At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we know that there is no limit to the economic potential of rural America. Over the past five years, we have worked to strengthen and support American agriculture, an industry that supports one in 12 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.
Maintaining a Strong Safety Net for Farmers and Ranchers
To help keep American agriculture profitable and keep farmers on the farm, USDA immediately responds to producers affected by disaster across the country, ranging from record storms and flooding, tornadoes, droughts and blizzards.
- Since 2009, the Department has provided more than 198,533 loans totaling $27.2 billion in credit for family farmers and ranchers.
- 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 Bill80% faster than in 2008.
- Disaster assistance to producers under the 2014 Farm Bill is ongoing. Disaster assistance under the 2008 Farm Bill provided more than 400,000 payments to producers totaling more than $4 billion.
- Between 2009 and 2013, the Federal crop insurance program paid out more than $49 billion in indemnities so that farmers nationwide can continue to produce after suffering losses due to natural causes.
- During the 2012 drought, the Department simplified the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced by 40 percent the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters.
- Other historic action during the 2012 drought to help farmers and ranchers who were impacted included helping gain additional flexibility on crop insurance; opening 2.8 million acres of CRP land for emergency haying and grazing; and holding regional drought forums across the nation to work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers.
- USDA has expanded Federal crop insurance program coverage for farmers and specialty crops by improving price coverage and eliminating the premium surcharge for organic producers.
Streamlining Assistance and Saving Taxpayer Dollars
- A coordinated effort among USDA's Risk Management Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency has resulted in a consistent, simple and flexible policy for cover crops across the three agencies that ensures today's farmers can benefit from sound erosion control and the farm safety net.
- We've 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
- Teams of USDA scientists are working hard to achieve the next breakthroughs on drought- tolerant, heat-tolerant, and saline-resistant crops that enhance the competitiveness of American farmers in global trade.
- USDA research is also helping 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.
- NIFA's new Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Water For Agriculture challenge area will make $6 million available in 2014 and up to $30 million available over the next five years to address critical water issues such as drought, excess soil moisture, flooding, quality and others, in an agricultural context.