MFP meeting

Several ag industry leaders turned out for the roundtable hosted by U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (left side of head table) on May 28. Also at the head table was state Farm Service Agency director Brad Thykeson. Photo courtesy Dan Wogsland, North Dakota Grain Growers Assoc.

FARGO, N.D. – On April 28, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue appeared at an ag roundtable and said the prospects of continuing the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) were highly unlikely, noting, “Just like farmers have always done, we’ve got to look at markets and plan for where we are right now.”

Perdue was in North Dakota at the invitation of Sen. John Hoeven, and before Perdue could get back to Washington, D.C., rumors were starting to float that maybe there would be an MFP program for 2019. Sometimes things progress fast, and on May 23 Perdue announced the USDA would take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliations and trade disputes – one of those being a modified MFP.

On May 28, Sen. Hoeven held another roundtable in Fargo to outline this year’s MFP and the other actions included in the $16 billion USDA program. He also gathered feedback from ag organizations, farmers and ranchers on how to make this year’s program better.

“While our ultimate goal is to secure better trade deals, this agriculture assistance is vital help for our producers,” Hoeven said. “With China backtracking and delaying negotiations, as well as targeting our agriculture industry, we worked with the Administration to secure another round of MFP payments for producers and additional trade assistance. Hopefully we learned some things (from the first MFP) and it is going to be better the second time around.”

Also appearing at the head table with Hoeven was Brad Thykeson, North Dakota Farm Service Administration (FSA) director. The FSA office will be tabulating the eligible acres in each county for the MFP program.

The program will be funded through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) which has budget authority to spend $30 billion this year, according to Hoeven, meaning the funding for the second MFP is authorized.

In announcing the second MFP program, Perdue said in a USDA news release, “The plan we are announcing today ensures farmers do not bear the brunt of unfair retaliatory tariffs imposed by China and other trading partners. Our team at USDA reflected on what worked well and gathered feedback on last year’s program to make this one even stronger and more effective for farmers. Our farmers work hard, are the most productive in the world, and we aim to match their enthusiasm and patriotism as we support them.”

  • The MFP for 2019 will provide up to $14.5 billion in direct payments to farmers, and will cover all Title I commodity crops. Payments will be based on a single county rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings to those designated crops in 2019. These per acre payments are not dependent on which of those crops are planted in 2019 and as a result, planting decisions should not be distorted. Farmers will have until July 15 to plant and certify their crops with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and they cannot exceed the acres planted in 2018. Dairy producers will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history.
  • The program also establishes a $1.4 billion Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP) that will purchase surplus commodities affected by trade retaliation such as fruits, vegetables, some processed foods, beef, pork, lamb, poultry and milk for distribution to food banks, schools and other outlets serving low-income individuals.
  • The Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) will issue $100 million to be used to assist in developing new export markets on behalf of producers.

 Payments will be made in up to three batches, with the second and third made if market conditions and trade opportunities dictate. The first payment will begin in late July or early August, and will be dependent on the Farm Service Agency’s crop report, which is completed by July 15. If conditions warrant, the second and third installments will be made in November and early January.

Hoeven stressed that the MFP will not pay for prevented plant acres.

“The reason prevented plant acres are not in there is USDA, under CCC, we can only reimburse for planted acres – for a crop that is actually planted,” he explained. 

However, there may be help for those with prevented plant acres. On May 23, the Senate passed a disaster bill and within the funding in that bill, there is $3.3 billion that can be spent on agricultural disasters. The House still has to approve the legislation, but approval is expected any day, though details of how the program will be implemented still need to be worked out once the bill passes.

In closing, Hoeven said, “We never want to lose sight of the goal – we don’t want tariffs, we want markets.”