USDA Encourages Early Registration for FSA Programs

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USDA Encourages Early Registration for FSA Programs

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Juan M. Garcia today recommended that farmers and ranchers who plan to participate in FSA programs register in advance. Producers are encouraged to report farm records and business structure changes to a local FSA Service Center before April 15, 2014.

Enrollment for the disaster programs authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, including the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) will begin by April 15, 2014.

“We expect significant interest in these programs,” said Garcia. “Early registration should help improve the sign-up process and allow us to expedite implementation of the programs. I strongly encourage producers to complete their paperwork ahead of time.”

Examples of updates or changes to report include:

  • New producers or producers who have not reported farm records to FSA.
  • Producers who have recently bought, sold or rented land. Those producers need to ensure that changes have been reported and properly recorded by local FSA county office personnel. Reports of purchased or sold property should include a copy of the land deed, and if land has been leased, then documentation should be provided that indicates the producer had/has control of the acreage.
  • Producers that have changed business structures (e.g. formed a partnership or LLC) need to ensure that these relationships and shares are properly recorded with FSA. Even family farms that have records on file may want to ensure that this is recorded accurately as it may impact payment limits.

Farm records can be updated during business hours at FSA Service Centers that administer the county where the farm or ranch is located. Producers can contact their local FSA Service Center in advance to find out what paperwork they may need. In addition, bank account information should be supplied or updated if necessary to ensure that producers receive payments as quickly as possible through direct deposit.

While any producer may report farm records and business structure changes, it is especially important for producers who suffered livestock, livestock grazing, honeybee, farm-raised fish, or tree/vine losses for 2011, 2012, 2013 or 2014, and may be eligible for assistance through one of the four disaster programs.

New Agriculture Leader Selected After Short Search

HONOLULU — A state organization that oversees thousands of acres of prime agricultural land and millions in income from agricultural leases spent just a little over a week in a low-key search for a new leader.

In the end, there was only one choice for the future of Hawaii’s agribusiness.

Starting in January, Jimmy Nakatani will lead the Agribusiness Development Corp., a state organization that provides water, land and infrastructure resources for island farmers.

“What we’re trying to do is protect land and water, so people have the ability to farm,” said ADC board member David Rietow.

The important group also provides resources for innovative agricultural projects and connects those growing crops with state lawmakers.

It is an important industry, so some might think there would have been many candidates wanting to fill the key leadership role.

But there was only one candidate — Mr. Nakatani.

“Having only one candidate and no other choices is a problem for me,” said Rietow.

No other candidates came forward during the time the job was posted. But there were no listings in the statewide newspaper or any press releases announcing the vacancy. The job was only listed on the Department of Agriculture website for just over a week.

“It was nine days, and the legal requirement was six. So we did extend it beyond the legal limit,” said Department of Agriculture Chairman Russell Kokubun.

But the outgoing executive director, Alfredo Lee, said when he applied, the process took months and involved interviews with a number of candidates.

Lee, who led the ADC for 11 years, said he resigned last month only because he was forced out. The reason was the board wanted someone else.

Paradise Ranch owner speaks up

LIHU‘E — A controversial permit to fence off the easiest access to Lepe‘uli, known as Larsen’s Beach, was surrendered last month. But Paradise Ranch may still go ahead and fence off the access to protect the conservation district land next to this secluded North Shore beach.

The lateral access to Lepe‘uli runs parallel to the beach and guarantees an effortless walk down from a 140-foot elevation. However, the lateral access is on private property, and there are already two county-owned trails that guarantee access to Lepe‘uli.

Following the permit’s withdrawal, community members who had opposed the fence immediately cried victory. But before they were able to finish their victory lap, ranch workers placed two metal posts resembling a fence foundation at the entrance of the trail, prompting further outcry from those trying to preserve the access that goes through private property.

Paradise Ranch owner Bruce Laymon, however, said the metal posts are not fence posts.

Over the years, ranch workers have put up quite a few land demarcation posts, establishing the boundaries of the land Laymon leases from landowner Waioli Corporation, a private non-profit organization. But those posts keep being vandalized.

Tired of replacing the boundary demarcations, Laymon said he decided to install metal posts to indicate the property limits.

Farm lease dispute goes to arbitration

The fate of 10 farmers in Hawaii Kai looks like it will be in the hands of three arbitrators after a recent breakdown in negotiations over rent with landowner Kamehameha Schools.

The roughly $8 billion private charitable trust recently called off negotiations in favor of arbitration to settle the issue of resetting rents for the last 15 years on the farmers’ leases that cover their farms and homes spread over 87 acres in Kamilo Nui Valley.

For both sides, the matter is particularly aggravating because many of the farmers are in their 80s and can’t farm too actively. But rents haven’t changed since they were established in the early 1970s.

Kamilo Nui farmers, who lease parcels from three to 10 acres, pay an average $185 an acre per year, which Kamehameha Schools seeks to raise to $5,200 — a 28-fold increase.

Kamehameha Schools believes the farmers should have prepared for the hike knowing that adjusting rents to present market rates would happen this year. The trust, which benefits Hawaiian children and has a fiduciary duty to maximize the revenue from its assets, also emphasizes that it is committed to farming uses of the land for the next 15 years.

The farmers, who were relocated to the valley to make way for industrialist Henry J. Kaiser developing Hawaii Kai, say they are willing to pay more but not beyond what they reasonably can afford from farming. Jacking up rents to market rates, they say, would put them out of business.

Hawaii Kai farmers face 25-fold rent hike

Old age caught up long ago with a group of farmers working 87 acres in East Honolulu’s Kamilo Nui Valley, and now the rent they pay to lease the land is about to catch up after four decades.

Kamehameha Schools recently notified its 13 farm tenants in the agrarian Hawaii Kai neighborhood that it is seeking a roughly 25-fold increase in rent.

The trust, Hawaii’s largest private landowner, believes the offer is fair given that the farmers have to date been paying rent set in the early 1970s, and that the farm leases call for rent to be reset now for the 15 years remaining on the leases.

But many of the farmers, some of whom are in their 80s, say they cannot handle such a drastic hike, especially at their age and with the economy the way it is.

Hawaii seeks lessees for state ag land – Pacific Business News (Honolulu):

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture said Wednesday it is accepting applications for lease negotiations on five parcels of ag land.

Two parcels are located in Hanapepe, Kauai, and three are in Waimanalo, Oahu. They range in size from 1.4 to 6.7 acres.

Potential lessees must be U.S. citizens who have been Hawaii residents for at least three years, and bona fide farmers as defined in Hawaii Administrative Rules.

The leases are for 35-year terms and are limited to diversified agriculture use.

The deadline to submit applications for the parcels to the state’s Agricultural Resource Management Division is Jan. 14.

For more information, visit hawaii.gov/hdoa/info.

Hawaii seeks lessees for state ag land – Pacific Business News (Honolulu):