USDA to Extend Comment Period on Payment Rules

Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Jan. 26 announced he will extend the comment period for the 2008 Farm Bill Farm Program Payment Limitation and Payment Eligibility rulemaking process.

Vilsack discussed his priorities as Secretary of Agriculture recently and said that, as part of the regulatory review process outlined by the White House and Office of Management and Budget (OMB), he is directing the Department to extend the comment period for the payment limits rule for an additional 60 days.

"In no way is this move a signal that we will modify the rules for the 2009 crop year," Vilsack said. "Sign up has begun and it's important that clear and consistent rules remain in place so that producers can prepare for the crop year and manage their risk appropriately."

To date, USDA has only received seven comments on the payment limits rule and Vilsack says that by extending the comment period additional farmers and other interested parties will have the opportunity to comment.

Vilsack also announced that the Department does not plan to implement a proposal developed by the previous Administration that would have cut more than $3 million from the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, a popular program that promotes the growth of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Priorities Vilsack discussed include:

• Advancing research and development and pursuing opportunities to support the development of biofuels, wind power, and other renewable energy sources, saying that USDA needs to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive recent market challenges while promoting policies that will accelerate the development of next-generation biofuels that have the potential to significantly improve our energy independence.

• Making progress on major environmental challenges, including climate change. Vilsack said it's important that farmers and ranchers play a role with USDA in efforts to promote incentives for management practices that provide clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat, and help farmers participate in markets that reward them for sequestering carbon and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

• Restoring the mission of the Forest Service as a protector of clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat; a provider of recreation opportunities; and a key player in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration.

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