USDA SEEKS TIMELY FARM LAW IMPLEMENTATION
USDA is committed to a "timely and efficient" farm law implementations, according to Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. On Wednesday she announced the formation of a farm law working group consisting of USDA's Chief Economist Keith Collins, Budget Director Steve Dewhurst and sub-cabinet officials that will work to ensure appropriate planning, coordination and implementation.
"USDA employees have been working for many months in anticipation of the new farm bill," said Veneman. "Our farm bill implementation team will include key career and sub-cabinet officials with all mission areas working together to ensure an efficient and timely process."
Veneman noted that the farm bill contains new programs that are widespread and affect many sectors including farm services, natural resources, conservation, rural development, nutrition, food safety, research, pests and diseases, as well as international trade. The measure establishes new authorities and additional rules, regulations and procedures.
She assured farmers that USDA is working to implement the new programs and outlined several measures already underway, including: the creation of a farm bill website (http://www.usda.gov/farmbill); implementing eGovernment, which will soon allow producers to complete and submit some forms on-line; developing and sending to county offices new software to aid in updating producer information; meeting with representatives of farm and commodity organizations; and developing informational materials about new programs.
The Secretary noted that USDA has been administering the last year of the FAIR (freedom to farm) Act while the new farm bill was being developed. That law has provided nearly $4 billion in direct payments to producers this year.
Under the new law, some additional direct payments for 2002 will be made in the fall using updated acreage bases. The new law also provides for a first installment of 2003 direct payments in December 2002. The first advance counter-cyclical payments for 2002 will be made in October with a second advance in February 2003. The final payment will be made at the end of each marketing year for each commodity, once the final season average price is known.
The marketing loan program continues to operate largely as before but with readjusted loan rates for most crops. The new loan rates are applicable immediately to the 2002 harvested crops, beginning with wheat now being harvested.
Additional information is being provided immediately upon development on the USDA website http://www.usda.gov/ which also has links to other USDA agencies involved with farm bill implementation.