Tag Archives: USDA

A group of dairy organizations wrote a letter this week to Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue and asked the USDA to help the struggling dairy industry. They want the agency to use its extensive purchasing power given to it by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security Act, to alleviate at least some of the stress on the U.S. dairy industry.

Approximately 80 percent of Americans are under orders to shelter in their homes. That means hundreds of thousands of restaurants, schools, and other food service outlets have either significantly reduced their offerings or shut down. That means cheese and butter manufacturers have lost their largest market segments.

While retail sales have increased during recent weeks, those sales are now leveling off and orders are slowing down. Overseas markets have been decimated. The letter to Secretary Perdue asks USDA to focus on purchases of nonfat dry milk, as well as cheese, including cheddar, mozzarella, and other Italian-style cheese.

They’re also asking USDA to look at different ways they have available to make farmers whole for the milk they’ve produced, but had to dispose of, or received drastically reduced payments. Some of the groups signing onto the letter include the Wisconsin Cheese Makers, Dairy Business Association, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, and the Wisconsin Farmers Union.

 

OMAHA (DTN) — USDA on Tuesday released its annual Planting Intentions and quarterly March 1 Grain Stocks reports.

Because DTN and other news outlets no longer have pre-release access to the reports, instead of one story, we are now sending a series of updates with each including more information as our analysts and reporters digest and analyze the new numbers.

According to DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman, Tuesday’s Grain Stocks report was bullish for corn, and neutral for soybeans and wheat. USDA’s planting intentions are bearish for new-crop corn, bullish for new-crop soybeans and neutral for new-crop wheat.

PROSPECTIVE PLANTINGS

USDA expects farmers to plant 97 million acres to corn, above the range of pre-report expectations. If realized, it will the highest acreage since 2012. Planted acreage is expected to be higher than last year in 38 or the 48 reporting states. USDA surveyed farmers in the first two weeks of March, during which Saudi Arabia and Russia’s oil dispute shook global markets including ethanol.

Soybean acreage is estimated at 83.5 million acres, toward the low end of pre-report expectations. Compared to last year, planting intentions are up or unchanged in 22 or the 29 reporting states, with large increases anticipated in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and South Dakota.

All wheat acreage is estimated at 44.7 million acres, 1% below last year’s levels and the lowest since recordkeeping began in 1919. Winter wheat area, at 30.8 million acres is down from last year but even with pre-report expectations. Of that total, 21.7 ma will be planted to hard red winter, 5.69 to soft red winter, 3.42 ma to white winter. Spring wheat acreage is expected to decline 1% from last year to 12.6 million acres.

All cotton area is estimated at 13.7 ma, down less than 1% from last year.

USDA MARCH 1 GRAIN STOCKS

CORN

Corn stocks on March 1 totaled 7.95 billion bushels (bb), down 8% from stocks a year ago and lower than the average pre-report analyst estimates. Of those corn stocks, farmers were holding 4.45 bb on the farm, which is 13% lower than a year ago. Off-farm stocks were at 3.5 bb, up just slightly from the same period in 2019.

Disappearance, or use, from December 2019 to February 2020 was 3.45 bb, compared to 3.32 bb for the same period last year.

SOYBEANS

As of March 1, soybean grain stocks were pegged at 2.25 bb, down 17% from last year and within the range analysts expected. Of those, USDA estimated 1.01 bb were stored on farm, down 20% from last year, and 1.24 bbwere stored off-farm, down 15% from last year.

The agency estimated that soybean usage for this past quarter (December 2019-February 2020) totaled 1 bb, down 1% from the same time period last year.

WHEAT

Total wheat stocks were estimated at 1.41 bb on March 1, down 11% from a year ago and within analysts’ pre-report range of estimates. On-farm stocks were pegged at 339 million bushels (mb), down 8% from last year, while off-farm stocks came in at 1.07 bb, down 12% from last year.

Usage from December 2019 through February 2020 was estimated at 428 mb, 3% up from the same period last year.

