Farm Bill 101
Agriculture Officials Discuss Law’s Impact
WEYERS CAVE — Increased incentives for food grown and sold locally.
Greater emphasis on conservation.
More help for beginning farmers.
A new insurance program that allows all of a farm’s commodities to be covered under a single policy as opposed to a patchwork of policies.
The Agriculture Act of 2014, best known as the Farm Bill, includes these and other changes important to farmers, and a group of U.S. Department of Agriculture officials provided a primer on how the legislation might affect them at a meeting Wednesday
About 25 people attended the event at the Weyers Cave Community Center, which was sponsored by the Virginia Farm Bureau.
One change that might simplify farm insurance is Whole Farm Revenue Protection.
The program allows a single policy to cover up to $8.5 million worth of commodities grown on a farm.
Previously, farmers had to acquire separate coverage for each commodity they produced.
Wayne Harrifield, of the Raleigh, N.C., office of the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, said the program replaces the Adjusted Growth Revenue, or AGR, and AGR-Lite programs.
The new Farm Bill, he said, also reinstates a caveat eliminated in 1996: Crop insurance subsidies will not be available if the policyholder isn’t conforming to conservation standards.
“You need to have an AD-1026 on file,” Harrifield said, referring to the form pledging compliance with certain conservation standards.
Cory Guilliams, district conservationist at the Harrisonburg office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the legislation hikes the amount of money individual farmers can receive for conservation programs to $450,000 from $300,000.
It also provides an array of programs offering financial help, including organic incentives and energy conservation programs.
More help for energy conservation is available through the Rural Energy for America Program.
Craig Barbrow, rural business specialist with the Wytheville office of USDA Rural Development, said funding has been increased for energy-efficiency programs, and Virginia is in line to be allotted $1 million annually beginning in the next fiscal year, rather than only $300,000.
The money can be used for projects involving energy efficiency or renewable energy technologies, he said. Agricultural producers and rural small businesses are eligible to apply for grants.
Rural Development also administers the Value-Added Producer Grant program, which Barbrow said provides money for economic planning and eligible working capital expenses for agricultural producers who provide enhanced products for local markets.
That includes crops grown and sold within 400 miles of the farm that are marketed as locally grown. He said the freshness of local produce is considered the added value.
The new Farm Bill also lifts a requirement that the Youth Loan program, which provides loans of up to $5,000 for those 10 to 20 years of age, be restricted to those in rural areas.
“It’s part of the push for the local food movement,” said Jeff Jones, farm loan manager for the Rockingham-Page Farm Service Agency.
The Farm Bill also makes other changes to different crop insurance and disaster programs.
For more information on all the changes, farmers should consult with their farm insurance agents.
Contact Vic Bradshaw at 574-6279 or firstname.lastname@example.org