Farmers and ranchers in Hawaii who participate in a federal program designed to help those far removed from the marketplace will soon receive reimbursements to help defray the costs incurred from shipping their produce, meat and other products to the Mainland, Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Senator Daniel K. Akaka, U.S. Representative Mazie K. Hirono and U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa announced today.
The federal funds are provided by the Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program for Geographically Disadvantaged Farms and Ranchers (RTCP) and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA). About $1.996 million in payments for fiscal year 2011 will be made.
Senator Inouye and Congresswoman Hirono helped authorize the program in the 2008 Farm Bill. The program would be re-authorized in the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill that is currently being considered.
The program assists farmers and ranchers in Alaska, Hawaii and insular areas, including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Virgin Islands of the United States, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Republic of Palau.
"The success of agriculture in Hawaii and our nation relies heavily on the hard work and sacrifice of our farmers and ranchers. Those who choose to work the land in Hawaii, raising livestock, growing produce, and creating agricultural inputs, are forced to pay significantly more to bring their goods to market than farmers on the Mainland. It is critical to their livelihood and the health of the industry that the federal government invests in their efforts. I would like to thank the administration for recognizing this need and I would encourage my colleagues in the Senate to join me in supporting the re-authorization of this important program," said Senator Inouye.
"Agriculture has long been a significant part of the culture of Hawaii, dating back to the first kalo planted by the first Native Hawaiians. Farming and agriculture continue to play a major role in the self-sustainability and economy of our state today. I applaud the dedication of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in supporting our local farmers and ranchers, as well as those in Alaska and other U.S. territories. I urge my colleagues to help us continue this program that provides vital assistance to our farms and ranches in our geographically disadvantaged areas," said Senator Akaka.
"Whenever I visit our farmers and ranchers, I am reminded of how hard they work and the unique challenges they face. This, and Hawaii's need for greater food security, is why I am committed to supporting our local food producers," said Congresswoman Hirono, who recently released an agriculture sustainability plan based on input from agriculture leaders across the state. "Thanks to the Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program, Hawaii's farmers will get help to offset some of the difference in production costs they face compared with farmers in California and other states. I was proud to join Senator Inouye and other members of the Hawaii delegation in advocating for inclusion of this program in the last Farm Bill and I'll continue championing this for our farmers and ranchers as we look to write a new Farm Bill."
"Because of our state's location in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii's farmers and ranchers face high costs when transporting their goods between islands or to the mainland. I applaud the USDA for helping to level the playing field by providing our agriculture industry with this funding to help offset some of these expenses. It is important that we continue to support our local businesses as Hawaii works toward self-sustainability," said Congresswoman Hanabusa.
RTCP benefits are calculated based on the amount of costs incurred by the producer for transportation of the agricultural commodity or inputs during a fiscal year, subject to an $8,000 per producer cap per fiscal year.
Fiscal year 2011 payments to geographically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers began May 3, 2012. Total claims exceeded available funding, therefore a payment factor will be applied to program payments.
Sign-up for fiscal year 2012 will begin on July 23, 2012, and end on Sept. 10, 2012.
Applicants must file their RTCP application for benefits, in their administrative county FSA office no later than Sept. 10, 2012.
Applicants will have until Nov. 5, 2012, to provide supporting documentation of actual costs of transporting agricultural inputs and commodities in fiscal year 2012 to the FSA county office.