Tag Archives: USDA

A bipartisan group of Senators is seeking a USDA-wide National Water Quality Initiative to prioritize conservation measures in the 2018 Farm Bill to address water quality.

In a letter, the Senators point out that the 2018 Farm Bill made “historic investments” in voluntary conservation efforts to address water quality challenges. Specifically, the bill reformed and improved all major conservation programs in order to provide new tools to assist farmers, ranchers, and landowners in addressing water quality concerns.

The group of Senators, led by Senate Agriculture Committee ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow, urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to implement the provisions through the department-wide approach, which would build off the existing initiative housed at the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The letter was also signed by Senate Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa, Mike Braun of Indiana, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tom Carper of Delaware, and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania.

U.S. corn planting slipped behind the five-year average pace and spring wheat planting fell further behind average last week, according to USDA NASS’ weekly Crop Progress report on Monday.

For the week ended Sunday, April 14, 3% of the nation’s corn crop was planted, equal to last year at the same time but 2 percentage points behind the five-year average of 5%. In last Monday’s report, corn planting was reported as equal to the five-year average.

Most corn-planting activity was still only taking place in the Southern states, such as Texas, North Carolina and Tennessee, noted DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman.

Spring wheat planting also further behind the average last week. NASS reported that only 2% of spring wheat had been planted as of Sunday, up only 1 percentage point from the previous week, behind 3% at the same time last year and significantly behind the five-year average of 13%.

There was no spring wheat planting progress reported yet in the Dakotas or Minnesota, and only 1% of the crop was planted in Montana.

Progress of the winter wheat crop also slowed last week. Nationwide, 6% of winter wheat was headed as of Sunday, behind 8% at the same time last year and also behind the five-year average of 9%.

The condition of the winter wheat crop, on the other hand, remained steady at 60% good to excellent, the highest good-to-excellent rating at this time of year in seven years. Fifty-nine percent of winter wheat in top-producing Kansas was rated good to excellent.

Sorghum was 16% planted, compared to 20% last year and a 19% five-year average. Cotton planting was 7% complete, compared to 8% last year and a 7% average. Rice was 26% planted, compared to 30% last year and a 35% average. Thirteen percent of rice was emerged, compared to 14% last year and an average of 15%.

Oats were 30% planted as of April 14, compared to 29% last year and a 40% average. Emergence was at 26%, compared to 26% last year and a 28% average.

To view weekly crop progress reports issued by National Ag Statistics Service offices in individual states, visit http://www.nass.usda.gov/…. Look for the U.S. map in the “Find Data and Reports by” section and choose the state you wish to view in the drop-down menu. Then look for that state’s “Crop Progress & Condition” report.

National Crop Progress Summary
This Last Last 5-Year
Week Week Year Avg.
Corn Planted 3 2 3 5
Winter Wheat Headed 6 3 8 9
Spring Wheat Planted 2 1 3 13
Cotton Planted 7 6 8 7
Sorghum Planted 16 14 20 19
Barley Planted 8 2 7 19
Oats Planted 30 27 29 40
Oats Emerged 26 25 26 28
Rice Planted 26 19 30 35
Rice Emerged 13 7 14 15

**

National Crop Condition Summary
(VP=Very Poor; P=Poor; F=Fair; G=Good; E=Excellent)
This Week Last Week Last Year
VP P F G E VP P F G E VP P F G E
Winter Wheat 2 7 31 48 12 2 7 31 48 12 15 22 32 26 5

 

Listen to Clay Patton with the report here: http://bit.ly/2Df3o4y

WASHINGTON (DTN) — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said Tuesday he sees the need to help farmers with losses in grain bins from Midwest floods. But he said the notion $3 billion is needed for Midwest disaster aid is “baloney.”

Peterson, D-Minn., met Tuesday with members of the North American Agricultural Journalists and spoke about several topics. On disaster aid, Peterson said inserting Midwest aid into a current disaster bill in the Senate could potentially hold up needed aid for Southern farmers whose farms were hit hard by hurricanes last year.

“The Southerners need this,” Peterson said. “They have a lot of crops that don’t traditionally get into crop insurance that were damaged during a tough time in the cycle. Pecan trees and peaches and so forth that are not in the normal farm-program disaster deal. So they need this $3 billion deal they have been working on for the South.”

Now, the Midwest flooding has come into play. “That’s getting tangled up with this because people are playing politics with it and making it sound like the government’s got to come in with a big disaster deal and save people,” Peterson said.

The states of Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa and Missouri were hit by a powerful storm in mid-March that caused rapid flooding of several rivers that are tributaries to the Missouri River. Dozens of communities were flooded in those states, causing extensive damage to roads, bridges and levees. Both livestock and grain farmers suffered major financial losses.