QUARTERLY STOCKS (million bushels)
3/1/20 Avg High Low 12/1/19 3/1/19
Corn 7,953 8,162 8,492 7,892 11,389 8,613
Soybeans 2,253 2,237 2,701 2,075 3,252 2,727
Wheat 1,412 1,437 1,572 1,385 1,834 1,593
PROSPECTIVE PLANTINGS
ACREAGE (million acres) USDA USDA
3/31/19 Avg High Low 2018-19 3/29/19
Corn 97.0 94.3 96.4 92.5 89.7 92.8
Soybeans 83.5 84.7 87.0 82.7 76.1 84.6
Cotton 13.7 13.8
Grain Sorghum 5.8 5.1
All Wheat 44.7 44.9 46.0 42.3 45.2 45.8
Winter 30.8 30.8 31.7 30.1 31.2 31.5
Spring 12.6 12.6 13.4 12.0 12.7 12.8
Durum 1.3 1.5 2.4 1.1 1.3 1.4
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2020 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand today announced that USDA has extended the deadline for ReConnect Pilot Program applications to April 15.
“In light of the COVID-19 National Emergency, USDA is extending the application deadline for round two of ReConnect Pilot Program funding to give rural businesses, cooperatives, and communities extra time to apply for this critical assistance that will help bring high-speed broadband connectivity to rural communities,” Brand said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA has made deploying this critical infrastructure in rural America a top priority, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
For additional information, see page 17530 of the March 30 Federal Register (PDF, 269 KB).
Background:
In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America. USDA received 146 applications between May 31, 2019, and July 12, 2019, requesting $1.4 billion in funding across all three ReConnect Program funding products: 100 percent loan, 100 percent grant, and loan-grant combinations. USDA is reviewing applications and announcing approved projects on a rolling basis. Additional investments in all three categories will be made in the coming weeks.
These grants, loans and combination funds enable the federal government to partner with the private sector and rural communities to build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service. Insufficient service is defined as connection speeds of less than 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload.
In December 2019, Agriculture Secretary Perdue announced USDA will be making available an additional $550 million in ReConnect funding in 2020. USDA will make available up to $200 million for grants, up to $200 million for 50/50 grant/loan combinations, and up to $200 million for low-interest loans. The application window for this round of funding opened on Jan. 31, 2020. Applications for all funding products will be accepted in the same application window, which will now close on March 31, 2020.
A full description of 2020 ReConnect Pilot Program funding is available on page 67913 of the Dec. 12, 2019, Federal Register (PDF, 336 KB). To learn more about eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force. To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

Indianapolis Indiana – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue  announced the acceptance of more than 3.4 million acres in the general Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup recently completed, the first general signup enrollments since 2016. County offices will begin notifying producers with accepted offers no later than April 3.

Through CRP, farmers and ranchers receive an annual rental payment for establishing long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of our nation’s largest conservation endeavors and is critical in helping producers better manage their operations while conserving valuable natural resources,” State Executive Director Steve Brown said. “The program marked its 35th anniversary this year, and we were quite pleased to see one of our largest signups in many years.”

Over these 35 years, CRP has addressed multiple concerns while ensuring the most competitive offers are selected by protecting fragile and environmentally sensitive lands, improving water quality, enhancing wildlife populations, providing pollinator forage habitat, sequestering carbon in soil and enhancing soil productivity. Seventy percent of the nation’s land is owned and tended privately, and America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have willingly stepped up to protect the environment and natural resources.

This general signup included offers for State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), which allows producers to install practices that benefit high-priority, locally developed wildlife conservation objectives using targeted restoration of vital habitat. Over 95 percent of SAFE offers submitted were accepted under this general signup representing more than 487,500 acres. This acceptance level highlights the commitment to SAFE as an important part of CRP.

The 2018 Farm Bill established a nationwide acreage limit for CRP, with the total number of acres that may be enrolled capped at 24.5 million acres in 2020 and growing to 27 million by 2023.

While the deadline for general CRP signup was February 28, 2020, signups for continuous CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, CRP Grasslands and the Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) are ongoing. The CRP Grasslands deadline is May 15, and the SHIPP signup begins March 30, 2020, and ends August 21, 2020.

Continuous and Grasslands enrollments are available nationwide.  All counties located within the Prairie Pothole region states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota are eligible for SHIPP.

This spring, FSA will roll out a new pilot conservation program, the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers 30 (CLEAR 30).

USDA Service Centers are open for business by phone appointment only and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While our program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with our producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

For state-by-state information on general signup results, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced additional flexibilities to make it easier for children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities to get food during the COVID-19 national emergency and remove administrative roadblocks for the dedicated local staff who serve them. These changes are in line with USDA’s commitment to keep Americans safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and explore all options to keep kids fed during this unprecedented time.

