WASHINGTON – USDA announced that farmers can begin sign-up for the 2005 Crop Disaster Assistance Program at their county Farm Service Agency officers or USDA Service Centers today.

The Crop Disaster Program, which was enacted by Congress last October, authorizes crop loss assistance for producers who suffered 2003 or 2004 and certain 2005 crop losses from damaging weather.

β€œWe are pleased to be able to provide these benefits to producers as quickly as possible,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said. β€œDrought, floods and hurricanes are unpredictable weather events that put farmers and ranchers at risk in producing a dependable and affordable national food supply.”

USDA officials said rules for the 2005 sign-up will be similar to those of the 2001-2002 crop disaster program; that is, producers must have lost more than 35 percent of their average production or 20 percent of the normal quality for their crop.

The payment rate for CDP has been increased to 65 percent of the established commodity price for insured crops and noninsured crops, and 60 percent of the price for uninsured commodities. Previous disaster assistance provided payments of 50 percent of the established commodity price for insured and non-insurable crops and 45 percent for uninsured crops.

Producers may apply for CDP for any crops that are eligible for coverage under the Federal Crop Insurance or the Noninsured Assistance Program. This program results from Congressional passage last October of the Military Construction Appropriations and Emergency Hurricane Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005.

The payment limit is $80,000 per person for all 2003/2004/2005 CDP payments. The closing date for this sign-up will be announced later.

As part of the CDP implementation process, USDA has prepared a fact sheet that contains information about the disaster assistance programs. For more information on these isissues, visit USDA's website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/egov/.