Now a similar storm, dubbed “bomb cyclones,” is expected to again develop in the Rockies and turn into a blizzard and heavy rains across Plains states and the Midwest. The storm will bring snow, rain and high winds across several states. Beyond hitting those areas already hit by floods, the latest cycle of storms will likely further delay fieldwork and spring planting.

Midwest lawmakers have pushed to include disaster aid for floods into legislation in the U.S. Senate.

For farmers hit by those storms and floods, Peterson said the 2018 farm bill deals with most of their needs already.

“The truth is, for farmers, everything that was damaged was covered in the farm bill,” Peterson said. “Ninety-eight percent of those people have crop insurance. We have the Livestock Indemnity Program. We have the Livestock Forage Program. We have all of these other programs that kick in now that we didn’t used to have.”

The congressman did note that farmers who lost crops in grain bins should be eligible for an indemnity payment and Congress should work to make that happen.

“The only thing that’s not covered is this grain that was damaged,” Peterson said. “And we have more grain being stored now than we’ve ever had because of these low prices and these tariffs.”

Peterson added, “I think we can do a one-time thing to try to help people with that. But one thing that should come in here is you could have bought insurance. So this is something that is going to come up, but you could have bought insurance.”

But Peterson said of the notion of spending $3 billion in disaster aid for the Midwest, “That’s a bunch of baloney.”

Nebraska and Iowa officials have pegged disaster losses from infrastructure and agriculture at around $1.5 billion in each state. Missouri officials have not detailed the total losses.

Peterson added that farmers who lost grain in bins likely could have bought a property and casualty insurance policy for stored grain, though he noted it would likely have been expensive to purchase. Farmers who lost crops have repeatedly also expressed worry that they will have to rely on prevented planting insurance on their fields, and prevented planting indemnities may only cover a small portion of their lost income from 2019.

Bill Northey, USDA’s undersecretary for farm production and conservation, told reporters Monday that Congress is looking at a disaster bill to allow some coverage for those grain losses, though it’s unclear just how that disaster coverage will look.

“We don’t have anything in our programs now,” Northey said.

To help with the Midwest disaster, the Emergency Conservation Program and programs like it probably need more funding, Peterson said. “The rest of it is in the farm bill, and that’s something a lot of people don’t understand.”

In the South, Peterson said, hurricanes hit right before the pecan harvest, and there are farmers who lost 70% to 80% of their trees. Those farmers will take years to reestablish their orchards, he said.

“Now you have got people saying, ‘Well, unless we do something for Iowa, we can’t do anything for these other people.’ In the South, you have got a lot of people who are going to go out of business because there’s no help for them and they are supposed to be planting right now. You are going to see a lot of these farmers go out of business.”

Peterson suggested Congress should finish legislation with Southern disaster aid separately, then work on a program for stored grain losses in the Midwest.

“I’m for it, but I don’t want to hold up the Southern disaster aid for three months while we’re fighting over this Midwest thing,” he said. “And some of it is not even real. Some people are making it seem like we’re not doing anything for Midwest farmers. Everything is covered except for this grain bin thing. The rest of it is covered by the farm bill.”

In the Red River Valley, where Peterson noted there is often flooding, he got the Natural Resources Conservation Service director in 2009 to fund ring dikes around farms in the valley. “So we don’t flood anymore and the grain bins are protected, along with the house,” Peterson said.

It’s common that anytime there is a disaster bill, another disaster strikes, said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

“Anytime you do a disaster program and you try to address the problems of each state or each crop or each region, then you have another disaster or area that has been affected, as well, and there are hard feelings in terms of ‘Wait a minute, we’re not being covered by that bill,'” Roberts said.

Before the Midwest floods hit, the disaster package moving through Congress primarily was meant to help farmers and businesses in Georgia, Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico that were hit by hurricanes, as well as funding for recovery from wildfires in California. The disaster package got held up in the Senate because Democrats still want more aid for Puerto Rico and Senate Republicans are resisting that funding.

Roberts added, “Time is of the essence, and we have to get it done.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is holding meetings this week about flood risks in major communities along the Missouri River, including meetings in Fort Pierre, South Dakota; and Sioux City, Iowa; on Wednesday, as well as Smithville, Missouri; and Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Thursday. For more information about the meetings, visit http://www.nwd-mr.usace.army.mil/….

State officials have said they want more control over flood protection along the Missouri River. The United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is planning to hold a field hearing from 9-11 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, in Glenwood, Iowa. The hearing will focus on Missouri River management and the current flooding situation in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — An insurance program to help hard-pressed dairy farmers is expected to be ready for enrollment in June, the U.S. Farm Service Agency says, but farmers say it won’t tackle the underlying challenges they face.

Dairy farmers are in their fifth year of low milk prices that have driven thousands out of business.

