may obtain a license to produce hemp. The second NTT clarifies avenues for tribal participation under authorities in the 2014 Farm Bill to grow industrial hemp for research purposes during the 2019 growing season.
Plant Variety Protection Office:
- On April 24, 2019, AMS announced that the Plant Variety Protection Office will begin accepting applications for seed-propagated hemp for plant variety protection.
Organic Agricultural Product Imports Interagency Working Group:
- On May 14, 2019, AMS established the Organic Agricultural Product Imports Interagency Working Group with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
TITLE XI – Crop Insurance
- On April 23, the Federal Crop Insurance Board of Directors approved modifications to the annual forage policy to accommodate 2018 Farm Bill changes.
Standard Reinsurance Agreement
- On April 26, the 2020 SRA changes were distributed to Approved Insurance Providers. The SRA includes new requirements for training loss adjusters and agents, including the submission of Actual Production History to RMA.
TITLE XII – Miscellaneous
- Pima Cotton Trust Fund: On April 15, 2019, FAS issued $27.3 million in payments under the Pima Agriculture Cotton Trust Fund.
- Wool Trust Fund: On April 15, 2019, FAS issued $14.9 million in payments under the Agriculture Wool Apparel Manufacturers Trust Fund.
- Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives: On April 16, 2019, AMS announced the availability of funding for the Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives (Sec. 12513).
- Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program: On April 23, 2019, AMS announced the availability of funding for the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program (Sec. 12102).
- Feasibility Study on Livestock Dealer Statutory Trust: On April 26, 2019, AMS published in the Federal Register a notice soliciting input for the study on a Livestock Dealers Trust (Sec. 12103).
- Veteran Farmer or Rancher (12306): On April 26, 2019, RMA Implemented the new definition for Veteran Farmer or Rancher that gives the same benefit for veterans as beginning farmers or ranchers. These benefits include:
- Exemption from paying the administrative fee for catastrophic and additional coverage policies;
- Additional 10 percentage points of premium subsidy for additional coverage policies that have premium subsidy;
- Use of another person’s production history for the specific acreage transferred to you that you were previously involved in the decision making or physical activities to produce the crop; and
- An increase in the substitute Yield Adjustment, which allows you to replace a low yield due to an insured cause of loss, from 60% to 80% of the applicable transitional yield.
- Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program: On June 20, 2019, USDA announced $75 million in funding for the eradication and control of feral swine through the FSCP in a joint effort between NRCS and APHIS. Applications are being accepted through August 19, 2019, for partners to carry out activities as part of these pilot projects in select areas of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.