Leahy: Water quality grants and whole-farm crop insurance will help Vermont farmers

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Leahy: Water quality grants and whole-farm crop insurance will help Vermont farmers

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 9:49am -- tim

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) says the US Department of Agriculture this week is beginning to roll out two new programs in the recently enacted Farm Bill that will benefit diversified agriculture in Vermont and improve agricultural water quality in the state.  Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, worked to include the provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill. 

NRCS Water Quality Grant:

The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Vermont will receive a special allocation of $80,000 to improve agricultural water quality.  This funding will be used to implement water quality conservation practices on farms in the Rock River Watershed in Vermont under the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI).  The Rock River is known to be seriously compromised by phosphorus pollution, which then quickly reaches the Missisquoi Bay on Lake Champlain. 

Eligible landowners will receive help for installing systems that contain and reduce agricultural runoff, preventing it from reaching farther into the watershed.

Leahy said:  “In the Lake Champlain Basin, everything is interconnected.  Agricultural activities upstream can eventually affect the health of the Lake downstream.  It takes innovative approaches and working together as a community, which Vermonters do so well, to protect our Lake and water quality.  This new initiative is in line with that strategy and ethic, and it is another step in our goals for protecting and cleaning the Lake.”

State Conservationist Vicky Drew said:  “This targeted approach provides a way to accelerate voluntary, private lands conservation investments to improve water quality and to focus funds where they are most needed.  When multiple farms take action in one area and one watershed, it can make a difference.  It can stop an algae bloom downstream or keep bacteria from reaching a drinking water source.”

These funds are in addition to nearly $15 million available each year to Vermont through NRCS for conservation practices.

In addition to backing from USDA, the Vermont NWQI projects have been supported by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Markets, and the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

Whole-Farm Insurance For Organic, Specialty And Diversified Crop Farmers:
Leahy also hailed the launch, set for later this summer, of a new risk management tool to support Vermont farms with diversified crops -- another initiative Leahy fought to include in the Farm Bill.

The pilot program allows organic, specialty crop and diversified crop farmers to insure all crops on their farm at once, rather than the past practice of having to insure them commodity by commodity in programs designed for large-scale commodity crops like wheat and corn.  Those programs were not well suited to fruits and vegetables -- especially high-value organic products -- and were a mismatch for highly diverse farm operations.  The result had been that many diversified farms were left vulnerable.  Flooding from Tropical Storm Irene had devastated many such Vermont farms by ruining farmers’ uninsured crops.

Leahy, the father of the national organic standards and labeling program, said:  “Diversified farms have seen rapid growth here in Vermont.  Diverse organic farms are becoming more common, and after the devastation we saw from Tropical Storm Irene, we know all too well how important a safety net that covers all crops can be to Vermont farmers.  This whole-farm insurance approach is a better fit for farmers, it reduces their risk, and it can help more farmers ride out setbacks and stay in farming.”


NRCS and USDA Releases Below:


Natural Resources

Conservation Service

356 Mountain View Drive, Suite 105

Colchester, VT 05446



USDA Announces Targeted Funding for Water Quality Improvements

The Rock River Watershed to Receive Additional Conservation Program Funding

COLCHESTER, VERMONT - USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide $80,000 in assistance to Vermont farmers in the Rock River watershed who voluntarily make improvements to their land to improve water quality.

Funding is provided through the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI) to help farmers reduce the runoff of nutrients, sediment and pathogens from agricultural land that can flow into waterways. Financial incentives are provided to eligible landowners to implement agricultural conservation best management practices.

For the past three years, NRCS in Vermont has focused resources of the NWQI to the Rock River watershed in Franklin County. With the help of local, state and national partners, NRCS identified this sub-watershed of Lake Champlain as a priority where on-farm conservation investment will deliver the greatest water quality benefits.

“The collaborative goal is to ensure people and wildlife have clean, safe water,” said Vermont State Conservationist, Vicky M. Drew. “By working together with our state and local partners to leverage technical and financial assistance, we are better able to help farmers and ranchers take voluntary actions in improving water quality while maintaining or improving agricultural productivity.”