 

“USDA is committed to maximizing our services and flexibilities to ensure children and others who need food can get it during this Coronavirus epidemic,” said Secretary Perdue. “This is a challenging time for many Americans, but it is reassuring to see our Government and fellow Americans stepping up to the challenges facing us to make sure kids and those facing hunger are fed.”

 

Background:

Under one of the newly-announced waivers, USDA is giving states the option to allow parents or guardians to take meals home to their children. Typically, children would need to be present to receive a meal through USDA’s child nutrition programs.

 

However, USDA recognizes that this may not be practical during the current COVID-19 outbreak. This flexibility is also available for states to assist seniors and individuals with disabilities served through the Child and Adult Care Food Program. Additional nationwide flexibilities announced today include:

  • Allowing states to waive meal pattern requirements, so local operators can create meals with the foods they have available; and
  • Delaying administrative deadlines associated with the Community Eligibility Provisionto ease burdens on schools that are currently closed due to COVID-19.

 

Since the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, USDA has been working tirelessly with states and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators are empowered to continue feeding children. These flexibilities complement previously-announced nationwide actions that temporarily waive:

 

USDA will continue to provide technical assistance to help state agencies swiftly implement these flexibilities.

 

Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has taken to uphold the USDA’s commitment to “Do Right and Feed Everyone” during this national emergency. Other actions include:

  • Launching a new coronavirus webpage to proactively inform the public about USDA’s efforts to keep children and families fed
  • Investing in a public-private partnershipto feed rural childrenimpacted by school closures due to COVID-19;
  • Allowing states to issue Pandemic EBT(electronic benefits transfer, similar to food stamps) to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures;
  • Providing administrative flexibilities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to allow for social distancing; and
  • Allowing states to issue emergency supplemental SNAP benefitsto increase recipients’ purchasing power during the national emergency.

 

 

These actions and more are part of USDA’s focus on service during the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more about FNS’s response to COVID-19, visit www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus

 

The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service statistical reports remain on schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the March 26 Hogs and Pigs and March 31 Prospective Plantings reports.

NASS reports the agency also continues to collect data for all upcoming reports, asking farmers and ranchers to complete their surveys online, if they don’t already respond that way. To protect the health and safety of producers, partners, and employees, NASS has suspended in-person data collection at least until April 3, 2020.

NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer says, “We are making every effort to produce the U.S. crop, livestock, and economic statistics that the nation counts on, but to do that responsibly, we are following guidance to slow the spread of coronavirus.” Ensuring that responses are returned on time means little or no additional outreach is needed.

USDA says online response is faster and more convenient for producers. To respond online at agcounts.usda.gov, producers will need their unique 17-digit survey code from the questionnaire or letter received in the mail.

Lincoln, Nebraska– U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Centers are encouraging visitors to take proactive protective measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Beginning Monday, March 23, USDA Service Centers in Nebraska will continue to be open for business by phone appointment only, and field work will continue with appropriate social distancing. While program delivery staff will continue to come into the office, they will be working with producers by phone, and using online tools whenever possible. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or any other Service Center agency are required to call their Service Center to schedule a phone appointment. In the event a Service Center is closed, producers can receive assistance from the closest alternate Service Center by phone.

Producers can find Service Center phone numbers at farmers.gov/service-center-locator. FPAC agencies continue to look at flexibilities to deliver programs on behalf of producers, just as they have in past situations, such as natural disasters. Farmers and ranchers are resilient and FPAC agencies will continue to deliver the farm safety net programs and resource conservation programs that keep American agriculture in business today and long into the future.

Online services are available to customers with an eAuth account, which provides access to the farmers.gov portal where producers can view USDA farm loan information and payments and view and track certain USDA program applications and payments. Online NRCS services are available to customers through the Conservation Client Gateway. Customers can track payments, report completed practices, request conservation assistance, and electronically sign documents. Customers who do not already have an eAuth account can enroll at farmers.gov/sign-in.

For the most current updates on available services and Service Center status visit farmers.gov/coronavirus.

The first approved coronavirus bill includes several nutrition provisions. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by President Donald Trump Wednesday.

Among other things, the legislation provides more than $1 billion to provide food to pregnant women and mothers with young children, help food banks, and provide meals to families and seniors. The bill creates a Health Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to allow states to increase benefits for families who need additional food assistance during this crisis.

