Banking on Carbon: Policy Considerations for Carbon Payments and Sequestration in Agriculture

The climate is changing at a quickening pace as a direct result of human activities. Our actions cause increasing amounts of atmospheric greenhouse gases that trap solar energy, driving increasingly severe and frequent heat waves, droughts and strong storms. Read more about Banking on Carbon: Policy Considerations for Carbon Payments and Sequestration in Agriculture

SBA Disaster Loans Available to Nebraska Small Businesses

Small, nonfarm businesses in all Nebraska counties except Richardson county are eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans from the US Small Business Administration (SBA). The loans offset economic losses due to reduced revenues caused by drought conditions.

“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers who have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” according to Alfred Judd, spokesman for the SBA.

Small, nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). These loans are up to $2 million and are intended to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

“Eligibility for these loans is based on the financial impact of the disaster only and not on any actual property damage. The loans have an interest rate of 4% for businesses and 2.875% for private, nonprofit organizations; a maximum term of 30 years; and are available to small businesses and most private, nonprofits without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship,” said Judd.

By law, SBA makes EIDLs available when the US Secretary of Agriculture designates an agricultural disaster. Secretary Tom Vilsack declared this disaster on April 10, 2013.

Businesses primarily engaged in farming or ranching are not eligible for SBA disaster assistance.  Agricultural enterprises should contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) about USDA assistance made available by the Secretary’s declaration. However, in drought disasters nurseries are eligible for SBA disaster assistance.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website
 
Information and application forms are also available from SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling 800.659.2955 or emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov .

The deadline to apply for these loans is December 10, 2013. Read more about SBA Disaster Loans Available to Nebraska Small Businesses

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Fostering the Next Family Farm and Ranch Generation

In the coming week, Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Tim Walz (D-MN), Chris Gibson (D-NY) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) will re-introduce the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will do the same in the Senate.

While there is no silver bullet for reversing America’s family farm and ranch exodus, there are proven strategies that create opportunities for beginners. And the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act was written to invest in those strategies and help new farmers and ranchers overcome barriers and take advantage of emerging markets.

Nurturing the next generation of family farmers and ranchers is a long row to hoe. And this bill is smart, cost-effective public policy that will create jobs and invest in rural America’s future through training, mentoring, business planning and other services for farm and ranch startups. It will also fund the highly effective Value Added Producer Grants program with emphasis on projects benefiting new farmers and ranchers.

Moreover, the bill creates saving and enhanced lending provisions that help beginners access credit and establish savings while providing incentives to assist them in establishing conservation and sustainable practices. The Center for Rural Affairs applauds the bipartisan sponsors of this legislation. Rural Americans will need to equal their courage and dedication to fostering the next family farm and ranch generation to ensure that the Farm Bill being written this year includes this policy and more that create genuine economic opportunity and a better quality of life throughout rural America. Read more about Fostering the Next Family Farm and Ranch Generation

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
Weekly column

Rural Monitor: Lawyers Sparse in the Country

The New York Times reports, “Rural Americans are increasingly without lawyers.” This is despite the growing struggle for law school graduates to find employment and the reality that the population of rural America comprises about a fifth of the people.

Fredric Cozad, 86, is retiring in Bennett County, SD, and there will not be a lawyer within 120 miles of the county seat. | Photo by Matthew Staver for The New York Times

South Dakota passed a new law to help remedy this shortage of lawyers. The state will offer $12,000 annually to those who commit to live and work in rural areas for a minimum of five years. The Times notes this covers 90% of one year at the University of South Dakota’s law school. The law goes into effect in June and is modeled after similar federal programs that encourage healthcare professionals to practice in underserved areas.

You might be thinking, “Who needs more lawyers?” (And I can appreciate that sentiment.) The most compelling reason is the simple fact that a fifth of the American people are rural — a notably large portion of our population. Adequate legal representation for all keeps our democracy strong.

Legal representation is especially important as rural areas work to find their footing in today’s complicated economy. Just note the speed of change in the agricultural industry over the last 50 years. New areas of development like wind energy beckon. Landowners and communities have a real need for lawyers to ensure that agreements entered into are fair and profitable for all parties.

