2018-06-13 / Arts and Entertainment

USDA offers host of new programs for farmers

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has announced a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service to help military veterans obtain loans and pursue careers as farmers and ranchers.

Perdue joined local dignitaries, members of the Armed Forces, veterans, and community leaders at the Dallas Farmers Market in Texas to unveil the new pilot program.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency is collaborating with AgriLife Extension Service on the pilot, which is part of the Texas A&M Battleground to Breaking Ground project. The program makes it easier for veterans to meet federal requirements to get FSA direct farm ownership loans, which can help provide access to land and capital.

“Veterans retiring from active duty face many challenges, and this effort provides them with hands-on training and financial planning to help them succeed as new farmers and ranchers,” said Secretary Perdue, who is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “Through this pilot, veterans will learn how to build an agricultural business and how USDA can help them at every step of the way. We are committed to supporting veterans, whether they are starting or growing their farming or ranching operations. This is an important step in our efforts to strengthen the American economy and support our American heroes.”

The USDA has also announced that it is resuming Continuous Conservation Reserve Program enrollment. A one-year extension is available to holders of many expiring contracts through Countinuous Signup.

As part of a 33-year effort to protect sensitive lands and improve water quality and wildlife habitat on private lands, the USDA will resume accepting applications for the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Eligible farmers, ranchers, and private landowners can sign up at the local Farm Service Agency office between June 4 and Aug. 17.

“The Conservation Reserve Program is an important component of the suite of voluntary conservation programs USDA makes available to agricultural producers, benefiting both the land and wildlife,” Perdue said. “On the road, I often hear firsthand how popular CRP is for our recreational sector; hunters, fishermen, conservationists and bird watchers. “CRP also is a powerful tool to encourage agricultural producers to set aside unproductive, marginal lands that should not be farmed to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, provide habitat for wildlife and boost soil health.”

FSA stopped accepting applications last fall for the CRP continuous signup (excluding applications for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and CRP grasslands). This pause allowed USDA to review available acres and avoid exceeding the 24 million-acre CRP cap set by the 2014 Farm Bill. New limited practice availability and short sign up period helps ensure that landowners with the most sensitive acreage will enroll in the program and avoid unintended competition with new and beginning farmers seeking leases. CRP enrollment currently is about 22.7 million acres.

For this year’s signup, limited priority practices are available for continuous enrollment. They include grassed waterways, filter strips, riparian buffers, wetland restoration and others.

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