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Farm bill implementation roll-out continues

—By Kyle Cline
Public Policy Team

Nearly three months have passed since the long-awaited passage of the Agricultural Act of 2014, which was signed into law in early February.  Since then, the USDA has been working to define and write the rules and program parameters for each farm bill title. 

Several program announcements have been made in recent weeks with more to come.  Below are summaries for the most recent developments:

Payment limit provisions

In general, the majority of the rules and requirements effective for previous years' program payments and benefits remain and are applicable to recipients of program payments and benefits under the 2014 Farm Bill. This includes the requirements of actively engaged in farming, cash-rent tenant, substantive change, minor child, and spousal provisions. Payments will continue to be limited by direct attribution to person and legal entity.

New provisions effective for 2014 require that to be eligible for program benefits, persons and legal entities must have an average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $900,000 or less.  This applies to commodity, price support and disaster assistance program payments and benefits.  The definitions for determining AGI for persons and legal entities and the corresponding 3-year periods for the determination of average AGI remain unchanged.

Effective for 2015, the same average AGI limitation applies to the recipients of payments and benefits from most conservation programs.

Block grants

The USDA recently announced the availability of approximately $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to state departments of agriculture for projects that help support specialty crop growers, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, through research, programs to increase demand, and more.

The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is designed to enhance the markets for specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.

As directed by the Farm Bill, the block grants are now allocated to U.S. States and territories based on a formula that takes into consideration both specialty crop acreage and production value. Nearly all states are seeing an increase in funds.

Interested applicants should apply directly to their state department of agriculture. 

Disaster programs

Beginning on April 15, the USDA began accepting enrollments into several disaster assistance programs.  The Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Enrollment also began on April 15 for producers with losses covered by the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Tree Assistance Program.

To expedite applications, all producers who experienced losses are encouraged to collect records documenting these losses in preparation for the enrollment in these disaster assistance programs. Information on the types of records necessary can be provided by local FSA county offices. Producers also are encouraged to contact their county office ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

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