“I’ve been in this for over 40 years and this is as bad as it’s ever gotten,” said Vermont dairy farmer Jacques Parent on Tuesday.

Describing the dairy farmers’ situation as urgent, 38 U.S. senators signed a letter late last month urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement the insurance program quickly and work to educate farmers about their options.

The improved insurance program in the 2018 farm bill — called Dairy Margin Coverage — expands the coverage levels for farmers. They pay premiums and receive payments when the gap between milk prices and feed prices reach a certain level. The program was delayed by the 35-day partial government shutdown. Payments will be retroactive to January.

“USDA is working diligently to implement the DMC program and other programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill,” FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce wrote in an email on Monday.

Still, the more time that passes, the harder it is for farmers.

“I think it’s frustrating, very frustrating because we’ve gone through this four-year drought in revenue and each month it gets put off the more disheartened producers become,” said Michigan dairy farmer Ken Nobis.

Consumer demand in some segments and unresolved trade issues that are harming exports and boosting surpluses are other issues challenging the dairy industry, a spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation has said.

For many years, dairy farmers went through a three-year cycle of a good year, a bad year and a mediocre year, Nobis said.

“Now we’re in our fifth year of below profitable levels of milk production, that’s pretty hard for anyone to withstand,” he said.

Higher tier coverage is available for smaller operations. Nobis, whose farm milks 1,000 cows, and Parent with 700 cows, would cap out early.

“It’s appreciated but it’s only a little Band Aid,” said Parent.

The bottom line is farmers don’t want a check from the government, said Nobis. “What we want is a viable market and that viable market … has been damaged dramatically by the trade issues that we didn’t ask for, frankly.”

OMAHA (DTN) — U.S. winter wheat condition improved last week, while spring wheat planting, reported for the first time this season in USDA NASS’ weekly Crop Progress report on Monday, was behind the five-year average pace.

For the week ended Sunday, April 7, winter wheat was rated 60% in good-to-excellent condition, up 4 percentage points from 56% the previous week. The latest good-to-excellent rating is the highest for the crop in six years for this time of year.

Meanwhile, winter wheat in North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan were showing the most problems with poor-to-very-poor ratings of 23%, 26% and 35%, respectively.

Nationwide, 3% of winter wheat was headed as of Sunday, equal to last year and near the five-year average of 4%.

Spring wheat progress, on the other hand, was behind normal. Only 1% of the crop was planted as of Sunday, behind 2% last year and 5% for the five-year average. Planting was furthest behind in Idaho, where 3% of the crop was planted versus the average of 26%; Washington, where 11% was planted versus the average of 28%; and South Dakota, where none of the crop was planted versus the average of 14%.

In addition to spring wheat planting, NASS also reported national corn planting progress for this first time this season on Monday. As of Sunday, 2% of corn was planted, equal to both last year and the five-year average. Most corn planting took place in Texas, where 53% of the crop was planted as of Sunday, slightly ahead of the average pace of 51%.

Sorghum was 14% planted, compared to 16% last year and a 14% five-year average. Cotton planting was 6% complete, compared to 7% last year and a 5% average. Rice was 19% planted, compared to 20% last year and a 21% average.

Oats were 27% planted as of April 7, compared to 27% last year and a 32% average. Emergence was at 25%, compared to 25% last year and a 26% average.

Six states and the District of Columbia sued the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, saying it weakened nutritional standards in school breakfasts and lunches when it relaxed the requirements affecting salt and refined grains last year.

The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court asked a judge to overturn the changes, saying they were carried out in an arbitrary and capricious manner.

The government “significantly weakened” nutritional standards for sodium and whole grains, according to the lawsuit, without giving the public a chance to comment on them and in opposition to nutritional requirements for school meals set by Congress.

The states and D.C. said the standards should be based on recommendations of the U.S. government’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the National Academy of Sciences and scientific research regarding children’s nutrition.

The USDA school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches and breakfasts in public schools and other institutions. Last year, it served an estimated 30 million children.

An email seeking comment was sent to the Justice Department.

New York Attorney General Letitia James led the multistate civil legal action, saying in a release that over a million children in New York depend daily on the meals.

“The Trump Administration has undermined key health benefits for our children — standards for salt and whole grains in school meals — with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law,” she said.

The other plaintiffs are California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

The lawsuit was filed after the Trump administration late last year scaled back contested school lunch standards implemented under the Obama administration, including one requiring that only whole grains be served.

At the time of the reversal, the Department of Agriculture said it wanted to reduce bureaucracy that required schools to get special waivers in order to serve select refined grains foods.

The changes made by the Trump administration also permitted low-fat chocolate milk to be served again where only fat-free milk had been permitted to be flavored.

