Issues of Interest
Drought, disaster tools
The following tools and programs may be helpful to Texas farmers and ranchers who have been affected by drought conditions.
Disaster Assistance Programs
Farm Bureau supports three critical permanent livestock disaster programs: Livestock Indemnity Program, Livestock Forage Program and Emergency Livestock Assistance Program. These programs, which were part of the 2008 Farm Bill, expired as of Sept. 30, 2011, and have not been reauthorized. Both the Senate-passed and House Agriculture Committee-approved farm bills contain a restart of the livestock disaster programs and retroactive coverage for 2012.
Conservation Program Flexibility
On July 11, USDA began releasing certain Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres for haying. Grazing previously was authorized through Sept. 30 in many drought-stricken areas. USDA also announced that livestock producers using CRP in the Emergency Haying and Grazing program will lose only 10 percent, rather than the historical 25 percent, of their annual CRP rental payments. On July 23, USDA released additional CRP acres, as well as Wetlands Reserve Program easements for haying and grazing, and allowed Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts to be modified for drought assistance activities, such as livestock grazing and watering. On Aug. 1, USDA released more CRP acres, enrolled in special habitat designation, for haying. On Aug. 29, USDA extended emergency grazing until Nov. 30, giving producers an additional two months to use CRP acres without incurring an additional rental payment reduction.
Some farmers and ranchers may be allowed to postpone reporting gains from livestock and poultry that is sold early because of a drought-related natural disaster. To qualify, producers must be in a USDA-designated disaster area, declared due to weather related conditions.
Grazing Cover Crops
On Aug. 22, USDA announced that it would work with the federal crop insurance program to allow for haying or grazing of cover crops without impacting the insurability of planted 2013 spring crops.
Section 32 Meat Purchase
On Aug. 13, USDA announced it will purchase up to $100 million of pork, $10 million of lamb, $50 million of chicken and $10 million of catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks. The purchases will be made through the Emergency Surplus Removal Program, which allows USDA to use Section 32 funds to purchase meat and poultry products to assist farmers and ranchers who have been affected by natural disasters.
Emergency Conservation Program
USDA transferred $14 million into the Emergency Conservation Program, which can be used to move water to livestock and rehabilitate drought-stricken land.
On Aug. 1, USDA announced that crop insurance companies have agreed to provide a short grace period for farmers on insurance premiums in 2012. As a result, producers now have an extra 30 days to make payments without incurring interest penalties on unpaid premiums.
Crops and Livestock
Streamlined Disaster Designation Process
Effective July 11, counties labeled by the U.S. Drought Monitor as in a severe drought for eight consecutive growing-season weeks, or in an extreme drought for any amount of time in the growing season, automatically will receive a secretarial designation as disaster areas. County and state emergency boards will be able to bypass governor initiations of the disaster designation and submit these requests directly to USDA. However, counties that do not currently qualify automatically for the program will still have to prove a 30 percent loss in at least one crop. USDA indicates these measures will reduce the time it takes for a county to be designated a disaster by up to 40 percent.
Lower Emergency Loan Rates
Secretarial disaster county designations allow affected producers to apply for the Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Farm Loan Program. On July 11, emergency loan rates were lowered from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent. Usually, emergency loan eligibility is based on crop losses that are determined after the production cycle, and loan amounts are based on production during normal years. On Aug. 22, USDA modified emergency loans to allow them to be made earlier in the season.
Truck Limit Waiver
On Aug. 7, the Department of Transportation waived hours of service requirements that limit how many hours truck drivers can work per week. The waiver can be applied to commercial truck drivers delivering supplies to farmers and ranchers. Emergency waivers from federal truck weight regulations also may be granted.
2012 Agricultural Water Summit Report
Water is a vital resource for all Texans, and especially for Texas farmers and ranchers. Anticipating water to be one of the focuses of the 83rd Legislative Session, the 2012 Agricultural Water Summit was planned in an effort to educate the leadership of agricultural organizations statewide on water-related issues with the intent of initiating an open dialog between organizations on the subject of groundwater, surface water and environmental issues.
Click here for a full report from the 2012 Agricultural Water Summit, including recommendations to ensure Texans have sufficient access to water for future generations.
TDA Hay Hotline
During this historic drought, hay resources have become scarce in Texas. In order to help producers identify hay sources, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has created the Hay Hotline. To access TDA's Hay Hotline, call (877) 429-1998 or visit TDA's Hay Hotline webpage.
• Implement a state and national program to influence decisions of government agencies on rules and regulations and administrative actions that affect farmers and ranchers.
• Provide staff leadership on environmental and labor issues.
• Assist Farm Bureau members in dealing with regulatory and administrative actions at the state and national level.
• Give producer-members an opportunity to take part in programs and activities directly related to their individual commodities.
• Ensure that all actions reflect policy adopted by TFB members for the benefit of members.
The Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Commodity Division was created when TFB delegates adopted the “Expanded Program” at a special called Session in March 1971. The purpose, as stated in the delegate action, was, “An opportunity be provided Farm Bureau members, having a common commodity interest, to work together within the structure of the Farm Bureau organization to analyze problems of mutual interest or concern to develop and recommend to the Farm Bureau organization ways and means for solving problems, meeting needs objectives within policy guidelines of the Farm Bureau organization.”
Implementation of environmental law is often a high priority of our regulatory activities. In 1987, the TFB Board authorized the establishment of a Regulatory Affairs Department. This department provides staff assistance to the TFB Natural Resources Committee. Recommendations from this committee cover a range of issues, including endangered species, pesticides, all water policy, education and more. TFB put “lobbying wheels” and direction under the programs and became an integral part of our organizational activity.
Combining the two divisions—Commodity and Regulatory Affairs—took place in 1994. The staff began working to implement a state and national program by combining commodity-specific concerns with regulatory impacts, to influence decisions by government agencies on rules and regulations that affect farmers and ranchers. The program of work also includes providing staff leadership on environmental and labor issues, and assisting Farm Bureau members with regulatory and administrative actions at the local level. Commodity activities give the producer-members an opportunity to take part in programs and activities directly related to their individual commodities. These functions are coordinated through the Commodity and Regulatory Activities Division.