Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack supports provisions in the farm bill passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee that ties conservation compliance to crop insurance.
“It’s a deal that’s made between taxpayers, farmers and insurance companies,” said Vilsack. “In many cases, we’re paying as taxpayers 50-55-60-63% of the premium. In the past, we also provided a direct payment and as part of the direct payment deal we said in exchange for this check, we’re going to expect something in return and that is conservation compliance.”
Since it is obvious direct payments are going to be eliminated, Vilsack says it makes sense to tie crop insurance premium subsides to conservation compliance. “If you’re going to get the benefit of a premium subsidy that’s pretty significant, we’d ask you to put together a plan and be compliant with that plan.”
Vilsack spoke to members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Tuesday and hit on a variety of issues related to the farm bill.
Listen to Vilsack’s comments here: Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack Mtg. with NAFB
2013 NAFB Washington Watch Photo Album
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reminded farmers and ranchers that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will conduct a four-week Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) general sign-up beginning May 20 and ending on June 14. Vilsack also announced the restart of sign-up for continuous CRP, including the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement Initiative, the Highly Erodible Land Initiative, the Grassland Restoration Initiative, the Pollinator Habitat Initiative and other related initiatives. Sign-up for continuous CRP began on May 13 and will continue through Sept. 30, 2013.
Vilsack encouraged producers to look into CRP’s other enrollment opportunities offered on a continuous, non-competitive, sign-up basis.
Farmers are accustomed to adjusting to the twists and turns of growing seasons on a short-term basis, but long-term planning is more difficult, according to climate field specialist Laura Edwards from South Dakota State University’s Extension office in Aberdeen.
The Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project explores ways that corn growers can adjust their cropping practices to make their operations more sustainable. It is also aimed at limiting or reducing the vulnerability of farmers to short term climate events, such as the 2012 drought. The $20 million grant, headed by Iowa State University, brings together 140 experts from 10 land-grant institutions and a USDA research unit in the Corn Belt.
A smaller more applied project, Useful2Usable, seeks to give farmers the soil, crop and climate data they need to make shorter-term and long-range decisions. The $5 million project is headed by Purdue University.
The USDA has named the recipients of 110 Value-Added grants for agricultural producers and rural businesses. This agency news release says the grants include biomass-based products and is hoped to spur the rural economy:
“This support will benefit rural businesses and the communities where the recipients are located,” Vilsack said. “These awards also will advance USDA’s goals to develop a bio-based economy and support local and regional food systems.”
In today’s announcement, 110 awardees are being selected for USDA Rural Development Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG). The grants help agricultural producers increase their income by expanding marketing opportunities, creating new products or developing new uses for existing products.
The awards announced today include 11 projects involving bio-based products. They include grants to convert: corn stover to anhydrous ammonia; miscanthus fiber, wood and goat manure into biochar and enhanced compost; and sorghum to electricity and fertilizer.
Value-Added Producer Grants are part of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, supporting local and regional food systems.
The complete list of Value-Added Producer Grant award recipients is available here.
Nothing like a little snow in May to really slow down a planter!
This photo from Minnesota was posted last week on the Case IH Facebook page. Despite the snow, Minnesota farmers did manage to get two percent of their corn crop in the ground last week, but they should have over half of it planted by now.
Nearly 50% of the crop nationwide should be planted by now in an average year, but only 12% was planted as of Sunday according to USDA. Last year at this time, nearly 70% of the crop was planted.
There was more progress last week than in recent weeks, even in states that saw more white stuff on the ground. Minnesota, Michigan, North and South Dakota, and Wisconsin all finally got a few points on the board after making no progress in the previous weeks. Illinois, Indiana and Iowa move up a few notches from 1-2% to 7-8%. But, again, all should be at or nearing the halfway point by now.
Emergence is far behind normal as well with 11 of the 18 top corn producing states showing no corn above ground yet. Just three percent of the crop has emerged compared to 29% last year and 15% average.
