Farm Bill Rollout Scrutinized

More farm bill details becoming known about how to make decisions between PLC and ARC.

During a hearing Thursday House Agriculture Committee members praised the agency for the work on disaster aid, but also expressed top concerns including the need for better education on dairy and commodity programs and how quickly information can be dispersed on the upcoming commodity program changes.  

USDA under secretary Michael Scuse said to date $1.2 billion has gone out in disaster payments and during the last week of June, 17,000 applications were processed. Total USDA has processed 106,000 payments to farmers in 40 states across the country who suffered livestock and grazing losses between October 2011 and passage of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Scuse said he’s asked his county office staff to do three years’ worth of work in a short period of time, but is managing resources the best as they can. He explained they are hiring temporary staff, reallocating staff and putting together jump teams from regions that don’t have as much livestock losses to help in areas that do.

The new farm bill offers two new commodity program choices – Price Loss Coverage (PLC) or Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC). Online decision-aid tools should be ready in the next few months.

Just this week one of the chosen lead universities - University of Illinois - launched a Farm Bill Toolbox as a one-stop resource for farm program decisions, information and analysis.

Scuse said late this summer FSA plans to provide producers information on their current base acres, yields and 2009-2012 planting history and offer them an opportunity to verify this information with their local FSA office.

Then later this fall, there will be an opportunity to update yields and reallocate bases, which Scuse said is the critical first step in implementing the ARC and PLC programs. By mid-winter all producers on a farm will be required to make a one-time, unanimous and irrevocable election between price protection, country revenue protection and/or individual revenue protection for 2014-2018 crop years.

By early 2015 producers can expect to sign contracts for ARC or PLC for the 2014 and 2015 crop years.

Producers who elect ARC on a farm will not be eligible for Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), and Scuse said the RMA is working to provide additional information on new crops and counties that may have SCO prior to the ARC and PLC election period. He said that a majority of producers will have SCO available to them in the 2015 crop year.

APH

A major topic during the hearing was from southern representatives regarding the decision by USDA to not allow for the actual production history (APH) updates to be made until the 2016 crop years. An APH adjustment offers producers to elect to exclude any recorded or appraised yield for any crop year in which the per planted acre yield in the county was at least 50% below the simple average of the per planted acre yield during the previous 10 consecutive crop years.

For states such as Texas and Oklahoma with prolonged droughts it could have a dramatic impact on the levels of premiums they’re paying for crop insurance. This provision would allow producers to exclude any yield for any crop that experienced over 50% loss nationwide for that given year. 

There was an APH-related provision in both the 2012 and 2013 House farm bill versions. During House-Senate negotiations, the provision was modified to both save money and to provide more targeted assistance to producers who had suffered from disasters in recent years.

While Scuse did not commit to implement the provision earlier than the fall of 2015, he did commit to go back and investigate and provide the committee with detail about potential timelines, and even consider a partial implementation for areas and crops most impacted by drought and losses in the farm bill.

Particularly, many provisions RMA was able to begin working on ahead of final farm bill passage, but this provision wasn’t known until the last minute, Scuse said. Also, it requires getting 20 years of data for every single county and for every single crop grown in each county, he told members.

Farm bill commodity title timeline

County Offices receive Historical Acreage Excel spreadsheet. Mid June 2014
Farm Bill Acreage History software arrives in County Offices. Mid Summer 2014
All owners and operators receive their Notification of Covered Commodity Acreage History letter that includes all farms in all counties. Owners and operators are provided an opportunity to correct acreage history for years 2009 through 2012. Mid Summer 2014
Owners make final base reallocation and yield update decision for the farm. Late Summer/Fall 2014
County Offices dataload missing P&CP acreage history. Fall 2014
Official 2014 Notice of Base and Yield (FSA-476) report mailed to all owners and operators on the farm, with appeal rights. Winter 2014/2015
All owners and operators on the farm make program election for the farm. Winter 2014/2015
Annual enrollment into PLC, ARC-CO, or ARC-IC program for 2014 and 2015. Early 2015
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