Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden announced in Davis, Calif., the implementation of several farm bill programs for beginning farmers and ranchers and unveiled a new website that will be a centralized source of information for those programs.
“The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy,” Harden said at the inaugural meeting of the reconvened Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee held at the University of California Davis.
The USDA said the programs Harden announced will:
* Waive service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) 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 already enrolled in NAP for the 2014 crop year are eligible for a service fee refund.
* Eliminate payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 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 percent. Waiving these reductions for new and beginning farmers will provide extra financial support during times of emergency like drought and other natural disasters, USDA said.
* Increase payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
Under this provision, beginning and farmers can claim up 90 percent of losses for lost livestock, such as bees. This is a 50 percent increase over previously available payment amounts to new and beginning farmers.
USDA said it also announce soon additional crop insurance program changes for beginning farmers and ranchers, including discounted premiums, waiver of administrative fees, and other benefits, Harden said.