The legislation also lifts certain restrictions that make it harder for families to continue to get food during this time. The legislation also Improves child nutrition programs to allow schools and nonprofits to serve children during closures and allows multiple meals to be taken home or delivered. The bill allows alternative meal distribution methods such as mobile delivery.

Additionally, the bill expands eligibility to schools and nonprofits, establishes a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for families that rely on school meals, expands food distribution through food bank funding, and allows states to waive burdensome requirements.

Two farm-state Senators want the Department of Agriculture to change a rule in the Packers and Stockyards Act. Senate Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senate Democrat Jon Tester of Montana recently sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting USDA “clarify an ambiguous proposed rule regarding the undue and reasonable preferences provision of the Packers and Stockyards Act.”

Grassley and Tester are urging USDA to ensure the new rule protects small livestock and poultry farmers from unreasonable practices of packers and poultry companies. In their letter, they outlined specific changes to address this proposed rule. The Senators say the current rule, “not only fails to address many of these abusive and unreasonable industry practices, but it actively establishes criteria insulating packers and poultry companies from scrutiny.”

The rule also appears to provide legal protection for packers who are able to justify a practice based on the need to save costs and reduce prices, or if their practices are deemed “customary” in the industry because they align with those of their competitors.

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced a collaboration with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19:

 

“Feeding children who are affected by school closures is a top priority for President Trump and this Administration. USDA is working with private sector partners to deliver boxes of food to children in rural America who are affected by school closures,” said Secretary Perdue. “Right now, USDA and local providers are utilizing a range of innovative feeding programs to ensure children are practicing social distancing but are still receiving healthy and nutritious food. This whole of America approach to tackling the coronavirus leverages private sector ingenuity with the exact same federal financing as the Summer Food Service Program. USDA has already taken swift action to ensure children are fed in the event of school closures, and we continue to waive restrictions and expand flexibilities across our programs.”

 

“We are grateful to come alongside USDA, PepsiCo, and McLane Global to ensure that children impacted by school closures get access to nutritious food regardless of where they live. We know from first-hand experience that families with children who live in rural communities across the U.S. are often unable to access the existing food sites. Meal delivery is critical for children in rural America to have consistent access to food when school is out. This is one way we, as citizens of this great nation, can respond to our neighbors in need,” said Jeremy Everett, Executive Director, Baylor University Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty.

 

“McLane Global was proud to take part in the success of the summer Meals-2-You home delivery pilot program in 2019. It was a great opportunity to bring private industry best practices together with the USDA to combat rural hunger. Given the rapid disruptions driven by COVID-19, we can work together to swiftly take this model nationwide. McLane Global is ready to do its part to support the fight against hunger through this crisis,” said Denton McLane, Chairman, McLane Global.

 

“As schools around the country close, millions of schoolchildren now don’t know where their next meal is coming from. In the face of this unprecedented crisis, it’s critical that the private sector help ensure these students have access to nutritious meals,” said Jon Banner, Executive Vice President, PepsiCo Global Communications and President, PepsiCo Foundation. “PepsiCo is committing $1 million to help Baylor create a solution with USDA to identify children most in need and then we will help reach them with at least 200,000 meals per week—one way we are deploying our food and beverage resources to help those most vulnerable.”

 

Background:

USDA will utilize best practices learned through a summer pilot program in 2019 to deliver food boxes to children affected by school closures due to COVID-19 in rural America. Baylor will coordinate with the appropriate state officials to prioritize students who do not currently have access to a Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) site and have an active outbreak of COVID-19. Initial capacity is limited, and additional vendors are requested and encouraged to ensure we can provide food to more rural children as additional schools close. USDA has created a single contact for those who have suggestions, ideas, or want to help feed kids across the country. Email FeedingKids@usda.gov.

 

The Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, and PepsiCo will begin distributing next week and will quickly increase capacity of nearly 1,000,000 nutritious meals per week. In addition to distribution, PepsiCo will generously provide $1 million in funding to the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty to facilitate nationwide distribution in the coming weeks. These boxes will contain five days worth of shelf-stable, nutritious, individually packaged foods that meet USDA’s summer food requirements. The use of this innovative delivery system will ensure rural children receive nutritious food while limiting exposure to COVID-19. USDA will reimburse private sector partners for the same rate as an SFSP site.

 

Last week, Secretary Perdue announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s summer meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.

 

USDA intends to use all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. USDA is receiving requests for waivers on an ongoing basis. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and USDA has granted those requests.