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RMA

Two NASS Surveys Critical for USDA Crop Programs for Farmers

When drought and flooding impact crop production, or even in a year with good yields, good data is crucial to the agriculture industry.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts more than 400 surveys each year.  Two of our larger and more impactful surveys are the annual Row Crops County Agricultural Production Survey (CAPS) and December Agricultural Survey, the results of which are combined to set our county average yields.

RMA Serves Veterans Year-Round Through Risk Education

For some Americans, Veterans Day is the time that their thoughts turn to the men and women who have served in our Nation’s military.

But at the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), we’re always thinking about the welfare of our nation’s military veterans and the rural communities in which some 5 million of them live.

Growth and Opportunity in the Organic Sector

Since USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) implemented the organic regulations in 2002, the U.S. organic sector has tripled in size to over 22,000 certified organic operations with over $43 billion in U.S. retail sales.  Demand for organic products is expected to continue growing.  This strong consumer demand outruns supply, providing market opportunities within the organic sector.

USDA offers many resources for organic producers and businesses – including organic certification cost share assistance, organic price reporting, conservation programs, and so much more – to facilitate growth within the organic sector. We also provide assistance to producers transitioning to organic production, and work to facilitate international trade.

RMA Engages Farmers at Annual Meeting of Southern Grassroots Cooperatives

Recently, I had the honor of representing USDA at the annual Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Assistance Fund (FSCLA) annual meeting in Epes, Ala. It gave me a chance to speak with a phenomenal group of hardworking farmers and ranchers, to hear their stories and share some of the improvements that USDA, under the Obama Administration, has put in place to help uproot inequality. Over the past eight years, we’ve taken steps to change the culture of USDA to ensure all Americans who come to us for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.

As I stepped to the podium and looked out at a crowd of faces that resembled mine, I thought back to my early childhood growing up on my parent’s farm.  I remembered the hardships they endured trying to sustain a life for me and my siblings, and I wished that I could have offered the same information and opportunities to them as I was about to provide to the room full of individuals at the meeting.

Relationships and Technology Are the Keys to Better Data for Farmers and Ranchers

Like nearly all organizations that use surveys to collect information, we have seen declining response rates in recent years. The value of accurate data is now more important than ever for decision-making on the farm, and by USDA farm program administrators, policy makers, researchers, market participants and, really, every aspect of agriculture. It is critical that we work closely with potential respondents and their industry representatives.

End-of-year crop production and stocks surveys, including the county agricultural production survey, which are critical for the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency to administer programs that benefit farmers and ranchers are upon us.  These agencies need accurate data to serve producers with beneficial programs such as the Price Loss Coverage (PLC), Agriculture Risk Coverage (PLC), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and many crop insurance programs.

Crop Insurance Continues to Strengthen Rural Communities

America’s farmers and ranchers work hard to provide food for the world, contributing to the nation’s economy, as well as to the strength of our rural communities. To support our nation’s hardworking producers, we’ve developed programs designed to help them stay at the forefront of global production, to adapt to market changes and protect their operations even after bad years.

Although many farm programs have come and gone, one program has continued to grow and become even more critical to the farm safety net. Federal crop insurance has become the preeminent risk management tool for our nation’s agricultural producers, and has adapted to meet the diverse needs now more than ever. In fact, even Congress recognized the importance of the federal crop insurance program in the 2014 Farm Bill. As other programs were eliminated or reduced, new requirements and expansions were mandated for the program as a cost-efficient and proven way to keep agriculture strong.

USDA goes to Washington... State

We take our responsibility to America’s farmers and ranchers very seriously at the Risk Management Agency (RMA), and we value our time spent with them and other stakeholders getting feedback on our programs and policies that are so vital to America’s food supply.

I welcome these face-to-face opportunities, and last week was fortunate to spend a few days in Washington state that culminated in a public forum to discuss the enhancements we’ve been making to the Federal crop insurance system.

Beginning Rancher Applies Tribal Traditions and USDA Risk Management Tools to Help Grow Her Business

Shawna Kalama is a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She’s also a beginning rancher, pursuing her dream the past few years near the Cascade Mountains on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State. Kalama has successfully leveraged several USDA programs to simultaneously support both her entrepreneurial education goals and her growing livestock operation.

She began earning her business degree at Heritage University, and recently participated in a risk management education program, sponsored by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). This week, the agency announced that $8.7 million in cooperative agreement funding is available for the risk management education program for fiscal year 2016. The program introduces the agency’s risk management tools, crop and livestock insurance programs and educational partnerships to new and beginning, and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers. The curriculum includes an overview of RMA’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis tool, which identifies potential problems, and finds solutions and resources to help beginning farmers and ranchers manage risks. Nearly 90,000 producers participated in risk management education events in 2015.

Conversations with Organic PA Farmers on Crop Insurance

I hit the road last week to get feedback from farmers in Pennsylvania on how recent Federal crop insurance enhancements are helping organic producers in the state.

Earlier this year, USDA expanded crop insurance options to allow organic producers to purchase coverage that better reflects their product's actual value. The expanded coverage is part of our continued commitment to provide farmers with resources and tools to meet the growing demand for certified organic products.

Transitioning to Organic Certification

More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent - more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.”