WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced awards of close to $21 million in agricultural risk management partnership agreements throughout the United States.

The agreements provide funds for projects to develop new risk management tools for farmers and ranchers, as well as outreach and education opportunities to limited-resource and other traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers.

"These partnerships are critical to small producers and those with limited resources to better manage the risks associated with agricultural production," Johanns said.

Funding for these agreements is available under the Federal Crop Insurance Act. USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA) administers these projects as well as the federal crop insurance program.

Research and Development Agreements - $3.6 million

USDA awarded eight agreements, totaling $3.6 million, for research and development of new non-insurance risk management tools. For example, Kansas State University plans to develop a web-based tool to provide producers facing reduced water allocations with information concerning expectations of crop yields, yield variability, and profitability under a variety of water-use scenarios.

Community Outreach and Assistance Agreements - $7.1 million

Sixty-two competitively awarded partnerships will use $7.1 million to educate women, limited-resource, and other traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers. For example, Michigan State University's project provides limited resource and other traditionally underserved producers programs on intensive small-scale farming skills. The skills are related to year-round, organic production methods of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers using passive solar greenhouses and integrated perennial polyculture plantings. The community-based organization will conduct workshops and field days on topics such as crop planning, crop rotation, irrigation, and aquaculture/aquaponics. Another example is Taos County Economic Development Corporation's project that focuses on implementing risk management strategies within the livestock sector of Northern New Mexico.

Education Partnership Agreements and Targeted States - $10.1 million

The Targeted States Program will use $4.5 million to deliver crop insurance education to producers in 15 historically underserved states through cooperative agreements. Rural Initiative for New American Farmers will provide $300,000 through six education partnership agreements for immigrant and refugee farmers. Specialty crop, livestock, nursery, and horticulture producers will benefit from 40 partnerships totaling $5 million in education partnership agreements for commodity partnership programs.

Small Sessions Education Partnership Agreements - $300,000

Small Sessions is a category of Education Partnership Agreements begun in 2005. Thirty-two smaller projects, with a total award amount of $300,000 in amounts up to $10,000 each, are awarded for projects such as the one in Oklahoma, which will assist beef producers in managing risk by adding new educational initiatives focused on bio security and livestock enterprise information management.

Included in the project are workshops on the National Animal Identification System, in-service training for educators and two statewide conferences. In Wyoming, a partnership project will specifically target livestock producers, farmers who produce forage for livestock consumption and specialty crop growers by developing and delivering risk management education through onsite programs, media-based education, as well as print and electronic media.

Complete listings of the agreements can be found on the RMA Web site.

SOURCE: USDA news release.