Another very practical reason for attracting and retaining lawyers in rural areas: it keeps money local! [Imagine “Shop Local” canvas tote bag now.] Paying for legal advice locally means that money is more likely going to be spent locally, which strengthens the local economy. The addition of another potentially engaged citizen strengthens our rural communities too.

So maybe now you’re thinking, “Who wants to work way out yonder in the backwoods/boondocks/middle-of-nowhere?” Well, we at the Center couldn’t disagree with this sentiment more. We love rural America, warts and all. It offers a rich professional landscape for lawyers and others. As rural South Dakota and 86 year-old lawyer Fredric Cozad told the Times, “The needs of the people are still there. There is plenty of work and opportunity.” There are wills, sales, disputes, and crime just like everywhere else.

For me, it’s the quality of stars at night that makes rural living wonderful. But perhaps the most compelling reason for young lawyers to move to rural America is the high quality of life we can offer with our room to stretch, quiet to think within, and affordable cost of living.

Who knows young lawyer reading this, maybe the Center’s hometown of Lyons, Nebraska, is just the place for you. Good Stars: check. Good people: check. An appealing brick Main Street for you to establish your practice on: check. An awesome nonprofit: check. Just give me a call with your move-in date and I'll show up with a strong back and a case of beer.

Click here to read the complete version of The New York Times article I mention. Read more about Rural Monitor: Lawyers Sparse in the Country

Newsletter

Energy Project Builds Capacity and Economic Opportunity

Here at the Center for Rural Affairs we spend a lot of time working hard to create economic development opportunity in rural communities. When it comes to energy, we know this opportunity can be realized only if we further develop clean energy transmission infrastructure.

In the Dakotas, they’re doing just that. Big Stone South to Ellendale is a transmission line that will run from a new substation near Big Stone City, SD, to a proposed substation near Ellendale, ND.

The project is being developed by Montana-Dakota Utility and Otter Tail Power. Once built, it will help to include renewable energy sources, an essential quality to promoting renewable energy in the Midwest.

Right now the project is entering the permitting and review phase in South Dakota. Filing for a route permit in North Dakota is planned for August 2013, and the developers are examining study corridors to find potential routes for the line.

So far two rounds of open houses have been held to gather community feedback on possible routes. The developers will next submit a preferred route and an alternative for review and approval. Learn more and find out how you can get involved. Read more about Energy Project Builds Capacity and Economic Opportunity

  • Clean Energy
Newsletter

Will Obamacare Help You?

What are your plans for October? Between decorating for Halloween and planning for Thanksgiving, you’re probably not thinking about your health insurance. But if you and your family want the possibility of big savings on your health care, October is your month.

This October, each state is scheduled to have a new health insurance marketplace, or “exchange.” Some of them are run by states, some by the federal government, and still others are a partnership between the two.

How will this affect your family? For everyone below 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($88,000 for a family of four), subsidies will be provided to make health insurance affordable. And new in 2014: the amount you pay for insurance will not depend on your past or current health problems.

Here’s how it will work. Private insurance companies will put insurance plans in the marketplace, and explain them in plain English. Companies will compete for your business, and the maximum you’ll pay for your premium is 9.5 percent. Many will pay much less, depending on your annual income.
October is the beginning of enrollment for these plans, which means you can see the hard numbers of how much your family or business can save. Plans will go into effect January 1, 2014.

You’ll be able to buy insurance anytime, but why wait? The sooner you enroll, the sooner you’ll start saving! Read more about Will Obamacare Help You?

  • Rural Health
Newsletter

Putting the Public Back in Public Power

This winter the energy team at the Center for Rural Affairs zigzagged across Nebraska. Renewable energy was on our minds. We sat down with renewable energy advocates and elected board members of the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD). The board members represented most of our state.

Rural people who are concerned with the source of their power and Nebraska’s energy future came to the meetings to express their opinions. They discussed the benefits and road blocks of developing renewable energy in Nebraska.

Public power district employees also attended. They purchase power directly from NPPD, so they shared their concerns and views on energy procurement.

Rural advocates pressed board members to support increased wind and solar energy projects in Nebraska. They cited the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy for rural areas of the state.

NPPD had released an Integrated Resource Plan identifying their preferred mix for future generation options. They also held a series of public meetings to gather input on the study.

Nebraskans can have an impact on NPPD’s decisions on the source of rural Nebraska’s power!

