USDA Extends Farmers’ Application Deadline for CFAP Payments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended the deadline for farmers to apply for Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments.

USDA granted a 30-day extension to the previous application deadline of Feb. 26, which was announced to producers on Jan. 15.

American Farm Bureau Federation requested the extension in a Feb. 24 letter addressed to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. AFBF President Zippy Duvall noted severe weather and the temporary suspension of CFAP payments during the presidential transition had created challenges for farmers to meet the previous application deadline.

“AFBF applauds Secretary Vilsack for his swift response to our call for an extension to the CFAP application deadline,” Duvall said. “Coronavirus aid is a lifeline for farmers and ranchers who are suffering from losses due to the pandemic. The extra time will help ensure America’s farmers have the opportunity to apply for help.”

CFAP assistance is available to farmers whose operations have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Payment eligibility was expanded under CFAP 2 to include turfgrass producers and contract livestock and poultry growers. Contract producers include those raising broilers, laying hens, chicken eggs, turkeys and hogs.

For additional details or to find information related to a specific eligible crop, visit farmers.gov/cfap/commodities.

Farmers can apply through a local Farm Service Agency office or online at farmers.gov/cfap/apply.

Farm Group Pleased with Confirmation of Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture

American Farm Bureau Federation expressed its appreciation for Tom Vilsack’s confirmation as the new secretary of agriculture.

“AFBF congratulates Tom Vilsack on his confirmation as the next Secretary of Agriculture. His strong track record of leadership and previous experience at USDA will serve rural America well,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

“Secretary Vilsack and I have spoken several times in recent weeks about opportunities and challenges facing America’s farmers and ranchers, and I look forward to close collaboration,” Duvall said.

Vilsack is a former Iowa governor and previously led the USDA during the Obama administration. He received bipartisan backing during his Feb. 2 confirmation hearing and was approved by the Senate and sworn in Feb. 23.

Duvall said the organization plans to work with Vilsack on resuming the CARES Act program and continuing to build on advances made in trade.

Cotton Growers Optimistic About Working with New Administration

Virginia cotton growers are optimistic that they can work with members of the Biden administration.

Reece Langley, president and CEO of the National Cotton Council of America, told participants in a virtual Virginia Cotton Growers Association meeting in February that many new Senate and House members hail from Cotton Belt states.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, and was a key player in getting cotton added to the safety net portion of the farm bill, Langley said. “He’s been a real champion of ours.”

Also in the favor of cotton growers in Virginia and across the U.S. is that the chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., “is a strong friend of the cotton industry.” And the House committee’s ranking member, Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., has spent time visiting cotton farms and “taken an interest in learning about” cotton farming, Langley shared. “I think we can work closely with both of them.”

Foremost on both the Senate and House agriculture committees’ agendas are climate policies, racial equity and the farm bill. The Senate committee is considering the Climate Solutions Act, which establishes renewable energy standards and greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

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Farmers Anticipate Price Fluctuation as China Books Massive U.S. Feed Grain Shipments

Bookings for record-breaking shipments of U.S. corn and soybeans to feed a Chinese hog herd recovering from African swine flu has bumped the crop price to multiyear highs.

That demand means U.S. grain growers will fetch a good price, while livestock farmers are concerned that higher feed costs, and the potential loss of pastureland, will impact their bottom lines.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently confirmed three separate sales of U.S. corn to China for delivery in the 2020-21 year, ending Aug. 31. Those sales total 3.74 million tons, or 147 million bushels. A January booking of 1.7 million tons is the sixth-largest, single-day sale of U.S. corn since 1977, and two of the sales to China last summer are in the top five.

“Farmers are excited about it, because the more demand we have, the higher their cash price goes,” said Robert Harper, grain division manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Today in Virginia, looking at the futures market, we’re around a six-to-seven-year high on corn prices, and we’re at an eight-year high on soybean prices.”

Harper said so much feed grain was purchased that U.S. supplies are low, so he expects prices to stay elevated throughout the summer.

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Hemp Growers Get a Boost with USDA’s Final Production Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued its final rule on domestic hemp production, introducing several improvements to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers.

The final rule was announced Jan. 15 and replaces the interim final rule published Oct. 31, 2019. Regulations outlined in USDA’s final rule will go into effect March 22.

Under the final rule, farmers now have increased flexibility when sampling their crop for THC levels. Samples may be collected 5 to 8 inches from the crop’s main stem, terminal buds and central colas, which are stems that could develop into a bud.

Under the interim rule, sampling procedures varied among states, but under the final rule they will be uniform across the U.S. The new measurement requirements will allow more plant material to be used during the sampling process, which could help limit crops from exceeding allowable THC limits.

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Ag Leaders Anticipate Redistricting Commission’s Impact on Rural Virginia

As populations shift from rural to urban areas and political maps are reexamined, agricultural advocates hope farmers and rural Virginians can maintain a cohesive voice.

A diverse group of eight Virginians will join eight legislators in serving on the state’s new redistricting commission. They soon will be tasked with redrawing the state’s political maps using new U.S. Census data.

A panel of retired judges chose 64 finalists from 1,200 applicants selected by General Assembly leaders. The judges then picked six men and two women of varied race, age, political affiliation and geographical location to fill the eight citizen seats on the 16-member commission.

The commission’s eight legislative seats were chosen by the General Assembly’s four political caucuses and also represent the state’s geographical makeup.

Del. Les Adams, R- Chatham, was one of the two House Republicans appointed to a seat on the commission. He represents Henry and Pittsylvania counties, where his father and grandfather farmed. He said the constitutional amendment creating a redistricting commission was widely endorsed.

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