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Production Agriculture

At USDA, we know that there is no limit to the economic potential of rural America. Over the past six years, we have worked to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in eleven American jobs, provides American consumers with more than 80 percent of the food we consume, ensures that Americans spend less of their paychecks at the grocery store than most people in other countries, and supports markets for homegrown renewable energy and materials.

Helping Farmers and Ranchers Grow and Thrive

  • Responded immediately to producers affected by disaster across the country, ranging from record storms and flooding, tornadoes, droughts and blizzards to help keep American agriculture profitable and keep farmers on the farm.
    1. While it took over one year after the 2008 Farm Bill was passed, disaster assistance programs were ready to go in under 10 weeks following the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill—80 percent faster than in 2008. As of mid-December 2015, more than 681,000 payments were issued to producers totaling nearly $5.6 billion.
    2. Between 2009 and 2014, the Federal crop insurance program paid out more than $59 billion in indemnities so that farmers nationwide can continue to produce after suffering losses due to natural causes. During the historical 2012 drought, the Federal crop insurance program paid out over $17 billion in indemnities.
    3. The 2014 Farm Bill authorized retroactive additional Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) assistance for losses to 2012 fruit crops grown on trees and bushes in counties that had Secretarial disaster designations for frost or freeze for the 2012 crop year. As of December 2015, 712 payments totaling over $15.5 million have been issued.
  • Expanded access to credit to help farm and ranch businesses grow and thrive.
    1. Provided more than 109,000 agricultural producers with investment capital of more than $34 billion to strengthen farming and ranching operations. Annual lending to underserved/socially disadvantaged producers increased dramatically, from $379.4 million in FY 2008 to $827.3 million in FY 2015, a 118 percent increase.
    2. Issued 128,753 loan deficiency payments totaling over $454 million to eligible producers when the market price for specific commodities fell below its respective county loan rate.
    3. Provided financing for on-farm storage for over 1 billion bushels of eligible commodities and disbursed over $2.04 billion to 36,000 eligible producers through the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) Program since 2000.
    4. The microloan program is an important access point to new, small or underserved farmers and ranchers. Since the program's inception in January 2013, USDA has issued 16,800 microloans (almost 6,600 in FY15 alone).. Seventy percent of these loans have gone to beginning farmers.
  • Strengthened the farm safety net by allowing farmers to exclude yields in exceptionally bad years (such as a year in which a natural disaster or other extreme weather occurred) from their production history when calculating yields used to establish their crop insurance coverage. By excluding unusually bad years, farmers will not have to worry that a natural disaster will reduce their amount of insurance for years to come.
  • Expanded safety-net options to include Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) insurance, a program that allows producers to insure all commodities on the farm rather than just one, will be offered in every county in the United States – a first for the Federal crop insurance program.
    1. USDA listened to stakeholders throughout the year, which resulted in several changes to include increasing access for beginning farmers and ranchers and livestock producers.
    2. Expanded programs are increasing options for producers. WFRP increased by approximately 26 percent with more than $1.1 billion in liabilities, nearly double that of the program WFRP replaced in 2014.
  • In the 2015 crop year, there were approximately 1.2 million crop policies spanning about 556,000 farm and ranch operations. These policies cover more than 297 million acres.
  • Expansion and policy changes expand upon USDA’s effort to provide a safety net for diversified growers such as organic, and fruit and vegetable growers.
  • RMA has taken steps to provide effective Federal crop insurance coverage for organic crops and better risk management tools for organic producers.
    1. USDA eliminated the historical 5 percent surcharge on organic policy premiums for all crops, added more crops with organic price elections, and added a contract price option.
    2. In 2011, for the first time ever, USDA began offering crop insurance for organic producers that reflects organic market prices. Organic price elections have expanded from four crops, which were first offered in 2011, to 56 crops in 2016.
    3. Organic price elections for certain citrus crops in Arizona and California will be available for the 2017 crop year.
  • Expanded Federal crop insurance program coverage for farmers and specialty crops by improving price coverage and eliminating the premium surcharge for organic producers.
  • Offered new crop insurance tools beginning in the 2015 crop year to help protect producers from yield, revenue and market volatility. The Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) and Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), as required by the Farm Bill, will help protect farmers from naturally occurring events that cause shallow losses.
    1. SCO will increase from seven crops offered in 2015 to 59 crops beginning with 2016 crop year.
    2. STAX is in place for 99 percent of cotton acreage beginning with the 2015 crop year. 2016 will allow written agreements, providing nearly 100 percent coverage. STAX will also allow coverage on cottonseed for the 2016 crop year.
  • Provided interim payments to cotton producers through the Cotton Transition Assistance Program (CTAP), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, until the Stacked Income Protection Plan, a new insurance product created by the legislation, becomes available. As of December, over $491 million in funding was approved to more than 95,000 cotton producers.
  • Awarded $3 million to universities to develop online tools, which started going live in late summer 2014, to help producers determine how best to protect their farm business through program options like Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), Price Loss Coverage (PLC), Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) for crop insurance, Margin Protection Program (MPP) for dairy, and NAP.
  • Enrolled approximately half of all dairy farms in America—in the new Margin Protection Program, established in the 2014 Farm Bill, which offers dairy producers a range of choices of protection that are best suited for their operation.
  • Enrolled 1.76 million farmers in the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage programs, more than who participated in the previous direct payments program, by conducting an unprecedented educational campaign that included webtool presentations to almost 3,000 organizations, 5 million mailings to producers, and more than 4,880 educational events with more than 447,000 attendees. The program provided $4.8 billion in financial help to more than 900,000 farms that experienced a $20 billion drop in revenues during 2015.
  • Provided better crop insurance coverage to over 13,500 new and beginning farmers and ranchers participating in beginning farmer crop insurance incentives, including almost 49,000 policies. Beginning farmers and ranchers have saved over $14 million in premiums and administrative fees because of this new program in the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • Strengthened the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for new producers by reducing the premiums on buy-up level coverage by 50 percent for new farmers and waiving their application fee.
    1. USDA estimates 1,255 new and beginning farmers enrolled in NAP in 2015. To date, there are 2,325 new and beginning farmers enrolled in NAP for 2016.

Streamlining Assistance and Saving Taxpayer Dollars

  • Created a consistent, simple and flexible policy for cover crops across USDA agencies that ensures today's farmers can benefit from sound erosion control and the farm safety net.
  • Established 15 common dates for farmers and ranchers to report acreage and crop data, reducing burdensome paperwork on producers and costs to USDA. There had previously been more than 70 reporting dates.

Boosting Competiveness through Better Research and Improved Technology

  • Conducted research on drought- tolerant, heat-tolerant, and saline-resistant crops that will enhance the competitiveness of American farmers in global trade.
  • Established a new Agricultural and Food Research Initiative Water for Agriculture challenge area to address critical water issues such as drought, excess soil moisture, flooding, and water quality in an agricultural context. USDA will make up to $30 million available over the next five years.
  • Conducted research that is helping to improve the technology associated with irrigation equipment to reduce spills and help manage limited water resources more effectively. By developing new software and more robust forecasting models, USDA research will help producers better manage water resources in the future.