Can you have impact in your state? We’d like to know how. Contact Johnathan Hladik, johnathanh@cfra.org or 402.687.2100 to tell us about your experiences. Read more about Putting the Public Back in Public Power

  • Clean Energy
Newsletter

Response to Reader Critique of Wind Energy Work

Several of you have criticized our work on wind energy. Specifically, our support for utility-scale wind and transmission lines to bring energy from rural areas to urban demand centers. Critics contend that puts us at odds with community wind energy. We view it differently. Here’s why.

A Clean Energy Future
Climate change, energy security, and economic drivers demand we shift our electricity system to renewable resources. Scenarios of getting 80 percent of our electricity from renewables were once fanciful. Now they seem plausible.

Distributed, home-based, and community-based generation will help achieve the goal. But without utility-scale developments, we’ll fall short.

Transmission Bottlenecks
Our aging transmission system delivered power from large coal and nuclear generators directly to demand centers. Lines were never built in sufficient quantities throughout rural areas – home to our best wind resources.

Transmission bottlenecks are now a barrier for both community-based and utility-scale wind developments. No matter who owns the wind turbines, we must upgrade transmission to advance renewable development.

Capital Costs
Wind power is incredibly capital intensive. The capital needed is considerably greater than for family farming, even with today’s high land prices. The cost of a commercial-scale wind turbine ranges from $1.2 million to $2.6 million per megawatt of capacity. That puts ownership out of reach for most rural people. To the extent local capital exists, only the most well off can invest.

Investing in a wind project doesn’t help a beginning farmer get started. It won’t add profitability to a struggling family farm. But rental payments for hosting a utility-scale investor-owned project could. Strategies other than local ownership may create the most opportunity for people who are not already wealthy.

Creating Opportunity
Communities benefit from renewable energy in lots of ways. One is through community ownership opportunities. Payments to landowners who host turbines, increased property tax collections, and good jobs in wind turbine maintenance are others.

Solar costs are dropping too. Residential and farm-based use of solar energy may increase.

Here in Nebraska we’re encouraging employee ownership in wind developments. Innovative legislation would give employees of modest means a way to earn an ownership stake in a wind farm.

We are advocating new models for transmission ownership too. One proposal includes long-term payments for landowners based on a share of revenue generated by the line. Another proposal would provide local investment and ownership opportunities. These models have precedent in Canada and Germany.

In Summary
Advocating against new transmission would bring wind development to a near halt. Opportunity that could be captured for a struggling rural community might shift to offshore projects instead. And significant ground would be lost in slowing climate change.

Critics have suggested our support for utility-scale wind energy is driven by favoritism for big developers. It is not. As with all issues, we think carefully about how to maximize opportunity for communities and for moderate-income workers while balancing environmental considerations.

We’re working hard to engage rural people and partner organizations in a conversation about wind energy and transmission development. Our focus is doing it in a way that respects legitimate landowner concerns, maximizes opportunity, and protects our natural resources.

At the Center we champion renewable energy without demanding it all be done in a certain way. We criticize wind energy policies that are bad for rural areas. And we encourage use of wind energy in general. The wind blows hard out here. Let’s take advantage of it every way we can. Read more about Response to Reader Critique of Wind Energy Work

  • Clean Energy
Newsletter

Responsible Approach Needed for Subsidized Crop Insurance

Federally subsidized crop insurance has become the primary farm program. It needs some changes to be good for family farms and conservation. It must also be fiscally responsible to leave room in the federal budget for other farm and small-town priorities.

Federal crop insurance’s magnitude was underscored by a Farm Credit Services study. It showed that $4.5 billion in 2012 crop insurance indemnities to farmers in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming saved about 21,000 jobs. Those payments kept farm income at the second highest level ever in spite of record drought.

Crop insurance receives multiple federal subsidies: 1) In good years, as well as bad, the government pays 62 percent of farmers’ crop insurance premiums, 2) The feds pay over a billion dollars of insurance companies’ administrative costs, and 3) In years of big crop failures, the government reimburses insurance companies for their losses. The total cost last year was about $16 billion.

With its emergence as the primary farm program, some key crop insurance issues need attention.