The department has said 20% of schools last year applied for exemptions to the whole-grain rule, most frequently so they could serve pasta, tortillas, biscuits and grits.

The 2018 changes still required schools to reduce sodium in foods in stages, but they eliminated a final target for reduced sodium.

WASHINGTON– Low-income Nebraskans recovering from recent flooding could be eligible for food benefits through the Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) program approved today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The department also approved the state’s request for temporary flexibility in meeting school lunch meal pattern requirements.

Households who may not normally be eligible under regular SNAP rules may qualify for D-SNAP, if they meet the disaster income limits and have qualifying disaster-related expenses.

“USDA is committed to helping Nebraskans get back on their feet in whatever capacity we can,” Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps said. “The D-SNAP program is an important step forward to help flood impacted families get food on the table.”

D-SNAP eligible households in the affected areas will receive one month of benefits, equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size, to meet their food needs. To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must live in an identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Nebraska will share information about D-SNAP operating dates and locations through the local media.

The timing of D-SNAP implementation varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. Before operating a D-SNAP program, a state must ensure that proper public information, staffing and resources are in place.

The D-SNAP announcement today is part of USDA’s continuing efforts to help Nebraskans cope with the disaster. USDA is also allowing school lunch and breakfast meal pattern flexibility for schools in Nebraska through April 26.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans with the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. For more information on FNS assistance during times of disaster, visit www.fns.usda.gov/disaster.

Nebraska – For the month of March 2019, topsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 2 short, 47 adequate, and 51 surplus, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Subsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 4 short, 62 adequate, and 34 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Winter wheat condition rated 1 percent very poor, 4 poor, 34 fair, 53 good, and 8 excellent.

Kansas – For the week ending March 24, 2019, there were 2.3 days suitable for fieldwork, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Topsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 1 short, 64 adequate, and 35 surplus.

Subsoil moisture supplies rated 0 percent very short, 1 short, 72 adequate, and 27 surplus.

Field Crops Report: Winter wheat condition rated 3 percent very poor, 8 poor, 37 fair, 45 good, and 7 excellent.

Weekly reports will begin April 1st for the 2019 season.

Dairy producers who participated in the Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy Cattle Program now can participate in the Margin Protection Program for Dairy for 2018 coverage.

The Department of Agriculture announced the eligibility last week. Producers enrolled in 2018 LGM-Dairy, administered by USDA’s Risk Management Agency under 2014 Farm Bill, were ineligible for coverage under MPP-Dairy, a safety net program available through USDA’s Farm Service Agency. FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce says changes in the 2018 Farm Bill “includes the ability for producers with LGM coverage to retroactively enroll in MPP-Dairy for 2018.”

The MPP-Dairy program offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the national all-milk price and the national average feed cost falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producers in a dairy operation. LGM-Dairy is an insurance product that provides protection when feed costs rise, or milk prices drop. This retroactive sign-up is only for dairy producers with 2018 LGM coverage who produced and marketed milk in 2018 but did not obtain full year MPP-Dairy coverage.

LINCOLN, NE – As the flood water recedes and snow melts, farmers and ranchers are getting a better look at the amount of damage their operations have suffered from last week’s extreme weather events.

One of the more significant losses experienced by landowners has been livestock death. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has assistance available to help landowners cope with the aftermath of livestock death.

Through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, commonly referred to as EQIP, farmers and ranchers can apply for assistance to properly dispose of dead livestock. Applications are being accepted now through July 1, 2019.

NRCS State Conservationist Craig Derickson said, “This was an unprecedented and devastating event for Nebraska. Some ranchers are dealing with hundreds of dead animals. This is not only damaging to their bottom-line, but if these animals are not disposed of properly, there could be negative impacts to water quality and other natural resources. NRCS conservationists are available to provide technical and financial assistance to help producers dispose of livestock carcasses in a safe manner.”

Producers who have not already disposed of livestock can apply for EQIP now. Producers can then get a waiver to allow them to begin working to dispose of deceased livestock before having an approved EQIP contract.

“Typically, producers cannot begin working on an EQIP practice before their EQIP contract has been approved. But since this situation is so time-critical, NRCS is encouraging producers to sign up for EQIP first, then submit a waiver to go ahead and begin animal disposal prior to having their EQIP contract approved,” Derickson said.

Producers in the area who suffered other damages due to the blizzard and flooding – such as damaged fencing, water sources, or windbreaks – may also seek assistance from NRCS through general EQIP funding. The sign-up period for general EQIP is continuous and has no cut off application date.

Derickson said, “NRCS is committed to helping producers get back on their feet after these extreme weather events while also ensuring Nebraska’s natural environment remains healthy and productive.”

For more information about the programs and assistance available from NRCS, visit your local USDA Service Center orwww.ne.nrcs.usda.gov.