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Time is running out for farmers to take part in new farm bill programs

NEWTON and DES MOINES, Iowa – Despite the enormity of choosing programs under the new farm safety net, many farmers aren’t visiting their county farm service agency offices.

The Agricultural Risk Coverage program at an individual farm or at a country level, and the Price Loss Coverage program, are new elements of the farm safety net in the new farm bill. The decision to elect one program or the other is effective for five years, and producers also have the option to update payment yields and to reallocate or retain base acres before they decide on a program.

Despite the significance of these decisions, only about one out of five farmers statewide have visited their county F-S-A office to sign up. Nationally only about 1% of farmers have visited an FSA office, an

FSA State Executive Director John Whitaker says time is running out.

“We’re six weeks out from the deadline of updating bases, and yields,” Whitaker warns. “That process ends the end of February. Which means, you know, another month after that, the election process ends. And so, I think producers do need to become engaged.”

The deadline to update payment yields or to reallocate or retain base acres is February 27th. The deadline to elect the ARC program at the individual or county level, or the PLC program, is March 31st. Farmers who do not make a decision before the March deadline will be enrolled automatically into the PLC program, and will lose the opportunity to retool their base acres and yields.

“You don’t get this chance very often,” says Whitaker. The last opportunity was in 2002.

Farm Management Specialist Steven Johnson with Iowa State University Extension estimates between 70 and 80 percent of all landowners and farmers in Iowa still haven’t visited the FSA. He says the process isn’t lengthy, and can be done all at once.

“I got an email this morning from somebody that walked in with six FSA farm numbers,” Johnson explains. “They walked out 30 minutes later; they updated base [acres] and [payment] yields, and they elected the program that they wanted to be in for the next five years, and that’s my recommendation. Don’t go the FSA twice.”

Johnson says two visits will become less and less feasible as FSA’s workload increases, as the program deadlines march closer.

“I just don’t believe that we’re helping FSA, and that we’re helping our neighbors out, by going back into FSA twice,” he says. “Let’s just try to make this a one-stop shop.”

To hear more about these important farm bill decisions, and what producers need to do to get the ball rolling on their own operation, click the audio player above this story.