Texas A&M, Texas AgriLife Extension Service and other universities and Extension programs are being recruited by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to conduct public education outreach meetings and to provide online training and education of farmers and ranchers who must adapt and conform to new programs provided by the Agriculture Act of 2014.

"Helping farmers and ranchers understand new farm bill programs and what the programs mean for their families is one of USDA's top priorities," Vilsack said in a statement announcing $6 million in grants to support programs that will create new web tools and other materials designed to help the nation's agriculture producers understand the many new programs authorized by the 2014 farm bill.

Texas A&M's Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) will co-lead the program with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri, and the University of Illinois. Vilsack says the three universities will receive $3 million to develop online tools and other materials that will train Extension specialists who will work directly with farmers to bring them up to speed on several new programs funded in the Farm Bill.

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"With the resources we're providing, university experts will help ensure farmers and ranchers are highly educated as they make critical decisions about new programs that impact their livelihoods. The new tools that will be developed will empower farmers and ranchers to select the plan that best fits their unique needs," Vilsack added.

Secretary Vilsack said the programs will enable farmers to decide between options for the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program authorized by the farm bill as part of a new farm safety net for producers.

USDA officials say the program will provide online tools that will offer producers the chance to enter specific data about their farm operations including types of crops they grow, soils, weather and climate specific to their geographic location, and other information to help them test a variety of financial scenarios before making a final decision about which program is best for their farms before a decision deadline expires later this year.