Speaking to reporters via a telephone press conference, Veneman said the new program will save time for producers and for USDA as it seeks to make maximum use of its resources in implementing the 2002 farm bill.
“Our hope is that we can institutionalize this type of technology as we implement the new farm bill,” said Veneman. “This type of service would save time and resources that producers now spend in USDA offices. Our hope is that this pilot program will move us closer in that regard.”
The three Mid-South counties that will participate in the program are Cross County in northeast Arkansas, East Carroll Parish in northeast Louisiana and Obion County in west Tenn. They will be among 21 counties involved in the test program nationwide, according to Veneman.
Producers using the new e-LDP service will no longer need to come into USDA offices to get their LDPs. They will be able to apply for and receive LDPs from their homes when it’s convenient for them.
Besides saving producers time traveling to and from county offices, applying online will eliminate paperwork and speed up payment processing. The service has stringent security measures to protect participants’ private information, the secretary said.
“We are finding that more and more of our producers are using the Internet,” she noted. This enables us to provide faster, more efficient and accurate services to the nation’s farmers.”
Veneman confirmed that USDA had asked for $110 million to help it implement the new farm bill, but Congress appropriated $50 million for that purpose.
“We think that’s enough at least certainly to begin the process, and we’re pleased to have that to supplement what our FSA offices already have,” she said. “We are talking with the appropriators about additional money that we need for implementation.”
Other counties that will be able to participate in the pilot e-LDP program include: Cass County, Ill.; Adams County, Ind.; Jasper County, Iowa; Marshall County, Kan.; Christian County, Ky.; Jackson County, Mich.; Lyon County, Minn.; Nodaway County, Mo.; Chouteau County, Mont.; York County, Neb.; Sampson County, N.C.; Cass County, N.D.; Sandusky County, Ohio; Texas County, Okla.; Northumberland County, Pa.; Spink County, S.D.; Collin County, Texas and Jefferson County, Wis.
Veneman also announced that USDA’s Economic Research Service will release a side-by-side comparison of the 1996 Farm Bill and the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. The tool, available on USDA’s farm bill website at http://www.usda.gov/farmbill and ERS’s website at http://www.ers.usda.gov/, will include title-by-title comparison, glossary of farm bill terms, links to background information, and economic analysis.