The primary farm subsidy is now uncapped. If one corporation farmed every acre in America, the government would pay 62 percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre. According to the Government Accountability Office, a $40,000 cap on those subsidies would have saved $1 billion in 2011. Uncapped premium subsidies help mega farms bid land away from smaller and beginning farmers. They contribute to deficits. And, like the big bank bailout, they enable the rich and powerful to socialize risk while privatizing profit.

There are no conservation requirements. Recipients of insurance premium subsidies, unlike other farm payments, are not required to practice soil conservation. High prices are now signaling farmers to maximize production. With no conservation requirement, that production will in some cases come at the expense of the soil. Furthermore, federal crop insurance has placed taxpayers in the position of bearing the risk for irresponsible individuals out to make a quick buck by tearing out fragile grasslands.

Subsidies increase as farm prices rise, driving up federal spending. It costs the government more to insure $7 corn than $4 corn. Direct farm payments were criticized for paying farmers as much in good years as bad. But federal crop insurance goes further. Premium subsidies are bigger in years when prices are higher – generally years of lesser need. Even before the drought, the cost of premium subsidies had quadrupled over 10 years to $7 billion, more than any other farm policy.

Record subsidies at a time of high prices are adding fuel to land price inflation. They are also squeezing other priorities out of the budget. The farm bill extension continued unlimited mega farm premium subsidies – even to those selling record crops at record prices. But to meet budget targets, new conservation enrollments were blocked. Beginning farmer and rural small business development programs were defunded.

Farmers who count on traditional farm programs to protect against long periods of low prices should also be concerned about focusing most spending on crop insurance. It protects only against price declines within a crop year, not against extended periods of low prices. Prices will inevitably fall. And when they do, farmers will be able to insure their crops only at the lower price.

It’s time to develop a responsible approach to subsidized crop insurance. Premium subsidies should be capped at reasonable levels. Recipients should be required to practice conservation and should not be subsidized to tear up grasslands. It’s also fair to ask whether premium subsidies should always increase in response to rising crop prices – particularly in years of normal yields.

Only with a fiscally responsible crop insurance program can we afford programs that protect farmers in the inevitable low price years. And only then can we afford to invest in protecting the land and establishing a new generation of farms and businesses to keep our small towns and countryside strong. Read more about Responsible Approach Needed for Subsidized Crop Insurance

  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Newsletter

Wind Energy Leading the Way in 2013

The U.S. has seen strong growth in the wind energy industry, and 2012 was a record year for the amount of installed capacity. Over 13,000 megawatts of capacity was installed last year according to the American Wind Energy Association, which brings the total capacity to 60,007 megawatts nationwide.

In 2013 so far, wind energy has made up over 60% of all new generating capacity installed in the United States according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s update. During January and February of 2013, wind energy beat out all other generating sources for new projects, adding six new projects in those two months.

The addition of these projects brings the total amount of installed wind capacity in the United States to 60.1 gigawatts, making it over 5% of our electric generation. According to the Energy Information Administration’s latest numbers, this is a sizable bump for the country--in 2012, wind power constituted only about 3.5% of U.S. electricity.

Most of this is due in part to states taking the lead on including more wind energy in the mix, attracting developers and economic opportunity to their states. In 2011, only five states hit at least 10% in their wind energy mix. The newest numbers for 2013 show that the number has now risen to nine states. The nine states on the list not only gain the benefit of clean and renewable energy to power their states, but they also see new jobs and revenue spring up from this prospering industry. Read more about Wind Energy Leading the Way in 2013

  • Clean Energy
Weekly column

Farmer Fly-In Offers Congressional Leaders Input on Farm Bill

Farmers and rural leaders headed to Washington, DC in March to lobby on the Farm Bill. Congress was finalizing its spending bills, so it was a good time get their ear.

William Powers, a farmer and executive director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, urged legislators to restore funding in critical programs that invest in beginning farmers and ranchers.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is an example. It helped the Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society, the Center, and other partners train and mentor beginning farmers so they could launch into agriculture.

We also urged support for the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program. It helped organizations across the country provide loans and technical assistance to small town, main street businesses.
Another big issue was the Conservation Stewardship Program. It suffered cuts in the short-term funding bill last year. By fixing that, USDA could move forward with enrollment for 2013.