Not to worry yet, however. “It is still early in the planting season and slow progress at this point should not cause alarm,” said National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson, a grower in Iowa. “Modern farming technology has dramatically reduced the time needed for farmers to plant a large number of acres, and this means we can begin planting much later if need be.”
And a little cooperation from Mother Nature would help.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new rules to better target Community Connect broadband grants to areas where they are needed the most. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. This announcement is one part of the Department’s efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
USDA Rural Development’s Community Connect Grant program serves rural communities where broadband service is least likely to be available, but where it can make a tremendous difference in the quality of life for citizens.
USDA’s Rural Utilities Service plans to publish information on Community Connect funding opportunities, including application deadlines and the amount of assistance available, in the Federal Register soon.
Scientists at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently developed a simple, web-based tool that helps producers easily understand the quality of water flowing off their fields – the Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff (WQIag).
“Water quality is complex,” said NRCS National Water Quality and Quantity team leader Shaun McKinney. “Experts usually focus on one aspect of water quality – such as temperature, nutrients or pesticide content – instead of thinking about a more complete picture.”
On the WQIag website, producers input information about their field, such as slope, soil characteristics, nutrient and pest management, tillage practices, and finally, conservation practices. The WQIag calculates these variables into a single rating on a 10-point scale: 0 being very poor; 10 being excellent.
Though some variables – such as slope and soil type – won’t change, producers can adjust other factors for a quick estimate of how conservation impacts water quality. A few clicks calculate the value of less tillage, less fertilizer and other conservation practices, which makes it versatile to use.
Key members of the U.S. agricultural value chain have joined together to applaud the work of the United States and like-minded governments to promote the importance of science-based regulations to facilitate trade of agricultural commodities derived from agricultural biotechnology.
In a joint statement, the United States was joined by the governments of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Paraguay to announce their intention to work collaboratively to remove global barriers to the trade of agricultural biotechnology and promote science-based, transparent and predictable regulatory approaches.
The U.S. agriculture sector agrees that a particular area of concern is the timeliness and efficiency of global regulatory systems. In the joint statement, the like-minded governments have highlighted their intention to promote synchronization of authorizations by regulatory authorities – in particular for food, feed and processing purposes.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) will provide nearly $175 million in funding for up to 12.6 million additional acres of enrollment this year.
Vilsack explained that although applications are accepted all year, farmers, ranchers and forestland owners interested in CSP should submit applications by May 31 to their local NRCS office to ensure they are considered for this year’s funding.
Playing a significant part in conserving and improving our nation’s resources, producers enrolled an additional 12.1 million acres in CSP last year, bringing the total number of acres to more than 50 million.
A CSP self-screening checklist is available to help producers determine if the program is suitable for their operation. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, stewardship threshold requirements and payment types.
The G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture is coming to an end. Interestingly, USDA held a concluding press conference to discuss results prior to the end of the conference. USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki outlined the federal government’s new Food, Agriculture and Rural data community, which offers a catalog of over 300 data sets as well as numerous apps, tools and statistical products. The community can be found on www.data.gov. Its creation was announced at the start of the conference by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
We are hoping to interview a participant in the conference to learn more about what they took away and will post that here as soon as we are able to do so.
In the meantime, you can listen to the concluding press conference here: USDA Open Data Conference Wrap Up Presser
At the kickoff of the G8 Open Data for Agriculture conference this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new virtual community to give increased public access to food, agriculture, and rural data.
“This new online community is a big step toward opening information for agriculture, making it public in useable formats,” said Vilsack. “This will increase the value of the investments U.S. taxpayers make in agricultural research, it will create a data ecosystem that will fuel economic growth, it will help drive that innovation to meet our global food challenge we all face.”
Vilsack explained that the virtual community for Food, Agriculture and Rural issue is located on the pre-existing data-sharing web site – www.data.gov – and it will now include data sets on topics such as agricultural research, or food and nutrition. Other G8 countries represented at the conference are also expected to make their ag data similarly available.
