USDA announced that farmers could begin sign-up for the 2005 Crop Disaster Assistance Program at their county Farm Service Agency offices or USDA Service Centers March 14.

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.

“We are pleased to be able to provide these benefits to producers as quickly as possible,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said. “Drought, 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 are similar to those of the 2001-02 crop disaster program: 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. The payment limit is $80,000 per person for all 2003, 2004 and 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 issues, visit USDA's Web site at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/egov/.