Thursday, June 18, 2009

Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA)

I am in Oklahoma City this week with agriculture commissioners and secretaries from 16 other states and U.S. territories for the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture (SASDA) annual conference. SASDA meets prior to our national and international meetings, which follow later this year, to allow us to take a more focused look at the issues that affect our southern region.

We are sharing concepts and ideas on how to assist our farmers and ranchers in generating additional income through agritourism; how to create a strategy to ensure the voice of agriculture is not ignored in the negotiations over environmental issues; and how to receive updates directly from the new administration regarding key items.

One such item is the disaster payment program schedule. These payment programs, administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), provide assistance for natural disaster losses resulting from drought, flood, fire, freeze, tornadoes, pest infestation and other calamities. FSA passed on great news that the new Livestock Indemnity Program will be announced any week now, allowing Texas livestock producers to be compensated for losses they have experienced since the 2008 Farm Bill was passed a little over a year ago. I advocated for this program and look forward to the results soon.

We also are on working with the Market Access Program (MAP) to maximize export opportunities. This program uses funds from USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to help U.S. producers, exporters, private companies and other trade organizations finance promotional activities for U.S. agricultural products. The MAP encourages the development, maintenance and expansion of commercial export markets for agricultural commodities. The southern states are working together to ensure trading relationships are strengthened.

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