Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the USDA is requesting comments on a proposed rule that would establish the procedures and eligibility criteria for receiving assistance under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Farmers Program.

"Helping American producers adjust to a changing and unpredictable economic environment is critical during these challenging times," said Vilsack. "The TAA for Farmers program can provide technical assistance and cash benefits to eligible producers who have been hurt by import competition."

Reauthorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the TAA for Farmers Program applies to producers of raw agricultural commodities and fishermen who must show a greater than 15% decrease in the national average price, the quantity of production, value of production or cash receipts compared to the average of the three preceding marketing years. The assistance includes help in developing a business adjustment plan that can serve as a guide for adjusting a producer's business operation to prevailing economic conditions. The program is administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

The proposed rule is necessary, because ARRA made fundamental changes to the nature of the program, which also required changes to program regulations. The new legislation focuses on providing technical assistance and now ties cash payments to completing an initial and long-term business adjustment plan, a requirement that was not part of the expired program. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 25, 2009.

Comments should be mailed or hand delivered to Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers Program staff, Office of Trade Programs, Foreign Agricultural Service, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., STOP 1021, Washington, DC 20250-1021. Comments may also be emailed to tradeadjustment@fas.usda.gov.

The deadline for receiving written comments is Sept. 24, 2009. A copy of the current program regulations and other TAA for Farmers Program information may be obtained on the FAS Web site at www.fas.usda.gov/itp/taa/taa.asp.

For more information, contact the Trade Adjustment Assistance for Farmers Program staff, Office of Trade Programs, at 202-720-0638, or by e-mail: tradeadjustment@fas.usda.gov.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17, 2009, as an unprecedented effort to jumpstart the U.S. economy in response to a crisis unlike any since the Great Depression. 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.