VDACS Establishes New Dairy Producers Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program to Assist Virginia Dairies

~ VDACS to reimburse Virginia dairies annual premium payment for the federal Dairy Margin Coverage Program ~

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has established a new reimbursement program to assist dairy producers in the state that participate in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage Program. The new Dairy Producers Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program reimburses Virginia dairies for the premium payment they have made for the federal program at the tier 1 level.

“Virginia’s dairy industry produces safe, wholesome products that are enjoyed both locally and around the world. But dairy farms have recently faced a whole host of challenges and could use some additional assistance,” said VDACS Commissioner Brad Copenhaver. “I encourage all dairies in Virginia to participate in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage program, work with your local soil and water conservation district to implement a qualifying conservation practice, and apply to take advantage of this reimbursement funding.”

            “Virginia’s dairy farmers have experienced volatile and increasingly depressed milk prices in recent years due to factors outside of their control. Weather events, shifting consumer preferences, trade disruptions and the ongoing pandemic have all had impacted milk prices while at the same time input costs have risen sharply over the past years,” said Eric Paulson, Executive Secretary, Virginia Dairymen’s Association. “This program will assist producers by removing some of the volatility and provide risk management for their farms.”

Applications for the new Dairy Producers Margin Coverage Premium Assistant Program will be available this fall. Eligible dairy producers will receive notification of the application’s availability directly and should submit program applications to VDACS by February 1, 2022.

To become eligible for the new Dairy Producers Margin Coverage Premium Assistant Program, dairies in the state must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a resource management plan or nutrient management plan that is certified or undergoing certification by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation or a local soil and water conservation district.
  • Participate in the federal Dairy Margin Coverage Program at the tier I level, as contained in the federal Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

“This program offers the opportunity for producers to participate in the Dairy Margin Coverage program while having their Tier 1 premium payments returned to them,” said Kyle Shreve, Executive Director, Virginia Agribusiness Council. “Dairy producers simply have to show they have paid their premiums and that they have a nutrient management plan to eliminate the risk of participating in this federal insurance program. Participation would certainly help producers with aid should prices continue to fall and input costs continue to rise and the Council is proud to support the program.”

The Dairy Producer Margin Coverage Premium Assistance Program is a result of Delegate Wendy Gooditis’s House Bill No. 1750 and Senator Mark Obenshain’s Senate Bill No. 1193, which were unanimously approved during the Virginia General Assembly 2021 special session and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam. Program funding for the current fiscal year is set at one million dollars. Reimbursement to eligible dairies will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis and is limited to the availability of funds.

            “Virginia dairy farmers have faced a multitude of severe economic challenges in recent years due to ongoing changes in domestic demand, sharp declines in exports and the pandemic-fueled disruption of market channels and product demand during the past 16 months. During that time we’ve lost probably 20% of state dairy farms,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Virginia’s Premium Assistance Program will allow some dairy farmers, who otherwise couldn’t, to participate in DMC, the federal risk management program. All participating dairy farmers will benefit from the financial support offered by the Commonwealth.”

Virginia’s dairy industry is one of the Commonwealth’s top commodities. According to 2019 USDA data, the state’s dairy industry produced nearly 1.5 billion pounds of milk annually and had cash receipts of $290.1 million.

Initiative Encourages Virginians to Commit to Soil Conservation

Soil is at the heart of all of Earth’s ecosystems, providing critical resources needed to support plant, animal and human life.

To raise awareness about the importance of soil health, the Virginia Soil Health Coalition is launching the 4 the Soil Awareness Initiative in partnership with Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Soil is a fundamental element of all food production, and conserving soil health is crucial to sustaining the food supply for a growing global population. Because of that, the initiative encourages Virginia farmers and landowners to adopt four principles: keep soil covered, minimize soil disturbance, maximize living roots; and energize with diversity.

The project will kick off June 23 in conjunction with National Soil Health Day.

“The really neat thing about the initiative is that it has a lot of pieces and potential audiences,” said Virginia Soil Health Coalition coordinator Mary Sketch. “Right now, it’s targeting soil managers and all of the ways that looks—farmers, technical assistance providers, landowners in general or master gardeners. Meeting those people where they are, and using the initiative to educate and raise awareness, creates a large umbrella that really pulls everyone together.”

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EPA’s Move to Reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule Put a New Spin on an Old Threat to Farmers

On June 9, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of the Army (the agencies) announced their intent to revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS), and reverse the Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) currently in place. At the same time, the Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting remand of the rule.

This action reflects the agencies’ intent to initiate a rulemaking process to develop a new rule that defines WOTUS and is informed by stakeholder engagement, as well as the experience of implementing the pre-2015 rule, the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, and the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The agencies have stated their new regulatory effort will be guided by the following considerations:

  • Protecting water resources and our communities consistent with the Clean Water Act.
  • The latest science and the effects of climate change on our waters.
  • Emphasizing a rule with a practical implementation approach for state and Tribal partners.
  • Reflecting the experience of and input received from landowners, the agricultural community that fuels and feeds the world, states, Tribes, local governments, community organizations, environmental groups, and disadvantaged communities with environmental justice concerns. 
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Producers with Crop Insurance to Receive Premium Benefit for Cover Crops

Agricultural producers who have coverage under most crop insurance policies are eligible for a premium benefit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) if they planted cover crops during this crop year. The Pandemic Cover Crop Program (PCCP), offered nationally by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), helps farmers maintain their cover crop systems, despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic.

The PCCP is part of USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, a bundle of programs to bring financial assistance to farmers, ranchers and producers who felt the impact of COVID-19 market disruptions.

“Cultivating cover crops requires a sustained, long-term investment, and the economic challenges of the pandemic made it financially challenging for many producers to maintain cover crop systems,” said RMA Acting Administrator Richard Flournoy. “Producers use cover crops to improve soil health and gain other agronomic benefits, and this program will reduce producers’ overall premium bill to help ensure producers can continue this climates-smart agricultural practice.”

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