Greg Brokaw, a farmer/rancher from Ashley, ND, shared his concerns with his new Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Greg has seen significant conversion of native grassland to cropland, noting that subsidized crop insurance is the guiding force. Greg supports including a Sodsaver provision in a new five-year farm bill.

A recent study published by South Dakota State University drives home this very point. Between 2006 and 2011, North and South Dakota led all states in converting grassland to cropland in less suitable areas for producing corn. The report suggests federal crop insurance encouraged that expansion because it helps manage the financial risk of corn crops in less suitable climates.

Greg is also concerned with the impact unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies are having on rural communities. He believes the policy is abused and should be targeted to small and mid-size family farmers and ranchers.

Robert Bernt, a farmer from Spaulding, NE, raised his support for the Value Added Producer Grant Program. While it has a small amount of money this year, we need a five-year farm bill to fund the program long term. It helped Robert establish his organic, grassfed dairy, and he sells products locally across Nebraska and in parts of Iowa.

At the end of the day, our meetings were about moving Congress in the direction of passing a five-year farm bill that prioritizes what they heard from the farmers. Invest in beginning farmers and ranchers, small town businesses, and conservation of the land and water. Read more about Farmer Fly-In Offers Congressional Leaders Input on Farm Bill

  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Newsletter

New Era for Local Grocery Store

When the grocery store in Elwood, Nebraska, closed in January 2012, Sharlette Schwenninger and LeahAnn Brell went into action.

Schwenninger and Brell are Village Board members and leaders on the Chamber of Commerce in Elwood, a rural town of 707 people in south-central Nebraska. Determined to bring groceries back to Elwood, they scheduled a community meeting and distributed a community interest survey door to door.

Within a month, over 100 community members attended the meeting to learn the survey results and support efforts to open a new grocery store. At the close of the meeting, 10 volunteers formed a steering committee to move the project forward.

The committee members’ experience ranged from business management to accounting to construction. “It was an amazing group of people to work with,” said Schwenninger. The steering committee met weekly, with subcommittees for finance, facilities, surveys, marketing, and incorporation – working long hours and reporting back.

After exploring several business models, the steering committee decided to incorporate as a cooperative. The cooperative structure allowed community members to have a stake in their own market. “Elwood is only 14 miles from Lexington, and it’s easy for many people to pick up groceries on their way home from work,” explained Schwenninger. “We wanted to give people a good reason to buy in town.”

Over the summer of 2012, organizers began a heavily advertised membership drive. They sold $500 shares to community members, who would own the grocery store collectively. Once the membership drive reached its “go” threshold (75 percent of the budget secured), the cooperative purchased the old grocery store building and began remodeling. Community volunteers helped throughout the process, from demolition to stocking shelves.

Thirteen months after the closing of Elwood’s grocery store, the Elwood Hometown Cooperative Market opened for business in February 2013. So far, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive, and the store is expanding its services and hours. “We’re at or ahead of our projections, and that’s very gratifying,” said Schwenninger.

“This is a great example of doing a co-op right,” said Jim Crandall, Outreach Program Coordinator for the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, who helped guide the cooperative’s formation. “They planned that whole business on paper first. They did their research and asked lots of questions, and they weren’t afraid of the answers they got. If there were problems, they mitigated them and moved on.”

The Elwood Hometown Cooperative Market has had its share of difficulties, including leaky roofs, management troubles, and equipment problems, but it has adapted quickly and is now poised for long-term success.

Moving forward, the Elwood community itself will sustain the store. “It’s a self-fulfilling thing,” said Crandall. Cooperative members form the backbone of the business, and they benefit from it most.

In Elwood, a rural community worked together to save their grocery store. With the support and commitment of a whole town behind it, the Elwood Hometown Cooperative Market has a bright future in a vibrant, engaged rural community. Read more about New Era for Local Grocery Store

  • Small TownsCommunity Food
Newsletter

Corporate Farming Notes: COOL and Kansas Anti-Corporate Farming Law

Things are looking up for Country of Origin Labeling. COOL requires retailers to provide consumers information about the country where fruits, vegetables, fish, shellfish, and meats originate. Last June, the World Trade Organization found that US rules for meat discriminate against Canadian and Mexican imports. They issued a May 23 deadline to comply with the ruling.

