Hoping to avoid another federal government website embarrassment, USDA has rolled out a clean new web site that provides some excellent resources for understanding the way the new farm bill programs and options work.
Most farmers and farm groups are expressing support for the new farm law, but the legislation is tasking farmers to become familiar with new options and insurance programs rapidly and to make decisions this year about which programs are best for them in the coming years. This year will be a transitional year into the new changes while next year all the various programs and options provided for in the new farm program will, hopefully, be running smoothly on all cylinders.
Some are calling the new law a historic piece of farm legislation, while others are calling it a fair alternative to the better bill they had hoped to get. Whichever, it certainly brings about changes in titles, insurance and the overall safety net available to farmers. With these changes and options, individual farmers have the opportunity—and responsibility—to be involved in making decisions that better match titles to fit their needs.
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Since President Obama signed the new legislation into law last month, federal officials and farm and crop support groups have been struggling to comb through the many provisions of the new program in hopes of understanding how it is going to work and how then to share that information with farmers.
Like many bills that order major changes in provisions within a federal program, and combined with the additional challenge of enacting a farm law after farmers had already made crop decisions for the new year, government, farm and crop officials knew it would be a struggle to educate and inform producers when they were just getting busy preparing fields or in some cases were already involved in planting.
The National Cotton Council was one of the first support groups to begin staging information presentations for cotton producers across the Cotton Belt. What started in coastal Texas, where fields were being prepared for planting, is now spreading to other Southern cotton producing states. And NCC is not the only farm group to kick start farm bill education events.
Events planned to explain law
From USDA events to state support groups like the Alabama Peanut Producers Association and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and others, land grant universities and Extension services, state agriculture departments and county agents alike are doing a good job of informing farmers about the coming changes.
Even so, federal officials are saying more time will be required before all the provisions and changes in the new law can be fine-tuned and implemented. That means that some details about new programs are not yet available or may be changed slightly, although USDA officials have been working overtime to redesign the system to include all the bells and whistles Congress has made available. They warn, however, some minor changes may be coming.
As the days and weeks slip by and program deadlines approach, agricultural interests can expect to see more meetings, read more reports and hear additional analyses by officials and farm representatives representing just about every sector of the industry.
But with sweeping changes like those brought about in the Agriculture Act of 2014, no amount of information is too much. And in spite of a changing season and busy schedules on the farm, taking the time to get a handle on these program changes now is of considerable importance to everyone involved.
That is what makes this new USDA web site important. Straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak, the web site walks producers through the intricate program and option system details available to farmers and ranchers, including information about new programs and opportunities.
Titled "The Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications," the web site represents an honest effort by federal officials to divide the new farm program into an organized menu for navigating the many titles, including crop commodity programs, dairy and livestock, conservation programs, nutrition, rural development, research, energy, crop insurance, specialty crops, organic agriculture, beginning farmers and ranchers and ERS policy-related research.
Graphs, charts and useful links will help users navigate through the site to explore its vast base of information that can help explain the many aspects of changes and new programs available, and it seems to do it in an informative and efficient method that is both pleasing to the eye and easy to use.
As just about anyone in the industry will tell you, when it comes to making the jump from the provisions and programs of the old program to the new law, all the resources available to help growers understand the new law will help prepare them for the important decisions that almost every farmer must make this year.
Connect to the new USDA Farm Bill information site here and get started.