Program supports development of U.S. producers

Earlier this month, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) implemented a new support program to help America’s farmers hurt by the recent economic crisis. USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack introduced the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers Program, also known as the TAA for Farmers Program.

"As we work to help rural America recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers Program will create new opportunities for producers hurt by import competition," said Vilsack. "Eligible producers will receive much-needed technical assistance and cash benefits to help them adjust to the current economic environment."

Farmers receive financial assistance after meeting eligibility requirements and upon completion of stringent training and education courses that can last up to three years.

According to USDA, the TAA for Farmers Program helps producers of raw agricultural commodities and fishermen adjust to a changing economic environment associated with import competition by means of technical assistance and cash benefits.

It’s not another subsidy, said Kevin Klair, extension economist at the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota.

“Congress was very intentional when structuring this program. Important management and competition issues were considered to make it most effective,” said Klair.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) reauthorized and modified the TAA. The Act includes measures to modernize the nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief and protect those in greatest need, according to the Obama administration.


  • The commodity on which the farmer claims losses must qualify for the program as determined by the USDA (notifications issued in Federal Register notices).
  • Farmers must have experienced a greater than 15-percent decrease in the national average price, the quantity of production, value of production or cash receipts of the commodity compared to the average of the three preceding marketing years, and imports contributed importantly to this decline.
  • Applicants must complete a series of workshops/education sessions.
  • Farmers can apply until April 14.

The public had the opportunity to weigh-in about program procedures and eligibility criteria in August. Most public commentary centered on payment limitations with consideration to adjusted gross income and specialty crops, a well as consideration to the length of intensive training about how to use the program. There is an additional 30-day period for public comment commencing March 1.

Farmers may receive $4,000 in assistance after an initial series of free technical-training classes. Klair said farmers are eligible to receive an additional $8,000 after writing an approved long-term business-adjustment plan to aid them in their future operations.

“It teaches farmers how to be more-efficient U.S. producers,” said Klair, who said the program has received numerous inquiry calls.

Klair said the “downside” to the program is its strict qualification requirements.

“It would be great if everyone could qualify,” said Klair.

Farmers can appeal a denied application.

To learn more about the intricacies of the program, visit or

Should the federal government take more or less of a role in financially assisting farmers? How can farmers relay the significance of this program to media/the public if criticized?

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