Recent Press Releases

Senator Thune Concerned Over USDA Farm Program Implementation

Ad Hoc Disaster Programs and USDA Conservation Program Cited as Examples

January 25, 2008

Washington, D.C. —  U.S. Senator John Thune expressed concern today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) track record of prolonged implementation for two recent programs poses serious doubts about the USDA's ability to timely and efficiently administer upcoming 2007 Farm Bill programs.

  • Congress authorized $3.2 billion for crop and livestock disaster assistance in May 2007. USDA began to accept applications in October 2007 and issued the first payments in December 2007 - nearly seven months after they were authorized.

  • In March 2007, USDA announced a new conservation program, State Areas For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE); and at the same time announced that signup for this program would begin later in 2007. By mid-January 2008, USDA had yet to announce a signup date for this program.

"Farmers and ranchers have had to wait an unacceptable seven months before the USDA issued its first payment for the crop and livestock disaster programs authorized by Congress last May," said Thune. "Producers are still waiting to sign up for the SAFE program USDA announced nearly 10 months ago. I hope these timelines are not indicative of how long USDA will take to implement the new farm bill."

On March 22, 2007, SAFE was announced by USDA as a 500,000 acre Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) component to improve habitat for high-priority wildlife species throughout the United States. South Dakota was allocated 20,700 acres for SAFE. South Dakota's SAFE proposals were developed, as instructed, by the Farm Service Agency, the South Dakota Department of Game Fish and Parks, and non-profit conservation organizations; and were submitted to USDA headquarters, one in July 2007, and the other in October 2007.

Thune commented, "Just last week, on January 19th, nine months after the initial SAFE declaration, USDA announced that only 18 states were approved for SAFE. I'm deeply disappointed that South Dakota's proposals were not included in the January 19th announcement, because hundreds of South Dakota producers have been waiting for SAFE to become a reality. I believe USDA did an excellent job of putting the SAFE program together, but it's of little or no value if farmers cannot sign up for it in a timely manner.

"If the USDA waits until this Spring to begin signup for a conservation program like SAFE, it will be too late because farmers will have already planned for the 2008 crop year. SAFE is a continuous CRP practice which means that the date used to determine SAFE payments for 2008 would be on the first day of the month after the application is approved. Because USDA failed to timely implement SAFE, producers will miss out on one-half of SAFE's payments for 2008.

"If USDA allows seven months to pass before issuing disaster checks, and nearly a year before signup can begin for a program such as SAFE, which USDA developed completely on its own, I'm deeply concerned about how long it will take the USDA to deliver the much more extensive and complex programs in the Farm Bill Reauthorization."

Additional information about SAFE can be found at: