USDA to send $250 million in aid to rice farmers, Sen. Boozman recognized for efforts

by George Jared ([email protected]) 3,114 views 

Rice acres and yields were down across the board during the 2022 growing season. Farmers had to battle wild weather fluctuations, disease and skyrocketing input costs. But federal aid is on the way.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Tuesday (Feb. 28) plans to provide up to $250 million in assistance to rice farmers and what steps they can take to be prepared to sign up when the program is released later this spring. USDA is sharing information early so producers can prepare for program sign up, which will include a pre-filled application in an effort to simplify and streamline the application process.

“USDA intends to use the streamlined approach it has utilized on other disaster programs to speed program implementation,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By leveraging Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency data for the Emergency Relief Program, USDA saved farmers and staff significant time, and we think this approach will help us provide an initial payment more quickly with a final payment after the application period has closed. I appreciate Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking member Sen. John Boozman’s assistance bringing together rice farmers from across the country to provide input on how to expedite and simplify the process.”

President Joe Biden signed H.R. 2617, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, late last year which provided the authority and funding for USDA to make payments to rice producers based on data already on file with the USDA, including planted acres and acres prevented from being planted.

Arkansas accounts for nearly half the rice grown in the U.S. In 2020, rice contributed more than $1.1 billion to the state’s agricultural economy, according to the 2022 Agricultural Profile published by the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. Planted acreage this growing season topped 1.11 million acres, according to USDA’s NASS.

All rice production for the state last year was forecast at 81.2 million hundredweight, down 5% from the August forecast and down 11% from last year’s production of 91.1 million hundredweight, NASS reported. The all-rice yield for 2022 is forecast at 7,500 pounds per acre, down 50 pounds from August and down 130 pounds from last year.

Bushels per acre dropped from 170 to 165.

The full details of the program and application will not be available until after a Notice of Funding Availability is published later this year in the Federal Register. But there is something farmers can do right now to be better prepared for the signup, if they qualify for a higher payment limitation.

The payment limitation for the program is set by law and is higher if the farmer’s average adjusted gross farm income (income from activities related to farming, ranching, or forestry) is more than 75% of their average adjusted gross income (AGI). Specifically, a person or legal entity with adjusted gross farm income of less than 75% of their overall AGI, cannot receive, directly or indirectly, more than $125,000 in payments. AGI is based on the three taxable years preceding the most immediately preceding complete tax year. Farmers with 75% or more AGI from farming qualify for a $250,000 payment limit.

Rice farmers may visit their local county office to submit the appropriate form and certification, if they qualify for and want to seek the higher payment limit and get part of the paperwork done early. Farmers will still have a chance to fill out the AGI form during signup as well. The form should be filled out for the 2022 crop year.