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March 28, 2003   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
March 28, 2003

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman today announced key sign-up dates for programs under the Agricultural Assistance Act of 2003, including the crop disaster assistance program.

Veneman said that sign-up for the crop program, which will reimburse producers for qualifying crop losses in either 2001 or 2002, will begin June 6, with payments to begin shortly thereafter.

"The Department is committed to getting assistance into the hands of affected producers as soon as possible," Veneman said during a briefing with reporters from the USDA radio studios. "Our timetable is several weeks ahead of previous disaster aid packages, even though this is a more complicated bill to implement."

To expedite the process, Veneman said the department is working to cut regulatory red tape by going directly to final rules where possible and implementing many regulations through a single, expedited "mega regulation."

Crop disaster payments must be calculated using the same formula used for the 2000 crop year. This means crop losses for 2001 and 2002 will be valued using the price election for Actual Production History crop insurance policies, or if that price is not available, a 5-year average.

Crop disaster payments are also subject to a formula which states that the sum of (1) the value of the crop not lost, (2) the disaster payment, and (3) the crop-insurance indemnity cannot exceed 95 percent of what the crop's value would have been, if there had been no loss. Crop disaster payments will be reduced if the 95 percent limitation is exceeded. The value of the crop not lost and the 95 percent limitation will be valued at either the Actual Production History price election or the NASS season-average price, whichever is higher. Specific details will be available from local Farm Service Agency offices, USDA Service Centers and on the web at http://www.usda.gov.

Other key assistance program details include:

• $60 million in hurricane-loss assistance for sugar cane growers and cooperatives will be provided in May;

• sign-up for the $50 million cottonseed program will begin after completion of the 2002 crop ginning season, which occurs around May 1;

• $60 million in disaster related assistance for the sugar beet industry, with sign-up beginning in June;

• $250 million Livestock Assistance Program that will reimburse producers for grazing losses will begin in July.

The Livestock Compensation Program (LCP) and the Tobacco Payment Program (TOPP) already are in place, with sign-up for TOPP underway and LCP sign-up slated to begin April 1.

USDA also is issuing refunds to eligible producers who were assessed payment reductions last year for haying or grazing on lands enrolled under the Conservation Reserve Program. These refunds will total $16.4 million to producers in 28 states.

"This is one more way to assist affected producers," Veneman said. "The refunds will go to farmers and ranchers who were hardest hit by last year's drought."

Veneman also reminded producers of next week's April 1 deadline to update acreage bases and yields under the Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment Program. Nationwide, USDA expects that about 5 percent of eligible producers still need to visit their county offices to either make the updates or make appointments to do so.

Two other important dates include the March 31 deadline to designate peanut acreage and yields to a farm and the June 2 closing date to sign completed contracts for the 2002 and 2003 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program.

For more information on these issues, visit USDA's website at http://www.usda.gov/

Information specific to disaster assistance can be found at http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov/

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