USDA is awarding $6 million to universities and cooperative state Extension services to develop online decision tools and other materials and train experts to educate producers about several key programs, including the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (MPP-Dairy). The new Web tools will help farmers and ranchers determine what participation in programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill will mean for their businesses.
The University of Illinois (lead for the National Coalition for Producer Education [NCPE]), along with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M (co-leads for the National Association of Agricultural and Food Policy [NAAFP]), will receive a total of $3 million to develop the new online tools and train state-based Extension agents who can in turn help educate farmers.
According to USDA, sign-up for the newly established MPP-Dairy begins late this summer, and enrollment for "buy-up" provisions under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) will begin early next year. An online MPP tool will be available when sign up begins, and the NAP buy-up provision resource will become available to producers in the fall for the 2015 crop year.
The new resources will also help farmers and ranchers make an educated choice between the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. Using the new online tools, producers will be able to use data unique to their specific farming operations combined with factors like the geographical diversity of crops, soils, weather and climates across the country to test a variety of financial scenarios before officially signing up for the new program options later this year. Once a producer enrolls in the ARC or PLC program, he or she must remain in the program through the 2018 crop year.
The University of Illinois, as well as FAPRI and AFPC will develop ARC and PLC Web tools. The University of Illinois will also develop the online resources for the MPP and NAP programs.
USDA will also award $3 million to state cooperative Extension services—a nationwide network of experts based at land-grant universities—for outreach and education on the new Farm Bill programs. Funds will be used to conduct public education outreach meetings where producers can speak with local Extension agents and Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff. Outreach meetings will begin late this summer to help farmers and ranchers understand the new programs and their options.