Earlier this week, I was honored to meet with members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters here at USDA headquarters. These women and men, many with decades of broadcasting and farm experience, are among the familiar voices, faces and bylines we hear and see each day through radio, television, newsletters, and social media across America.
This meeting gave me an opportunity to brief them on progress we’re making to roll out the provisions of the 2018 Farm Bill, including renewed disaster programs we’re using to help farm producers address the impacts of torrential rains and flooding that hampered spring planting in parts of the Midwest and South.
As you know, implementing a Farm Bill is a formidable task. We have a large number of USDA employees, here at headquarters and across the country, working in teams to promulgate policy as outlined in the legislation. At the direction of Secretary Perdue, we prioritized a needed upgrade to the dairy producer safety net. On June 17, we’ll start taking applications for the new Dairy Margin Coverage Program. We are also providing a decision tool that will help producers make the best choices for coverage based on the size of their dairy operations.
We’re announcing new Farm Bill conservation provisions, sometimes several times a week. This week we announced resumption of signups for the continuous Conservation Reserve Program, including Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program signup. The next signup starts June 3, 2019, for certain practices. We also will accept requests to extend expiring CRP contracts. Additionally, under the Conservation Innovation Grant program, we announced that USDA will provide up to $25 million a year for On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, including soil health demonstration trials.
We also announced the availability of $40 million in technical and financial assistance to help our conservation partners protect, restore and enhance critical wetlands on agricultural lands through the Wetland Restoration Enhancement Partnership. As I told the broadcasters, the changes to USDA’s conservation programs in the Farm Bill will help us make regional conservation efforts more creative and more beneficial.
Many producers are interested in changes being made to the popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program through the new Farm Bill. We are working on a rule that will raise the cap for organic producers, provides advance payments to historically underserved producers and gives direct assistance to help irrigation districts use water more efficiently.
Another provision of the Farm Bill that is already in effect boosts the maximum loan a producer can obtain through our operating and farm ownership loan programs. And changes have been made to annual forage insurance to increase flexibility for small grain producers who include grazing in their operations in the Great Plains states.
As we move into the summer and fall months, expect to see many more announcements from USDA concerning new Farm Bill provisions. No doubt, you’ll probably read or hear about them from a farm broadcaster!