As the clock ticks down on the Obama Administration’s time in office, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is taking care of some final tasks.
On Friday (Oct. 28), he spoke with Delta Farm Press about Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments, ARC and PLC sign-up and potential news out of the coming lame duck session.
Among his comments:
On the CRP…
“We’re announcing today that CRP payments are being made by the USDA. They’ll total $1.7 billion going to those participating in CRP -- over 650,000 contracts, impacting and affecting over 366,000 farms in the country.
“We have, either through general sign-up or commitments through our continuous programs in CRP, obligated about 23.8 million acres of land. That’s just below the 24 million acre cap that Congress has declared.
IT’S FREE! Stay informed on what’s happening in Mid-South agriculture: Subscribe to Delta Farm Press Daily.
“This is good news in terms of additional resources being paid out in CRP payments and will impact many in your press area.”
Asked for a breakdown on CRP in individual Mid-South states, The USDA provided the following information:
- Arkansas has 5,686 CRP contracts that includes 3,226 farms, 232,358 acres of land and a payment of $16.7 million ($16,722,000).
- Louisiana has 4,701 CRP contracts that includes 3,045 farms, 289,689 acres of land and a payment of $24.6 million ($24,633,000).
- Mississippi has 17,229 CRP contracts that includes 10,999 farms, 725,197 acres of land and a payment of $45.8 million ($45,880,000).
- Missouri has 30,714 CRP contracts that includes 18,035 farms, 990,529 acres of land and a payment of $104.5 million ($104,504,000).
- Tennessee has 5,726 CRP contracts that includes 3,844 farms, 139,193 acres of land and a payment of $12.4 million ($12,460,000).
On help for disaster-struck farmers in the Mid-South…
“We’ve signed a number of state disaster declaration proclamations. To the extent that those secretarial declarations have been done, it provides disaster loan assistance. Obviously, farmers have access to crop insurance and, no doubt, they’ll make claims as a result of losses due to flooding.
“That’s one of the reasons that not only we have crop insurance but also the ARC and PLC programs. We expect about $7 billion to be made available in those programs this month. Farmers and producers will be receiving that help.
“We’re also announcing today that the sign-up for ARC and PLC for 2017 will begin Nov. 1 and continue right through August 1, 2017. That will allow people plenty of time to consider what’s best for their operations.”
Do you think any big ag-related news will come out of the lame duck session?
“First and foremost, Congress must finish work on the budget. That’ll enable the USDA to continue the work it has done. One would expect that to be done quickly and in a manner that, hopefully, won’t harm or hurt the programs we’ve already talked about.
“Secondly, I know there have been discussions about greater flexibility with regards to Cuba. That would be welcome news. At the end of the day, though, the embargo must be lifted in order for us to fully maximize the market opportunities in Cuba.
I don’t expect (the lifting of the embargo) to happen. That is basically what’s creating the impediments and barriers to trade with Cuba by making it more difficult to purchase U.S. agricultural products.”
On the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal…
“The other possibility – and from my perspective it would be good news for agriculture – would be Congress considering and passing the TPP.
“Just today, we can see the power and importance of agricultural exports. Today, the Department of Commerce and White House announce the Gross Domestic Product grew at an unexpectedly high rate during the third quarter: 2.9 percent on an annual basis. Almost half of that growth was linked to an increase in exports and the primary driver of that was agriculture.
“I’m proud of the fact we’ve had eight of the best years in agricultural exports in the history of the country – topping $1 trillion, and that’s never happened before. That underscores the significance of Congress taking action on these trade agreements.”