President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 on February 7, 2014. Since then, we've been tracking the rollout closely for you to follow on usda.gov/farmbill and on our updated Farm Bill Implementation page.
Each week in February, USDA will highlight a new story in our Five Faces of the Farm Bill series. Everywhere you look around the United States, you can find someone who has benefited from the Farm Bill in a positive, meaningful way. These are their stories.
Our fifth story in the Faces of the Farm Bill series looks at the infrastructure and people supporting healthy, local food production. It all began with one truck and the goal to bring fresh, healthy foods into Philadelphia's most vulnerable communities. For Haile Johnston and his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, founding Common Market in 2008 was a logical solution to address the critical food access challenge in the city. In its first year, Common Market distributed local food from a dozen regional producers to 22 city customers. With support from the 2014 Farm Bill, they were able to expand their operation in the Delaware Valley. The Farm Bill's support for food hubs--the centralized system to support production, aggregation, distribution, and marketing services for local and regional producers--is what made it possible. Now, Common Market is redefining food hubs by creating more opportunities for rural producers while supplying fresh, healthy foods to schools and hospitals in Philadelphia.
Pete Berscheit has wanted to farm since he was five. But with three brothers interested in farming, he didnt think the fourth-generation family farm in Todd County, Minn. would be large enough to support everyone. So instead of farming, Berscheit joined the U.S. Army at age 17, where he served for 20 years. Toward the end of his Army career, repeated deployments were starting to take a toll on his young family, and in 2008, he and his wife Rosemary decided to return to their roots, to farm and raise a family. When a neighbor suggested Pete try rotational grazing for his herd, he came to USDA to help make it happen.
Hung and Nancy Pham fled former South Vietnam as teenagers in a shrimp boat during the fall of Saigon in 1975. Today, with help from USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program established in the 2014 Farm Bill, they have turned an out-of-date poultry farm near Hazlehurst, Mississippi into a modern, environmentally-friendly operation that supports themselves and their three children. As refugees, Hung and Nancy were rescued by the U.S. Navy and brought to America, where they later married. In 2006, they moved their family from Texas to Mississippi after purchasing an out-of-date poultry farm that Hung recalls looked more like a junk yard. With Hung being the handyman and Nancy keeping a close eye on their finances, the Phams' farm can now raise 200,000 chickens five times a year. "We spent most of our lives in the city after coming to America, but we have loved returning to a healthier, country lifestyle and taking care of the land," Nancy said.
Julie Carr's whole life is wrapped up in her ranch. She and her husband Robert moved from Texas to Oklahoma to raise cattle years ago, but when Robert developed lung cancer, Julie needed to give up one career to focus full-time on the ranch and Robert. But then came the drought-one of the worst in Oklahoma's history-and it just wouldn't let up. Julie and Robert sold 60 percent of their herd and some of their land to make ends meet-and they prayed for rain. Without a Farm Bill, many ranchers like Julie and Robert could not apply for USDA's Livestock Forage Disaster Program-a critical safety net for thousands of farmers. But in February 2014, that all changed with passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. By chance, Julie had visited her local USDA office to discuss other business, and then they told her about the new assistance. "I went in to sign the papers and I was told the funds would be deposited into my account. I started to cry," said Julie. "That was everything. It enabled us to keep going and rebuild."
Megan Estrada and her three children are excited to spend time on their new home's porch - a home they just moved into this summer. Prior to purchasing their own home, Estrada and her children had spent the last nine years in an apartment in Dodge City, Kansas. Estrada tried to buy a home four years ago, but with no solid credit history was unable to secure a loan through conventional home financing. For the next four years Estrada built up her credit, then in May of this year she heard that, with the passage of the Farm Bill, Dodge City would become eligible for USDA Housing Programs. In June, Estrada was the first Dodge City resident to purchase a home by utilizing USDA's Guaranteed Rural Housing Program. Landmark National Bank provided the loan on Estrada's three-bedroom home, which is guaranteed by USDA Rural Development.
A bill whose reach extends far beyond our farms - it includes smart reforms to reduce our deficit, and the investments it makes in our rural communities will help strengthen our economy across the board.
When USDA unveiled the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program last year, Secretary Vilsack said that this effort would pioneer a new era of conservation. As of today, the program is doing just that - leveraging an unprecedented three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar investment in projects to preserve clean land and water and create new jobs across the country.
The new Farm Bill has created many new tools and resources for beginning farmers and ranchers - and questions about which programs are right for their operations. That is what Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden took to Google+ in September to talk about how the new Farm Bill can help new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
The harsh winter of 2013 brought devastating losses to many livestock producers, including beekeepers. But now that the 2014 Farm Bill is in place, this farmer plans to start rebuilding the hives with help from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
Authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill and administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program is designed to strengthen and enhance the production and marketing of sheep and sheep products in the United States.
Glenn and Keiko Nakagawa are resilient; a trait that has served them well in the agriculture industry and particularly the past three years of below normal rainfall during California's most severe drought in decades. According to Nakagawa, USDA Farm Service Agency's Livestock Forage Disaster Assistance Program (LFP), authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, has enabled them to maintain their original herd of 70 cow/calf pairs and four herd sires.
Many stakeholders were excited about the Farm Bill's expanded funding for the Organic Certification Cost-Share Programs, which help organic producers and handlers cover the cost of organic certification, making organic certification more accessible to small producers.
USDA Market News, part of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, created a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products, including beef. As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the reports provide farmers, other agricultural businesses and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets.
With resources in the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is making a historic investment to support the continued growth of farmers markets and local and regional food systems. Last week's updated 2014 National Farmers Market Directory listed 8,268 farmers markets that voluntarily reported their locations, operating hours, and other details.
In honor of Earth Day 2014, nearly $387 million was awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA's Water and Environmental Program.
More military veterans and other people will get help launching careers as farmers thanks to more than $1.4 million in federal funds designated for Ithaca organizations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and New York's senators announced Monday.
Florida citrus growers got some good news at the end of a difficult 2013-14 citrus season when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced another $6.5 million for three Florida projects aimed at fighting public enemy No. 1, the bacterial disease citrus greening.
The borrowing limit for USDA microloans was increased on November 7 to $50,000. The previous cap was $35,000. "Microloans offer borrowers simplified lending with less paperwork," says John Whitaker, state executive director for USDA's Farm Service Agency in Iowa. "The loans are available from FSA to give qualified borrowers a first opportunity to begin farming or to help farmers quickly expand existing operations."
The United States Department of Agriculture has a new position - Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. Karis Gutter is Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and is taking on the additional role of MVA liaison.
"Studies have shown that every dollar invested in agricultural research creates $20 in economic activity," said Vilsack. "Investments in innovation made over the past several decades have developed new products and new procedures that have been critical to the continued growth of American agriculture. We must continue to make strategic investments in research and technology if we are to remain leaders in the global economy."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced up to $14.5 million in funding for two USDA bioenergy programs made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA's Rural Development (RD) announced it is accepting applications from companies seeking to offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems.
Dodge City resident Megan Estrada bought her first home last summer with help from the USDA's Guaranteed Rural Housing Program, which encourages growth in small town America. Estrada is one of five Faces of the Farm Bill, and through her story and others the USDA hopes to show people the positive impact the farm bill has had on American lives in its first year.