A coalition of farm groups on Wednesday asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to consider all regional interests in selecting land-grant universities for the development of web-based tools to aid growers in making decisions regarding 2014 Farm Bill options.
"Given the complexity of choices in the commodity and crop insurance titles of the farm bill, these tools will be critical for producers in our organizations to make well-informed decisions," the group wrote in a letter to Vilsack.
The groups stressed the importance of selecting academic institutions representing different regional views on farm programs to participate in decision-making tool development. The groups also suggested selection of an institution with specific traits for the lead role.
"We urge you to select a lead institution possessing substantial experience with revenue-based risk management tools and representing a broad-based, national consortium of land-grant universities," the letter said.
"In order to be effective, these web-based decision tools will need to come from institutions that have both the confidence of producers and a strong familiarity with the cropping practices and farm economics of the Midwest and northern Great Plains, which have the majority of acres subject to program decisions."
Groups said these elements are important because producers' options in the 2014 Farm Bill include two versions of the Agricultural Risk Coverage program with varying degrees of complexity. That will require in-depth analysis and tailoring to specific regional differences, the groups said.
"In contrast, the Price Loss Coverage program is quite similar to the former Counter-Cyclical program, with which producers are already very familiar," the letter said. "Since PLC becomes the default program in the event producers do not sign up, the web-based decision tools need to present a detailed analysis of county and individual level ARC in a clear and balanced manner."
Signatories included the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, the National Sunflower Association and the U.S. Canola Association, and the American Soybean Association.
USDA anticipates making its awards for website development and other decision aids on May 22, with the final tools expected to be in place by late summer, ASA said.
The letter came following the Senate Agriculture Committee's hearing this morning on USDA's implementation of the farm bill, where USDA announced the availability of the web tool development grants for land grant universities.
A full update on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill is available on the USDA website.