NORTHEY: USDA supports North Carolina farmers

FILE - In this Aug. 30, 2018, file photo, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue speaks during a roundtable discussion at Landus Cooperative in Ames, Iowa. The Trump administration on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, lifted a roadblock to copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Minnesota. The land is part of the Superior National Forest, controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which canceled the withdrawal Thursday, saying its review revealed no new scientific information. And the agency said interested companies may soon be able to sign mineral leases in the area. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

When President Trump appointed Sonny Perdue to be Secretary of Agriculture, he told him to “take care of the farmers.” For the past three-and-a-half years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has met that mandate, even during these challenging and unprecedented times.

Last week, I visited with farmers across North Carolina. From apple growers in the western part of the state to sweet potato and row crop producers in eastern North Carolina, it’s been a tough year in agriculture. I’ve listened to your stories of overcoming unprecedented challenges to continue providing food, fuel, and fiber for your fellow Americans and people around the world, and I want you to know — USDA is here to support North Carolina farmers.

As a fourth generation Iowa farmer, I’m proud — and humbled — to lead the part of USDA that works closest with our nation’s agricultural producers, including those in North Carolina. The Farm Production and Conservation mission area delivers programs through the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Risk Management Agency directly to farmers and ranchers to help them feed people with the safest, most nutritious, and most abundant food supply in the world.

For instance, our Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) will provide up to $14 billion in direct support for producers of eligible commodities to absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve already disbursed more than $6.1 billion in CFAP 2 payments nationwide, including nearly $96.8 million in North Carolina. That’s in addition to the $10.2 billion from the first round of CFAP payments distributed nationwide from late May through mid-September. (For eligibility information and to apply for CFAP 2, please contact your local USDA Service Center.)

USDA also offers crop insurance, farm loan, and commodity loan flexibilities to support farmers — and farm families — impacted by the pandemic. We recognize that loan-making activities are particularly critical for annual operating and family living expenses, investments for equipment and livestock, emergency needs, and cash flow. Your local USDA Service Center is staffed with experts who understand the impacts of COVID-19 on North Carolina farmers and can provide resources to meet your business needs.

USDA offers additional programs to help you prepare for and recover from the unexpected, like our new Seafood Trade Relief Program. STRP provides direct support to U.S. commercial fishermen and women who have been impacted by retaliatory tariffs from foreign governments. Approximately $530 million is currently available through STRP, with the signup period open through December 14. (For eligibility information and to apply for STRP, please contact your local USDA Service Center.)

Additional risk management programs include our Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage (ARC/PLC) programs. DMC is a voluntary risk management program that offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer. Similarly, ARC/PLC provide financial protections to farmers from substantial drops in crop prices or revenues.

These programs are vital economic safety nets for American farms, including those in North Carolina. USDA provided North Carolina producers with approximately $2.8 million in DMC payments in 2019 and 2020, and more than $116 million in ARC/PLC payments so far this year for those who enrolled for crop year 2019.

The enrollment periods for 2021 DMC and ARC/PLC is currently open. DMC enrollment runs through December 11, and the ARC/PLC election and enrollment period closes on March 15, 2021. I encourage all North Carolina producers who could benefit from these programs — reach out to your local USDA Service Center and start your application.

At USDA, we know farmers are the backbone of our country. Under President Trump’s leadership and Secretary Perdue’s direction, USDA and its dedicated staff — who refer to you as “our farmers” — will continue to play a small part in helping farmers in North Carolina and across the nation produce the food, fiber, and fuel on which a growing world depends.

Bill Northey is USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. He previously served as the Secretary of Agriculture in Iowa.