California asparagus growers can tap into federal resources designed to help them remain competitive globally.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program (TAA) for farmers offers various training opportunities and cash assistance to eligible producers.

Applications must be received at local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices by Sept. 23, according to Val Dolcini, state executive director for the FSA in California.

“TAA’s goal, at the end of the day, is to make sure producers are in a better position to compete,” said Jon Newkirk, director of the Western Center for Risk Management Education.

The center is coordinating program training.

“The training program will be tailored to the issues facing individual asparagus growers,” Newkirk added.

Broken into three steps, the training program involves an orientation, a series of technical assistance workshops, and culminates with the producer creating a business plan. Producers unable to participate in the workshops are allowed to sign up an alternate.

“For growers, this program provides business planning strategies, but it also helps them evaluate alternatives in markets, transportation, or production strategies,” Dolcini said.

The initial training will occur within 90 days of the application period. After an introductory meeting, producers can choose from a variety of training modules that best fit their operation.

Modules include information on the future of asparagus, mechanized harvesting, labor issues, financial decision making, and credit markets among other relevant issues, said John Nelson, TAA coordinator for the Western Center for Risk Management Education.

“Business planning is a key part of the program but we realize for some growers business plans are not new,” Newkirk said. “The technical assistance workshops cover a range of topics and even if growers have well developed business plans, we will make the program valuable for them."

The Trade Adjustment Assistance Program is based around training farmers how to create and implement business plans.

The program was reauthorized out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and seeks to assist producers of commodities adversely affected by imports. Asparagus is one of three eligible commodities and asparagus growers in every state are eligible to apply.

To be eligible for the program, producers must prove production of asparagus during 2009 and within at least one of the three years prior.

The three ways to qualify for benefits are: loss of production between 2009 and the preceding production year; a lower 2009 price than the previous three year average; or the USDA county price was lower in the petition year (May 3, 2010) than the previous three year average.

The program will be available in person or online, and producers can choose from a range of offered topics that they wish to complete.

Completion of an initial plan includes a maximum payment of $4,000 to help with development of a more complete business adjustment plan, with another maximum payment of $8,000 on completion of a business adjustment plan.

For more information, contact your local FSA office, or visit www.TAAforFarmers.org.