The message from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the Senate Agriculture Committee last week was that United States Department of Agriculture is making progress on implementing all titles of the 2014 farm bill. 

The Secretary testified before the committee on Farm Bill Implementation. 

The department received high marks from the committee on the speed in which the Livestock Disaster program was implemented.   Members asked questions on their implementation priorities and concerns including conservation programs, the new Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs position, the new Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, payment limitations, etc. 

USDA also issued a report on its farm bill progress.  The following is progress cited by USDA on the commodity programs, conservation, and trade titles:

TITLE I – Commodity Programs

  • Agricultural Risk Coverage Program and Price Loss Coverage Program: On April 29, 2014, USDA began a competitive process to award funding for farm bill decision aids and outreach tools. Proposals are being accepted through May 9, 2014, and awards will be announced in May 2014.
  • Supplemental Agriculture Disaster Assistance: On April 14, 2014, USDA published a final rule to implement the disaster assistance provisions. Sign up for these programs began on April 15, 2014.
  • Dairy Forward Pricing Program: Final rule published on March 21, 2014, that re-established the Dairy Forward Pricing Program.
  • County and Regional Loan Rates: County and regional loan rates were announced in a press release on March 28, 2014.
  • Extension of Programs: On March 28, 2014, FSA published on the Federal Register notices for the extension of the following programs: (1) Marketing Assistance Loans; (2) Milk Income Loss Contract; (3) Dairy Indemnity Payment Program; (4) Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program; and (5) Sugar.

TITLE II – Conservation

  • Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program: On May 1, 2014, USDA announced the availability of $20 million through this program. Applications will be accepted through June 16, 2014.
  • Agricultural Conservation Easements Program: On May 1, 2014, USDA announced the availability of funds through this program. Applications will be accepted through June 6, 2014.
  • Conservation Programs: Applications are currently being accepted for the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

TITLE III – Trade

  • U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish Study: The week of May 5, 2014, USDA will submit a report to Congress on the existing market in the U.S. for the U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish.
  • Emerging Markets Program (EMP): On April 17, 2014, FAS published a Notice of Funding Availability for EMP, with $10 million available in 2014. EMP applications are reviewed on a rolling basis during the fiscal year. Applications received after May 19, 2014, will be considered for funding if funding remains available.
  • Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC): On April 17, 2014, FAS published a Notice of Funding Availability for TASC, with $9 million available. Applications received after May 28, 2014, will be considered if funding remains available. The week of May 5, 2014, FAS will publish a final rule to broaden the range of projects funded by the program.
  • Market Access Program (MAP): On April 16, 2014, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) announced the 2014 funding for the Market Access Program. Sixty-two non-profit organizations received $171.8 million in funding.
  • Foreign Market Development Cooperator Program (FMD): On April 16, 2014, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) announced the 2014 funding for FMD, with 22 trade organizations receiving $24.6 million.