In seven months after late summer congressional passage of the 2008 farm bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has put in place much of the key components and prepared next items for action by the incoming Administration Jan 20.
The 2008 farm bill is approximately 50 percent larger than its predecessor, the 2002 farm bill, with 15 titles and more than 600 provisions. In total, 170 regulatory actions and over 100 reports and studies have been identified that the Department is required to complete to fully implement.
"USDA employees continue to work hard to implement all the provisions of the farm bill in an efficient and expeditious manner," said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer. "Producers and consumers should be confident that USDA has laid the foundation for the next Administration to continue this success."
"Within weeks of its enactment USDA began delivering program benefits for 2008 and efforts continue today to ensure the delivery of additional program benefits in 2009," said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner. "We have held hundreds of meetings with stakeholders on almost all titles of the farm bill, and continue to have USDA representatives available to follow-up."
Highlights of USDA accomplishments:
• Issued multiple Federal Register Notices announcing program parameters for marketing assistance loans, loan deficiency payments, and direct and counter-cyclical payment (DCP) programs for the 2008 crop.
• Began crop year 2008 DCP signup on June 25, 2008 (one week after enactment) and ended Sept. 30, 2008. The sign up for farms with 10 base acres or less ended Nov. 26, 2008 following the legislative change enacted in October. USDA enrolled 1.8 million DCP contracts for 2008 and issued $5.1 billion in direct payments.
• Published regulations on Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, 2008, implementing Federal marketing agreements and orders for milk, fruit, vegetable, and nut crops.
•Implemented the 2009-2012 DCP and Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program on Dec. 29, 2008. Signup for 2009 DCP is under way and will continue through June 1, 2009. Advance payments are currently being issued.
• Made available additional farm bill funding for conservations programs in FY 2008, including an additional $200 million for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), to help farmers and ranchers nationwide to solve natural resource problems; $150 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP); and $7.5 million for Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA).
• Made available more than $4 billion for conservation program funding in FY 2009, including $1.8 billion for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), $1 billion for the EQIP, $570 million for the WRP, $100 million for the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), and $74 for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).
• Published 8 program regulations between Nov. 2008 and Jan. 2009 for the implementation of CRP, EQIP, WRP, FRPP, WHIP, AMA, the Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP), and the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP).
• The Farm Bill renamed the Food Stamp Program, as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, effective Oct. 1, 2008. USDA worked tirelessly to implement a number of important improvements to SNAP that took effect that same day, including an increase in the minimum benefit and standard deduction, elimination of retirement and education savings accounts counting as offsetting income resources, combat pay as income when determining eligibility and application of full cost associated with child care costs.
• Made available $547 million for 232 projects to provide clean, safe drinking water in rural America — the majority of that funding from the Farm Bill.
• USDA also moved very quickly to implement and award in FY 2008 nearly $28 million under the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, 10 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program; $22 million for the Organic Cost-Share Program; $3.4 million for Farmers Market Promotion Program; $3.5 million to enhance market news reporting for organic products; and $1.5 million for Agricultural Management Assistance to aid in the transition to organic agriculture.
• In addition, USDA provided additional work in conservation, rural development, nutrition, research, energy, farm credit and crop insurance sections of the 2008 farm bill.
A summary of the 2008 farm bill accomplishments are posted on the USDA Web site at USDA.gov/farmbill in addition to other background information.