Vilsack urges crop farmers to sign up for new commodity title programs | TSLN.com

Vilsack urges crop farmers to sign up for new commodity title programs

In a phone call to reporters to celebrate the anniversary of the 2014 farm bill coming up on Saturday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today urged farmers to sign up for the new commodity title programs by their deadlines — and asked them to sign up before then, if possible.

Vilsack noted that farmers and landowners have until the end of February to undertake base reallocation of crops and that farmers must choose between the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs by March 31.

He urged farmers to let their county Farm Service Agency offices know as soon as possible "so we don't have a crash of interest at the end of March."

He also noted that conservation compliance forms are due by June 1.

Vilsack also said the Obama administration is working hard to finish the rule on who can be considered an "actively engaged" farmer. That rule is now at the Office of Management and Budget, and Vilsack said he hoped it would be finalized within the next two months.

Congress told USDA to figure out who should be considered "actively engaged" and therefore eligible to receive farm subsidies after complaints that distant landowners are claiming to be involved in farm work or management and getting payments for which they are not really eligible.

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"We obviously took the direction from Congress seriously," Vilsack said.

"We have been working on this for several months. It is very important for people to understand who will be covered and will not. Congress was concerned with reports about people not connected to the farm in a meaningful way."

But Vilsack also emphasized that Congress said "family farming operations and corporations were not to be included. That reduces the number of people who will be affected and most of those will be in farm partnerships."

He said that some of the farm bill programs that don't get much attention have the biggest impact on rural America.

"Thanks to the farm bill, farmers have a commonsense risk management system in place to protect their families and livelihoods from future disasters," Vilsack said.

"It's helped families become first-time home buyers. It's supported rural businesses as they grow and create jobs. Communities have clean drinking water, some for the first time. Farm bill disaster assistance programs have helped to rebuild lives."

He also praised USDA staff for implementing the bill quickly.

"I am proud to stand alongside the thousands of USDA employees who have worked hard to implement the bulk of the farm bill's programs in record time," Vilsack said.

The secretary was joined on the call by Ben LaCross, a Michigan farmer who works on his family fruit farm, Michael O'Gorman, the executive director of the Famer Veteran Coalition. and Edgar Pruitt, an Alabama farmer.

LaCross said Michigan cherry farmers had received help through risk management, research and market promotion programs, but he also urged the Obama administration to push forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, which would increase export opportunities in Asia.

O'Gorman said the farm bill was "a real game-changer" for veteran farmers, especially with the establishment of the veteran liaison position held by Karis Gutter, a former Marine and deputy undersecretary of farm and foreign agricultural services.

O'Gorman said it took six years to build a network of 2,000 veterans who wanted to launch careers in agriculture, but the number has doubled to 4,000 within the past year.

Pruitt described himself as a new farmer and said he has received help building fences and pipe and water lines and planting hay grasses.

"Every American, and many around the world, has been positively impacted by the 2014 farm bill," Vilsack said.

"The farm bill achieves meaningful reform while making critical investments that create jobs, drive long-term economic growth, and support more resilient rural communities where people want to live and raise families."

–The Hagstrom Report