Fortunately, on March 8, USDA issued a strong proposed rule. It would prohibit co-mingling of muscle cuts, eliminate the vague “mixed origin” label, and require that all cuts of meat display information on the label about where the animal was born, raised, and slaughtered.

The Center for Rural Affairs applauds USDA’s new COOL rule. The “born, raised, and slaughtered” standard is especially encouraging. We’ve worked for nearly two decades in support of this labeling. First to get the law passed as part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Next to see it implemented. And now it stands to become the foundation of country of origin meat labeling.

Of course the meat industry is scurrying for cover. Retaining the strength of the rule will require support from family farmers, ranchers, rural organizations, and other concerned citizens.

Comments to USDA on the rule must be received by April 11, 2013. You’ll find more information on submitting comments here. Or you can contact me directly – johnc@cfra.org or 402.687.2100.

On March 8, the Kansas Senate heard testimony on legislation that would allow out-of-state ownership of Kansas farms and ranches. It also removes county commissions’ authority to block development of corporate hog and dairy operations.

This is part of a legislative package intended to repeal Kansas’ anti-corporate farming law and clear the path for corporate hog and dairy operations. Other bills would make it even more difficult to bring nuisance suits against industrial livestock operations. They would weaken rules on where such operations can be built.

“Let’s not kid ourselves…,” said Mary Fund of the Kansas Rural Center in her testimony. “[This bill] is not about helping family farmers; it is not about jobs or rebuilding communities. If corporate agriculture and consolidation brought jobs and healthy communities, western Kansas would be a paradise today. This is more of the same, and the result has always been fewer farmers, declining rural communities, and shrinking economic opportunities.”

Hear, hear Mary… hear, hear. Read more about Corporate Farming Notes: COOL and Kansas Anti-Corporate Farming Law

  • Farm PolicyCorporate Farming
Newsletter

Farm Bill Progress Still Stalled in Washington

Even though the Farm Bill was extended by the fiscal cliff legislation that passed in January, Congress is still making crucial farm and rural policy choices. Spending decisions in the appropriations and budget processes strike at the heart of the matter… whether we cut Farm Bill spending in ways that do the least damage or perhaps even help rural America, or slash investments in the future of rural people and rural places.
 
Investments in rural development, beginning farmers and ranchers, and conservation of soil and water hold great hope for rural cities and small towns. Unfortunately, Congress is under-investing in these vital initiatives, and over-subsidizing crop insurance premiums for mega-farms.
 
The fiscal cliff legislation and the sequester cut deeply into investments in rural America’s future while continuing to provide unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to the nation’s largest farms. If one corporation farmed your entire state, the federal government would pay sixty percent of its crop insurance premiums on every acre, every year, regardless of price, production or profitability.
 
Tight budgets make it more important than ever to change Farm Bill spending priorities. I have yet to meet the person who believes it is more important to provide unlimited crop insurance premium subsidies to mega-farms than it is to invest in the future of our rural economy through beginning farmer and rancher programs and rural small business development as well as conservation programs to keep land and water healthy for future generations.
  Read more about Farm Bill Progress Still Stalled in Washington

  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Weekly column

Spring and Conservation: Both in Season Now

Farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which rewards producers for conservation practices on working lands, thanks to passage of legislation that replaces funding for the 2013 CSP that was accidently cut off in the government spending bill that passed last October.

USDA can now proceed with enrolling just over 11 million acres of farm and ranch land in the program this year, bringing the program to a grand total of 62 million acres by year’s end.

The Center for Rural Affairs encourages potential applicants to move forward now, before planting season is underway and many become too busy in the field to get away. While CSP is a continuous signup program and producers can apply throughout the year, USDA applies a cut-off date for applications to be considered during a particular fiscal year. Once the cut-off date is past, producers may continue to apply for the program, but will not be considered for entry until the following spring, in this case spring 2014.

While the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has yet to decide on an application deadline, there is speculation it will be in May. That short timeline should provide further motivation for farmers and ranchers to visit their local NRCS office now and start the application (http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1046193.pdf) process right away.

Producers can call (402) 687-2100 and ask for the Farm Bill Helpline or email tracib@cfra.org to access assistance from the Center for Rural Affairs in applying to CSP. Read more about Spring and Conservation: Both in Season Now

  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Weekly column

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