The NWQI is authorized under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which provides millions of dollars in financial assistance to Lake Champlain basin farmers each year. Conservation practices available through NWQI include agronomic practices like nutrient management, cover crops, and filter strips, as well as structural practices typically found around barnyards. Recently available innovative practices such as the Phosphorus Removal System are also available through NWQI.

Applications for the NWQI must be submitted by June 20 to be considered for 2014 funding. If a farmer cannot meet this deadline, NRCS accepts applications on a continuous basis throughout the year to be assessed in the next available funding round. Check with your local NRCS office or the Vermont NRCS website to learn more about NRCS financial and technical assistance services.


U.S. Department of Agriculture


1400 Independence Ave.,

Washington, DC 20250


New Pilot Program Offers Coverage for Fruits and Vegetables,

Organic and Diversified Farms

2014 Farm Bill Expands Crop Insurance Options, Provides Premium

Discounts for Qualified Operations

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new risk management option that will be available for fruit and vegetable growers and producers with diversified farms. The policy, called Whole-Farm Revenue Protection, will provide flexible coverage options for specialty crop, organic and diversified crop producers. The program will be implemented in counties across the country and will expand in availability over the next several years.

Whole-Farm insurance allows farmers to insure all crops on their farm at once, rather than insuring commodity by commodity. Traditionally, many fruit and vegetable crops have not had crop insurance programs designed for them—making it less attractive for a farmer that primarily planted a commodity crop like wheat or corn to use another part of his or her land for growing fruits and vegetables or other specialty crops. This allows farmers greater flexibility to make planting decisions on their land.

“Crop insurance has been the linchpin of the farm safety net for years and continues to grow as the single most important factor in protecting producers of all sizes from the effects of unpredictable weather,” said Vilsack. “Providing farmers the option to insure their whole farm at once gives farmers more flexibility, promotes crop diversity, and helps support the production of healthy fruits and vegetables. More flexibility also empowers farmers and ranchers to make a broader range of decisions with their land, helping them succeed and strengthening our agriculture economy.”

The 2014 Farm Bill requires a whole-farm crop insurance policy option, and paves the way for the Risk Management Agency (RMA) to make it broadly available to specialty crop, organic, and diversified growers.  The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors (FCIC Board) approved the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection pilot policy for RMA to offer it through the federal crop insurance program in 2015.

USDA has taken many steps to provide effective insurance coverage for diversified, organic and specialty crops. The whole-farm crop insurance policy provides flexibility to meet the needs of specialty crop growers, organic producers and those with diversified farms, and who have farm production and revenue history, including five years of historic farm tax records.  This policy is also part of USDA’s commitment to small and mid-sized producers managing diversified operations.

USDA has been strengthening crop insurance by providing more risk management options for farmers and ranchers. The policy offers coverage levels from 50 to 85 percent; recognizes farm diversification through qualification for the highest coverage levels along with premium rate discounts for multiple crop diversification. The Market Readiness Feature, as outlined in the Farm Bill, simplifies insurance coverage for producers under the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection pilot policy by allowing the costs such as washing, trimming, and packaging to be left in the insured revenue instead of having to adjust those amounts out of the insured amount.

The new Whole-Farm Revenue Protection policy combines Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) and AGR-Lite along with several improvements to target diversified farms and farms selling two to five commodities, including specialty crops to wholesale markets. The new policy is also designed to meet the risk management needs of diversified crop or livestock producers including those growing specialty crops and/or selling to local and regional markets, farm identity preserved markets, or direct markets.

As part of the pilot, Whole-Farm Revenue Protection will be available where AGR and AGR-Lite are currently offered, and will expand to other counties as data are available for underwriting and actuarial ratemaking. RMA will release information on the policy later this summer when it becomes available. This information will be announced on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov .

Source: (THURSDAY, May 22, 2014) -- Senator Patrick Leahy. Photo: Planting a seed at Jericho Settlers Farm. Vermont Business Magazine. Photo