USDA Funding To Develop Farm Bill Educational Tools

   Navigating the complexities of the new Farm Bill will be easier due to funding from the  USDA.  A total of $3 million will be allocated to state extension services nationwide. Another $3 million will be used in two initiatives to develop online decision-making tools that will allow producers to identify and assess their best Farm Bill program options.
   One of those initiatives will be led by the University of Illinois through the National Coalition for Producer Education. The coalition will develop online tools to help farmers and ranchers understand what the 2014 Farm Bill will mean for their businesses. State-based extension agents and others will then be trained to help educate farmers and ranchers about the bill and to determine how their participation in programs will affect their operation.
   “We are pleased to lead this national coalition of partners that will develop the online tools producers need to make informed decisions,” said Robert J. Hauser, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
   “This opportunity builds on our strengths to provide real-time resources to farmers in Illinois, across the nation, and throughout the world. We are truly grateful to our congressional delegation members who advocated on our behalf to help make this opportunity a reality.”
   Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “The new tools that will be developed will empower farmers and ranchers to select the plan that best fits their unique needs.”
   According to the USDA, the new resources will help farmers and ranchers make an educated choice between the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. Using the new online tools, producers will be able to use data unique to their specific farming operations combined with factors like the geographical diversity of crops, soils, weather, and climates across the country to test a variety of financial scenarios before officially signing up for the new program options later this year. Once a producer enrolls in the ARC or PLC program, he or she must remain in the program through the 2018 crop year.
   New tools will be provided for other programs as well. Sign-up for the newly established Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP) begins late this summer, and enrollment for “buy-up” provisions under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) will begin early next year.  An online MPP tool will be available when sign up begins and the NAP buy-up provision resource will become available to producers in the fall for the 2015 crop year.
   Outreach meetings will begin late this summer to help farmers and ranchers understand the new programs and their options. ∆
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