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January 27, 2009   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
January 27, 2009

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced he will extend the comment period for the 2008 Farm Bill Farm Program Payment Limitation and Payment Eligibility rulemaking process.

Vilsack discussed his priorities as the newly appointed secretary of agriculture during a teleconference call Monday with agriculture and other reporters across the country.

As part of the regulatory review process outlined by the White House and Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Vilsack said he is directing the Department to extend the comment period for the payment limits rule for an additional 60 days. That would put the deadline at March 29 as requested by a coalition including the American Farm Bureau Federation and other commodity groups.

The comment period was set to close Wednesday. In a Jan. 22 letter to Vilsack, the groups said an extension will allow farmers to better assess the impact of the rule on their operations and to more appropriately comment before the rule is made final for the 2010-2012 crop years.

"Let's be clear -- in no way is this move a signal that we will modify the rules for the 2009 crop year," Vilsack said. "Sign-up has begun and it's important that clear and consistent rules remain in place so that producers can prepare for the crop year and manage their risk appropriately."

To date, USDA has only received seven comments on the payment limits rule and Vilsack says that by extending the comment period additional farmers and other interested parties will have the opportunity to comment.

"In keeping with President Obama's recent pledge to make government more transparent, inclusive and collaborative, I would like to pursue an extended comment period so that more farmers and other individuals can participate in this rulemaking process," he said. "I'm particularly interested in suggestions that would help the Department target payments to farmers who really need them and ensure that payments are not being provided to ineligible parties for future crop years."

Vilsack also announced that the Department does not plan to implement a proposal developed by the previous Administration that would have cut more than $3 million from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, a popular program that promotes the growth of healthy fruits and vegetables.

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