“Our hope is that the example that we set will encourage the nations that have been not as forthcoming to recognize it is in their best interest … to be part of this process,” Vilsack said.
While some countries like China are reluctant to share their data, World Bank Vice President Dr. Rachel Kyte noted that others suffer from data deficiencies. “Serious weaknesses in agricultural statistics persist,” said Kyte. “Only one in four African countries report basic crop production data.”
Vilsack pointed out that data “is among the most important commodities in agriculture” and sharing it openly increases its value. The Open Data Conference will continue through Tuesday, April 30.
Planting progress continues to be slowed by wet and cold weather in most of the major corn producing states.
According to USDA, just 5% of the U.S. corn crop was planted as of Sunday, only a percentage point of difference compared to the previous week. Last year at this time, nearly half the crop was in the ground and normally at least 30% should be planted by now. All 18 major corn producing states are behind the five year average. The only states even close are North Carolina and Texas. Every state should be showing progress in the double digits, but only six are and five have nothing in the ground yet. Another half dozen have less than 3-4% planted.
Meanwhile, the conditions and slow planting pace are impacting emergence. Just 2% of total U.S. corn has emerged, compared to 14% last year at this time and 6% on average.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, along with Bill Gates, and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, today kicked off a two-day international open data conference, saying that data “is among the most important commodities in agriculture” and sharing it openly increases its value.
Among some of the speakers will be USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki and Dr. Simon Liu, Director of the National Agricultural Library. They will explain that data is among the most important commodities in the world.
At the conference, the U.S. Government is also releasing an action plan to highlight a number of new and ongoing U.S. Government efforts.
To get the full schedule of the conference click here.
There is a live streaming of the conference and you can tweet about the conference with the hashtag, #OpenAgData.
USDA just held a preview press conference for next week’s G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture. On the phone with the press were USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki and Dr. Simon Liu, Director of the National Agricultural Library. There are plans to do live streaming during the conference and people are encouraged to tweet about the conference with the hashtag, #OpenAgData.
The conference, to be held in Washington, D.C., will bring together innovators from all over the world to discuss the importance of open agricultural data to increased food security across the globe, as well as in opening doors for public/private partnerships and economic growth. Woteki and Liu will explain that data is among the most important commodities in the world. By making our data accessible and encouraging others to do the same, we will enable collaborations of data users that will spur innovation and drive economic growth. A number of African countries will be represented at the conference and Woteki and Liu will preview some of the announcements expected to be made during the event.
You can listen to or download the press conference here: USDA Open Data Conference Presser
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today renewed a historic agreement with U.S. dairy producers to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms, both of which help producers diversify revenues and reduce utility expenses on their operations. The pact extends a Memorandum of Understanding signed in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.
“Through this renewed commitment, USDA and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy will continue research that helps dairy farmers improve the sustainability of their operations,” Vilsack said. “This vital research also will support the dairy industry as it works to reach its long-term goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.”
The Secretary was joined on a conference call to make the announcement by The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy CEO Tom Gallagher and Doug Young, a farmer from NY who has benefited from this MOU.
USDA support for agricultural and waste-to-energy research has played a key role in the agreement’s success to date. Since signing the MOU, USDA has made nearly 180 awards that helped finance the development, construction, and biogas production of anaerobic digester systems with Rural Development programs, such as the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program, Value Added Producer Grants, amongst others. These systems capture methane and produce renewable energy for on-farm use and sale onto the electric grid. Additionally, during this period, USDA awarded approximately 140 REAP loans and grants to help dairy farmers develop other types of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems at their operations.
Also, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has provided $257 million in funding since 2009 that has helped more than 6,000 dairy farmers plan and implement conservation practices to improve sustainability. NRCS support for the dairy industry has resulted in 354 on-farm and in-plant energy audits as well as 18 conservation innovation grants for dairy-related projects during the past three years.
Listen to the call here: USDA/Dairy MOU press call