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Published March 01, 2011, 09:18 AM

Minnesota farmer may be able to recalculate land in CRP base case

FARGO, N.D. — Lyle C. Olson, a Thief River Falls, Minn., farmer who was told in 2010 that he’d lose government “base” acres that he’d acquired a decade ago when his landlord put 200 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, thinks he’s gotten at least a partial solution.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Lyle C. Olson, a Thief River Falls, Minn., farmer who was told in 2010 that he’d lose government “base” acres that he’d acquired a decade ago when his landlord put 200 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, thinks he’s gotten at least a partial solution.

Olson says that he has been told in recent days that he’ll be able to recalculate his land under an oilseed base and that he won’t have to refund any direct and countercyclical payments he had received on the affected wheat base acres that he’d acquired when a landlord, Hal Waale, put the acres in the CRP. (Agweek, Feb. 14 “Stuck in base case”)

“My son will take a $1,500 hit because of this, indefinitely,” Olson says, of the proposed solution, because the oilseed base doesn’t pay as well as the wheat base he’s losing.

Glenn Schafer, a Farm Service Agency in the state office who is handling the issue, and coincidentally was the FSA county executive director in Pennington County at the time of the original transaction, referred questions to Kent Politsch, an FSA spokesman in Washington.

An ‘anomaly’

Politsch confirms that Olson’s account of the solution. He describes the Waale/Olson issue as an “anomaly” that would not set a precedent, but couldn’t immediately explain why others would be different. State FSA officials have told Olson that similar cases will be handled on a case-by-case basis, rather than an across-the-board ruling.

Olson’s issue started in 1999 when Waale, one of Olson’s neighbors and farmland landlords, decided to enroll the land in the CRP. Back then, Olson recalls, FSA officials told new CRP enrollees they’d lose their base acres permanently on newly enrolled land. Consequently, Olson recalls that Waale agreed to forfeit his wheat base to Olson on land that Olson says he farmed separately from any other connection to Waale. Olson says that when the Waale base acres were added to Olson’s farm a few months later, Olson suddenly had more base acres than cropland. Consequently, Olson signed his own “Form 505” to permanently, voluntarily forfeit excess acres.

Ten years later, when the CRP contracts were expiring, Waale wanted to put those acres back in crops but was reminded that he’d given up his base acres on the CRP land. He protested that he’d not forfeited those bases..

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FSA officials in Washington, upon an inquiry from staff of Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ruled that Waale would get back those acreage bases, as there was no evidence he’d signed the 505 Form, forfeiting them. At the same time, the FSA attempted to take away Olson’s acreage bases.

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