McGarrity explains three new USDA-FSA programs

AFP Correspondent

LINCROFT (March 15, 2015) — The USDA-Farm Service Agency has three new programs enacted in the 2014 Farm Bill and Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey invited Colleen McGarrity, an agricultural program specialist, to explain them at the winter conference.
The Non-insured Assistance Program changes will positively impact organic farmers, McGarrity said.
The program mirrors the FSA crop insurance program in many ways, McGarrity explained.
For a $250 fee, a farmer can buy into the disaster program.
The fee is for a 50-percent replacement. A farmer can buy into a higher percentage of replacement up to a total of $125,000.
The premium for higher coverage is calculated at the time crops are sold through a formula based on acres, yield, share of ownership of the land and the coverage level the farmer chooses.
So the top premium is $6,563. The farmer pays the fee at sign-up and the premium at harvest.
There is a premium calculator on the FSA website.
McGarrity said a farmer can opt to cover only his or her biggest crop.
The FSA cannot recommend the level of coverage a farmer should choose.
Should there be crop loss, the FSA pays as soon as it receives proof, McGarrity said. She emphasized the importance of careful record-keeping.
The initial fee is waived for certain groups, McGarrity said. These include beginning farmers, farmers with limited resources and the traditionally underserved: Asian, African-American, Hispanic and women.
Organic farmers can now be reimbursed at organic prices or direct market prices. In the past all reimbursement was based on national agriculture statistics.
“People are signing up for this in droves,” she said. “Chances are everybody will have a loss at some point.”
Disaster means any weather event as well as disease and insect damage that can be proved to be exacerbated by weather. Wildlife damage is not covered.
A second new program is the micro-loan of up to $50,000 for beginning, niche and small farms or CSAs.
“They are easy to apply for and there is a quick turnaround,” McGarrity said. Adding the loans can be used for start-up costs, marketing, family living expenses, tools, irrigation, livestock, hoop houses and many other things.
The third new program deals with honeybee loss.
“There are more than 3,000 beekeepers in New Jersey and FSA helps from backyard to the largest,” McGarrity said.
Beekeepers can be covered for certain adverse weather events, if they are not expected to occur or are extreme. They cannot be covered for wildlife damage. McGarrity said they just have to prove the losses.
Photographs are a good source of proof.
Notice of the loss must be provided to the FSA within 30 days after the loss or by Nov. 1 after the end of the program year, whichever is earlier. The FSA must also be informed of any changes in the colonies. Beekeepers must prove they adhere to best practices.
McGarrity assured the beginning farmers in her audience the staff at the FSA service centers are very helpful.