(Washington, D.C., December 19, 2019) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today applauded the accomplishments made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the past year. USDA has continued enacting President Trump’s goals of regulatory reform, streamlining government, and refocusing USDA to be customer oriented.
“At USDA it is our honor to work on behalf of America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers. This was a tough year with historic weather damage and unjustified trade retaliation. Our goal was to ‘Do Right and Feed Everyone’ by implementing much needed farm bill programs, enacting President Trump’s Support Package for Farmers, and continuing to feed and clothe this nation and the world,” said Secretary Perdue. “As we look to 2020, we want to build upon trade accomplishments like the Phase 1 Deal with China, USMCA, and Japan, and open up new markets to help sell the bounty of American agriculture, all while removing the burden of government regulations from the backs of hardworking Americans.”
In May, Secretary Perdue stepped foot in Utah making it his 50th state visited since becoming Secretary. Since being sworn in, he has traveled nearly 160,000 miles, held over 220 town hall discussions and roundtables, and visited nearly 100 farms across the country listening to America’s farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers. Throughout his travels, Secretary Perdue has met with a number of folks who have had specific problems when it comes to working with the federal government. The Secretary has taken those concerns back to Washington, D.C. and has worked to deliver concrete solutions to the problems facing farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers. Watch this video to hear from some of the people Secretary Perdue has delivered for since visiting them and check out this Medium website to learn more about Secretary Perdue’s journey to all 50 states.
While continuing the push towards final passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is widely supported by the U.S. agricultural community, the United States also inked a trade agreement with Japan that will enable more than 90 percent of U.S. food and agricultural exports to enter that country either duty free or with preferential tariff access. USDA’s day-to-day efforts to break down barriers and seek export opportunities resulted in new or expanded market access for numerous U.S. farm products in 2019. Examples include securing full access for beef to Argentina and Japan, improving access for beef to the European Union and wheat to Brazil, preserving access for shell eggs to Mexico, opening the Tunisian market to beef, poultry, and eggs, opening poultry access to China, and opening the Indian and Vietnamese markets to U.S. blueberries. In 2019, USDA traveled on six trade missions promoting U.S. products around the globe. The trade missions included more than 170 U.S. companies, consisted of nearly 3,200 one-on-one meetings, and generated more that $78 million in protected 12-month sales.
Additionally, USDA staff around the globe assisted U.S. exporters in releasing hundreds of shipments that were detained at ports of entry in overseas markets. USDA’s many interventions ensured that more than $95 million of perishable products arrived safely at their final destinations. Among them were shipments of turkey to Chile, soybeans to Pakistan, citrus to Peru, almonds to Spain, beef to Germany, and even zoo animals (giraffes) to Taiwan.
Support Package for Farmers:
USDA took several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation and trade disruption. President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a relief strategy to support American agricultural producers while the Administration continues to work on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets to help American farmers compete globally in the long run. Specifically, the President authorized USDA to provide up to $16 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions. These programs are assisting agricultural producers while President Trump works to address longstanding market access barriers.
USDA issued over $1 billion to producers to aid them in recovery from natural disasters through a suite of programs authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill and other legislation. These programs include: Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP), Tree Assistance Program, Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program, Emergency Conservation Program, and Emergency Forestry Restoration Program.
USDA committed $600 million in 2019 to support rural broadband expansion through the ReConnect Pilot Program. The ReConnect Program offers unique federal loans, grants and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas that do not have sufficient access to broadband. This program generates private-sector investment to deploy broadband infrastructure to as many rural places as possible, including homes, community facilities, health care institutions, public safety departments, schools, libraries, farms, ranches, and businesses. Additionally, USDA launched ReConnect Program Round 2, making available a total of $550 million in grants, low-interest loans, and 50/50 grant/loan combinations in FY 2020. The application window for this round of funding will open Jan. 31, 2020. Applications for all funding products will be accepted in the same application window, which will close no later than March 16, 2020.
ERS and NIFA Move to Kansas City:
USDA relocated portions of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City, Missouri to ensure the long-term success of these critical agencies. The ability to recruit and retain top talent, engage with a broader base of agricultural stakeholders, and dramatically reduce operational costs for reinvestment into agricultural research will strengthen the impact and reach of USDA on behalf of U.S. Agriculture. Both agencies are now operating core functions and hiring in the Kansas City region.
