Through the USDA's Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program for Farmers, producers must file a formal petition with the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) to establish eligibility.
"The petition - available through the USDA web-site or by calling a toll-free number - is a relatively simple process," said USDA Trade Adjustment Assistance Coordinator Jean-Louis Pajot. "But the paperwork must be filed and submitted to our Washington, D.C. offices no later than January 31, 2005."
According to Pajot, the program, now in its third year of operation, has benefited several industries across the nation.
According to FAS figures, several producers of raw commodities have seen their prices decline in recent years, prompting those groups to explore the benefits offered under TAA.
"But to be eligible for trade adjustment benefits in the current fiscal year, groups of farmers and fishermen or their representatives must file their petitions no later than January 31," Pajot said. "To ensure a prompt response, fax and e-mail are the recommended delivery methods."
Once the petition is filed, the agency will spearhead an investigation to determine if the commodity meets the criteria for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program. If a petition is, in fact, certified, producers then have 90 days to contact the nearest office of the USDA's Farm Service Agency to apply for assistance.
According to Pajot, all eligible producers receive technical training and may receive cash benefits up to $10,000, depending on the amount of production marketed and if they meet certain income criteria. Technical training benefits are designed to help producers and fishermen explore additional commodities, marketing opportunities, and alternative enterprises.
The petition form, Pajot said, is available online at www.fas.usda.gov/itp/taa/FAS0930.pdf. It may also be requested by phone at (202) 720-2916 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Completed petitions may be faxed to (202) 720-0876. Petitions may be filed by a group of three or more producers or an authorized representative, and they may be made on behalf of a state, region or the nation as a whole.