farming

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced recently that USDA is investing $29 million to provide affordable housing for farm laborers and their families.

"Housing is often the first step on the road to more economic prosperity for farmworker families," Vilsack said. "These loans and grants will significantly improve the lives of farmworkers, who are vital to America's agriculture sector. This program is one of many tools that USDA has to strengthen the rural economy, which will help bring a brighter future for children from farmworker families."

USDA is providing assistance through the Farm Labor Housing Loan and Grant program. Financing is available to qualified organizations to develop housing for domestic farm laborers. USDA also provides rental assistance to help very-low-income families afford the monthly rent.

Through today's announcement, USDA is awarding $20.7 million in loans and $8.3 million in grants for 10 projects in six states. When completed, the properties will provide 320 farmworker families with new homes. Rental assistance will be offered for 315 of the new housing units.

"I have witnessed firsthand the way these loans and grants help farmworkers and their communities," said Tony Hernandez, Administrator of USDA's Rural Housing Service, which runs the Farm Labor Housing program. Earlier this month, Hernandez toured the Sugarloaf Apartments farm labor housing complex in Hendersonville, N.C. Since the complex opened in 1995, it is usually fully occupied. Sugarloaf has two day care facilities onsite, one of which is year-round, making it a convenient place for residents to work and raise their families.

Below is a complete list of loan and grant recipients announced today. Funding is contingent upon the recipients meeting the terms of their agreements.

California

  • Coachella Valley Villa Hermosa Phase II – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to add 68 units to the complex.
  • Peoples Self Help – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to develop 33 units.
  • 9355 Avenida Maria – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to develop 60 units.
  • 1006 Golden Valley – $3 million loan. Funds will be used to develop 41 units.

Colorado

  • San Luis Valley – $1.5 million loan and $1.5 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 30 units.
  • Straton Area Foundation – $750,000 loan and $1.6 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 12 units.

Florida

  • Homestead Housing Authority – $2 million loan and $1 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 20 units.

Mississippi

  • BDT Housing – $1.5 million loan and $1.1 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 20 units.

Oregon

  • Farmworker Housing Development Corporation – $1 million loan and $2 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 20 units.

Washington

  • Grant County Housing Authority – $2 million loan and $1 million grant. Funds will be used to develop 16 units.

USDA Rural Development provided a $3.3 million low-interest Farm Labor Housing loan to build Villa Hermosa – apartment-style housing for migrant workers in Indio, Calif. Construction began in 2012. The complex is adjacent to the Fred Young Labor Camp, which began in the late 1930s as one-room, dirt-floor wooden shacks. It was converted in the 1960s to small, cinder-block apartments without heat or air conditioning.

The $3 million loan USDA announced today will finance a second phase of construction at Villa Hermosa. It will finance 68 more apartments for the remaining occupants at the nearby Fred Young facility. Phase Two will have spacious units with heat and air conditioning, private patios, washer/dryers, dishwashers, a community center, a garden, playgrounds and a computer lab. For some residents, this will be their first home with carpets.

 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today that approximately $13 million in Farm Bill funding is now available for organic certification cost-share assistance, making certification more accessible than ever for small certified producers and handlers.

"Consumer demand for organic products is surging across the country," said Secretary Tom Vilsack. "To meet this demand, we need to make sure that small farmers who choose to grow organic products can afford to get certified. Organic food is now a multi-billion dollar industry, and helping this sector continue to grow creates jobs across the country."

The certification assistance is distributed through two programs within the Agricultural Marketing Service. Through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, $11.5 million is available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. Territories. Through the Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, an additional $1.5 million is available to organic operations in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

These programs provide cost-share assistance through participating states to USDA certified organic producers and handlers for certification-related expenses they incur from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014. Payments cover up to 75 percent of an individual producer's or handler's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certification. To receive cost-share assistance, organic producers and handlers should contact their state agencies. Each state will have their own guidelines and requirements for reimbursement, and the National Organic Program (NOP) will assist states as much as possible to successfully implement the programs.

In 2012 alone, USDA issued close to 10,000 cost-share reimbursements totaling over $6.5 million, to support the organic industry and rural America. Additional information about resources available to small and mid-sized producers, including accessing capital, risk management, locating market opportunities and land management is available on USDA's Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources webpage.

USDA has a number of new and expanded efforts to connect organic farmers and businesses with resources that will ensure the continued growth of the organic industry domestically and abroad. During this Administration, USDA has signed four major trade agreements on organic products, and is also helping organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and mitigate pest emergencies. Through the NOP, USDA has helped organic farmers and businesses achieve $35 billion annually in U.S. retail sales. The organic community includes over 25,000 organic businesses in more than 120 different countries around the world.

Today's funding announcement for organic certification cost-share assistance was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.

DAVIS, CA--U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden today announced the implementation of new Farm Bill measures and other policy changes to improve the financial security of new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Harden also unveiled www.usda.gov/newfarmers, a new website that will provide a centralized, one-stop resource where beginning farmers and ranchers can explore the variety of USDA initiatives designed to help them succeed.

"New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture," said Deputy Secretary Harden. "The average age of an American farmer is 58 and rising, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy. The new policies announced today will help give beginning farmers the financial security they need to succeed. Our new online tool will provide one-stop shopping for beginning farmers to learn more about accessing USDA services that can help their operations thrive."

USDA's New Farmers website has in depth information for new farmers and ranchers, including: how to increase access to land and capital; build new market opportunities; participate in conservation opportunities; select and use the right risk management tools; and access USDA education, and technical support programs. These issues have been identified as top priorities by new farmers. The website will also feature instructive case studies about beginning farmers who have successfully utilized USDA resources to start or expand their business operations.

Today's policy announcements in support of beginning farmers and ranchers include:

  • Waiving service fees for new and beginning farmers or ranchers to enroll in the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for the 2014 crop year. NAP provides risk management tools to farmers who grow crops for which there is no crop insurance product. Under this waiver, announced via an official notice (PDF, 171KB) to Farm Service Agency offices, farmers and ranchers whom already enrolled in NAP for the 2014 crop year are eligible for a service fee refund.
  • Eliminating payment reductions under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for new and beginning farmers which will allow routine, prescribed, and emergency grazing outside the primary nesting season on enrolled land consistent with approved conservation plans. Previously, farmers and ranchers grazing on CRP land were subject to a reduction in CRP payments of up to 25 percent. Waiving these reductions for new and beginning farmers will provide extra financial support during times of emergency like drought and other natural disasters.
  • Increasing payment rates to beginning farmers and ranchers under Emergency Assistance forLivestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) (PDF, 288KB). Under this provision, beginning and farmers can claim up 90 percent of losses for lost livestock, such as bees, under ELAP. This is a fifty percent increase over previously available payment amounts to new and beginning farmers.

In the near future, USDA will also announce additional crop insurance program changes for beginning farmers and ranchers – including discounted premiums, waiver of administrative fees, and other benefits.

These policy announcements are made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

The Deputy Secretary made these announcements at the inaugural meeting of the reconvenedBeginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee held at the University of California Davis, California. This Advisory Committee, composed of 20 members, including Extension agents, lenders, farmers, ranchers and academics will meet through 2015 to learn, discuss, and formulate recommendations to USDA on how to support new and beginning farmers.

A fact sheet outlining significant USDA efforts to support beginning farmers and ranchers, and other Department-wide accomplishments, are available on www.usda.gov/results.