Although the Agriculture Department received criticism for the slow start to sign-up and issues concerning harvest-loss provisions in some states, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said USDA has done a brisk sign-up business in recent months.

"USDA has issued $2.2 billion in benefits to about 325,000 farmers across the country," Veneman in a statement. "We encourage qualified farmers to take advantage of this assistance."

The CDP, which is authorized by the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003, has no overall funding limitation, but each "person" is limited to $80,000. Producers are reimbursed for qualifying crop production and quality losses (other than sugar cane, sugar beets or tobacco) for either the 2001 or 2002 crop years.

Grower losses must have exceeded 35 percent of expected production for growers to qualify. Payments have been made at:

  • 50 percent of the established price for crops that were covered by crop insurance
  • 50 percent of the established price for crops for which crop insurance was unavailable
  • 45 percent of the established price to producers for crops that could have been insured but were not.
Producers are also reimbursed for quality losses of at least 20 percent for certain crops.

Eligible producers who did not have crop insurance or Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program coverage during the year of the disaster must agree to purchase coverage for each of the next two crop years.

CDP payments will be reduced if the sum of: (1) the CDP payment; (2) the net crop insurance indemnity; and (3) the value of the crop that was not lost, exceeds 95 percent of what the value of the crop would have been in the absence of a loss.

More information on CDP and other USDA disaster assistance programs is available at local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices and on FSA's Web site at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com