The clock is ticking for farmers to make key farm safety net decisions under the 2014 farm bill commodity programs.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged producers to make their decisions but said the U.S. Department of Agriculture would offer flexibility if it seems like producers won't be able to meet the deadlines.
The first flexibility came when USDA extended the deadline to March 31 from Feb. 27 for farmers to update yield history or allocate base acres. The day ahead of the original Feb. 27 deadline it was estimated that more than three-fourths of eligible farmers had made the reallocation decision.
March 31 remains the last day to enroll in one of the three new crop safety net programs: Agricultural Risk Coverage County, Agricultural Risk Coverage Individual or Price Loss Coverage (PLC).
During a Feb. 24 Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Vilsack noted that he receives updates weekly — which has now become daily — on the total number of producers who have filed the paperwork for base acreage and yield decisions as well as for the new crop safety net programs.
Vilsack said he's “very attentive to the percentage of producers” who have made the decisions. At the hearing, he said 430,332 operators — or roughly 26-27% of all producers expected to participate — have made the safety net elections.
Vilsack said receiving updates on participation gives him a general sense of how far USDA has come and how far it has yet to go. “As we've been flexible in the past, we will be flexible in the future” if the need arises, he said.
Vilsack stopped short of saying USDA would offer a signup extension due to concerns that it would lead to procrastination.
He added that producers are expressing surprise at “how little time it takes to sign up.”
Regarding program choices, Vilsack said if producers have made an election, they can still change that decision before the March 31 deadline.
If a program enrollment decision is not made by March 31, then no payment will be made for the 2014 crop year, and the farm's enrollment will default to the PLC program for the 2015 through 2018 crop years, Carl Zulauf, an Ohio State University agricultural economist, said.
Of significance for the 2014 crop year, he said these programs have the potential to make substantial payments for the first time since 2005 due to the current low price and revenue environment for corn, soybeans and wheat.
“While payments are not a given, if they materialize, they could help farmers and land owners transition during this low revenue period,” Zulauf said.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the farm safety net could pay out $5.6 billion more over the 10-year baseline originally estimated because of the significant drop in crop prices that has occurred since the farm bill was passed a year ago.
Feel like you need some help in making the decisions? Check out one of these excellent university Web sites to aid yourself with data.
The National Coalition for Producer Education: fsa.usapas.com
You can enter your own farm’s information for detailed program and risk management analysis. There is also a link for a 5-Minute Review of Analytics for your County offering a quick program payment comparison using data for your state and county.
University of Illinois: farmbilltoolbox.farmdoc.illinois.edu
The site offers an ARC-PLC Decision tool, archived videos and Webinars and regularly updated articles written by experts on how each farm bill program could play out.
Ohio State University: aede.osu.edu/research/crop-program-decisions
This resource aims to assist you with the 2014 farm bill crop program decisions. The focus is on describing the programs, especially in terms of their broad workings, and on questions you should ask about each decision.
Kansas State University: www.agmanager.info/policy/commodity/2012
Regularly updated materials including price estimates for ARC and PLC, Webinar and a decision tool created with Oklahoma State (also available at www.agmanager.info/fb.htm).