Domestic Hemp Production Program:
USDA announced the establishment of the U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program. This program, as required by the 2018 Farm Bill, creates a consistent regulatory framework around hemp production throughout the United States. The U.S. Domestic Hemp Production Program avoids a patchwork, state-by-state system and provides a fair, consistent, science-based process for producers.
While President Trump signed an executive order that requires agencies to revoke two regulations for every new rule they want to issue, under Secretary Perdue’s leadership since taking office, USDA has completed 26 deregulatory items for every three regulatory items for a total regulatory annual savings of nearly $200 million.
H-2A Tools on Farmers.gov:
USDA launched two new features on farmers.gov to help customers manage their farm loans and navigate the application process for H-2A visas. Focused on education and smaller owner-operators, this farmers.gov H-2A release included an H-2A Visa Program page and interactive checklist tool, with application requirements, fees, forms, and a timeline built around a farmer’s hiring needs. Additionally, USDA has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to move forward rulemakings to streamline the H-2A program.
Shared Stewardship Agreements:
So far, 12 states and the Western Governors Association have signed on to work alongside the USDA Forest Service to set landscape-scale goals, as well as share resources and expertise. These Shared Stewardship agreements allow the Forest Service to better work with partners to address challenges such as wildfire, insect and disease infestations, and improve forest and watershed conditions while adapting to user needs. Participating states include Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
USDA announced a final rule to move more able-bodied recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) towards self-sufficiency and into employment. The rule restores the system to what Congress intended: assistance through difficult times, not a way of life. With a booming economy that has more jobs than workers to fill them and the lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years, now is the time for every work-capable American to find employment.
USDA Agency Accomplishments:
USDA serves the American people at more than 4,500 locations across the country. While each mission area accomplished a great deal in 2019, notable accomplishments are as follows:
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS): As part of the Department’s effort to assist farmers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation, AMS administered a Food Purchase and Distribution Program to purchase $1.094 billion worth of tariff-impacted products including pork, dairy, pulse crops, and a variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts to distribute to food banks and pantries across the country.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS): ARS researchers in Albany, CA, have developed an ultraviolet-B light treatment to transform mushroom-stalk waste into a new vegetarian ingredient with a high level of vitamin D. When applied as a film coating to fruit bars and fresh-cut melons, the colorless, tasteless, edible powder helps preserve quality and safety and increases shelf life. Human clinical trials proved the bioavailability of vitamin D in these mushroom films. Many commercial companies are using this process and are even selling mushroom powders to consumers as a healthy source of vitamin D. Read ARS’ Scientific Discoveries to learn more about its accomplishments in crop and animal production, animal welfare, food safety, human nutrition, natural resources and other areas of high national importance.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) played a vital role to ensure the free flow of agricultural trade by keeping U.S. agricultural industries free from pests and diseases. Examples of this critical work include the quick and thorough response to the discovery of genetically engineered wheat in Washington State; APHIS’ efforts to eradicate devastating diseases such as Plum Pox, which the United States was declared free of this year after a 20-year battle; and efforts to prevent African Swine Fever from entering the United States. APHIS also continued its efforts to protect the flying public and our military from wildlife strikes at airports and military bases in the United States and around the world.
Economic Research Service (ERS) continued to deliver timely economic information that helps ensure efficiency in commodity markets and inform decision making. The Commodity Outlook program produces 265 reports and data products for over 25 commodities, covering more than 90 percent of the market value of U.S. agricultural products sold. Each year, ERS coordinates the USDA’s Agricultural Baseline Projections for U.S. and world agriculture for the coming decade. The 2019 long-term projections were presented at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum and helped shape planning for the federal budget. ERS continued to meet Congressionally mandated requirements to develop cost and returns (CAR) estimates for major agricultural commodities, as well as estimates and forecasts of farm sector and farm household income.
Farm Service Agency (FSA) provided multiple online loan services on farmers.gov, including launching the “My Financial Information” feature that enables producers to login to view loan information, history and payments, and the Farm Loan Discovery Tool that helps farmers and ranchers find information on the farm loans that may best fit their operations. There are more than 22 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, and about $1.7 billion was issued in annual rental payments in 2019.
Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) made great strides to leverage our nation’s agricultural abundance to ensure every American has access to wholesome, nutritious food, even when they face challenging circumstances. Recognizing local school food service professionals are in the best position to know what to feed their children, FNS offered additional local flexibilities for serving school meals. In addition, the agency continued supporting USDA’s promise to farmers who have been negatively impacted by unjustified retaliatory tariffs with FNS distributing up to $1.2 billion worth of commodities to programs serving low-income individuals.
Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspected more than 164 million head of livestock and 9.83 billion poultry carcasses. FSIS inspection program personnel also conducted 7.1 million food safety and food defense procedures across 6,500 regulated establishments to ensure meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe and wholesome. FSIS advanced science-based and data-driven initiatives to modernize policies, operations, and inspection systems, including finalizing a regulatory change that modernizes swine slaughter inspection to foster industry innovation and protect public health while maintaining 100 percent carcass-by-carcass inspection.
Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) market development and export assistance efforts made a major difference in U.S. exporters’ bottom lines, with trade missions and trade show activities generating nearly $3 billion in projected export sales, and export financing programs supporting another $2 billion in exports. FAS worldwide staff also facilitated exporter access to numerous foreign markets and helped hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. farm shipments safely reach their destinations.
The Forest Service (USFS) opened hundreds of thousands of acres of national forests to visitor access and sold more timber than it has in the past 21 years, providing a sustainable flow of forest products and supporting rural economies. In addition, the agency improved forest conditions and reduced wildfire risk on over 4 million acres through timber harvest, removing hazardous fuels like dead and downed trees, and combating disease, insect and invasive species infestations.
National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released the results of the 2017 Census of Agriculture, spanning some 6.4 million new points of information about America’s farms and ranches and those who operate them, including new data about on-farm decision-making, military service, and marketing channels down to the county level. First conducted in 1840, the Census tells the story of American agriculture. Results are available in many online formats including video presentations, a new data query interface, Congressional District interactive data visualization, online maps, and traditional data tables. Additionally, NASS used a satellite with cloud penetrating capability in 2019 to provide geospatial assessments of areas impacted by flooding in Missouri and Illinois, Tropical Storm Barry, Hurricane Dorian, and the Kincade Fire. Geospatial decision support products were derived and provided for rapid response and the ability to identify potential crop losses.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) delivered grants totaling $1.92 million supporting projects to provide stress assistance programs to support farmers, ranchers, and other agriculture-related occupations. As part of the 2018 Farm Bill, NIFA launched the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN) to serve as a conduit for improving behavioral health awareness, literacy, and overall well-being for farmers and their families. A list of NIFA’s funding investments for this program is available on the NIFA website. Read NIFA’s latest blog for more examples of NIFA’s investments in research, extension, and education.
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS): To meet the 2018 Farm Bill requirement of reviewing and updating all 169 conservation practice standards and associated documents, NRCS completed the review five months ahead of deadline, improving 58 conservation practice standards. NRCS also developed a new Highly Erodible Land determination tool to decrease customer response times which will save an estimated 2.5 hours per determination and up to 53 staff years per year nationally.
Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) (PDF, 115 KB) estimated trade damages to U.S. agricultural exports from retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners. These estimates were used to determine payment rates to producers under the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) and the value of commodities to be purchased under the Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP).
Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE) launched the Centers of Community Prosperity initiative to increase effective customer service and connect rural and underserved communities to USDA resources.
Risk Management Agency (RMA) implemented key provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill that provided more crop insurance options which included increasing the livestock and nursery limit from $1 million to $2 million, hemp coverage under the 2020 Whole-Farm Revenue Protection program, and the 2020 Wind Index – Hurricane Protection pilot available for approximately 70 crops across 23 states. In addition, producers participating in federal crop insurance who experienced a payable prevented planting indemnity in 2019 related to flooding, excess moisture or causes other than drought automatically received “top-up” payments totaling approximately $580 million so far.
Rural Development (RD) modernized rural electric infrastructure (PDF, 98 KB) for more than 7.7 million customers; assisted 378 rural businesses; invested in new and improved water and wastewater infrastructure for 2.3 million rural customers; and invested in new and improved community infrastructure including hospitals, schools, public safety facilities, aviation, ports, and water and storm water resources for 11 million rural Americans.
The U.S. Codex Office (USCO) led U.S. participation in the work of Codex Alimentarius, resulting in final adoption of hundreds of science-based international standards for food safety and quality, including maximum limits for pesticide and veterinary drug residues, codes of good practice and maximum levels for contaminants in foods, and commodity standards. These standards help ensure the safety of imported foods for American consumers and open markets to U.S. agricultural exporters.
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