Within weeks of the late June enactment of the farm bill, USDA began delivering program benefits for 2008 and will deliver additional program benefits in 2009.

The 2008 farm bill has 15 titles — and more than 600 provisions: 50 percent more than the 2002 farm bill.

Farm programs

  • 1.725 million direct and counter-cyclical payments (DCP) contracts enrolled to date. Anticipating a total of 1.775 million contracts for the 2008 crop year when all data is collated.

  • $750 million in advance DCP payments to producers who requested the advance funds.

During the week of Oct. 5, 2008, the balance of $4.3 billion in DCP payments was issued.

For 2009, we anticipate beginning the issuance of over $1.1 billion in advance DCP payments in December 2008. However, the bulk of that funding will go out in calendar year 2009 as most producers do not sign up until after the first of the year.

Conservation programs

Conservation Program funding available in 2008 includes an additional $200 million for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help farmers and ranchers nationwide to solve natural resource problems; $150 million Wetlands Reserve Program; and $7.5 million for Agricultural Management Assistance.

For fiscal year 2009, USDA will distribute $1.8 billion in Conservation Reserve Program rental payments to participants across the country.

In response to the Midwest flooding and Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, supplemental funding was provided for the Emergency Watershed Program and the Emergency Conservation Program — in addition to the farm bill funding.

Rural development

  • $547 million for 232 projects to provide clean, safe drinking water in rural America — the majority of that funding from the farm bill.

Nutrition programs

  • $390 million in fresh fruits and vegetables was purchased in 2008 for distribution through domestic and international feeding programs.

  • $49 million for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables of elementary school children for 2008.

  • $21 million in the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program for grants to 49 state agencies and tribal organizations for 2008.

  • $42 million for 2008 TEFAP purchases for a total of $190 million.

Research and marketing

  • $28 million for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative for 2008. USDA has moved very quickly to implement the Specialty Crop Research Initiative for 2008. The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) completed review of applications with grant awards announced soon.

    Applicants who failed to receive funding during this initial solicitation will have another opportunity early in FY 2009 when additional applications are sought.

  • $10 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for 2008.

  • $22 million for the Organic Cost-Share Program (no year).

  • $3.4 million for Farmers Market Promotion Program for 2008.

  • $3.5 million to enhance market news reporting for organic products for 2008.

  • $1.5 million for Agricultural Management Assistance to aid in the transition to organic agriculture.

Energy

USDA plans to publish in the near future a Notice of Funding Availability for the $75 million in mandatory budget authority for the Biorefinery Assistance Program that has been provided in 2009.

Programs have been implemented and are already providing assistance.

Commodity programs

Announced payment limitation and payment eligibility provisions applicable to commodity and conservation programs for the 2008 crop, fiscal, or program year.

Announced provisions of the 2008 farm bill regarding marketing assistance loans and loan deficiency payments for 2008 crop cotton and peanuts.

Announced initial parameters for the fiscal year 2009 sugar program. Established the fiscal year 2009 overall allotment quantity at 8,925,000 short tons, raw value. This total is 85 percent of the estimated FY 2009 domestic human sugar consumption.

Announced provisions of the 2008 farm bill regarding 2008-crop loan rates, schedules of premiums and discounts, and other related activities.

Training has been conducted for state and county officials about the new farm bill provisions.

Credit programs

Changes to loan limits for direct loans were implemented within days of enactment of the farm bill through a notice to the FSA field staff. The first loan to use the higher loan limits was written within just a few days.

Crop insurance

The Risk Management Agency (RMA) has already implemented several provisions of the farm bill through memorandums to the participating insurance companies or internal procedures. For example, RMA issued a memorandum to the insurance companies implementing changes to the administrative expense reimbursement rate. Further, RMA is reviewing their premium rate structure to comply with section 12003 which reduced the target loss ratio from 1.075 to 1.0.

Nutrition programs

As of Oct. 1, the new name for the Food Stamp Program went into effect - SNAP - renamed by Congress as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP provisions were implemented by all states. Significant provisions include: increase in the minimum benefit and standard deduction, elimination of retirement and education savings accounts counting as offsetting income resources, combat pay as income when determining eligibility, and application of full cost associated with child care costs.

Prior to implementation, USDA had conference calls with all states, issued an implementation memo and posted questions and answers on the Web.

Information regarding changes to TEFAP, CSFP, FDPIR, SFMNP were issued in July to providers and states.

Farm bill activity

Rural Development issued an RFA for the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program on July 9, which closed on Aug. 8.

CSREES issued RFA's for the Hispanic Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities (Aug. 22) and for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (Sept. 29).

The Forest Service has issued directions to their regions on how to implement the economic relief to timber sale purchases required under the Qualified Timber Contract Options provisions of the farm bill.

Hundreds of meetings have been held with stakeholders on almost all titles of the farm bill. USDA representatives have also made themselves available to participate in stakeholder conferences to discuss farm bill implementation.

There will continue to be many opportunities for the public to provide their views and expertise as USDA moves forward with implementation.

Topics of interest

  • Country of origin labeling

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

  • Specialty Crop Alliance

  • School Nutrition Association, July 21

  • Forestry Partners Meeting, July 21

  • National Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey Meeting, July 29-31 (Strategic Plan)

  • National Sorghum Producers Meeting on farm bill price election provisions, Aug. 13

  • National Association of Counties (NACO), Aug. 14

  • Southwest Learning and Listening Tour, Sept. 9-11

  • Minnesota Crop Insurance Agent Update Meeting, Sept. 17

  • National Association of Development Associations, Oct. 4.