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Published July 10, 2013, 04:53 PM

Software slowing FSA reporting

Monday, July 15, is the deadline to file acreage reports with the federal Farm Service Agency, but agency officials in North Dakota say computer slow-downs may not make it possible to complete the project.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Monday, July 15, is the deadline to file acreage reports with the federal Farm Service Agency, but agency officials in North Dakota say computer slow-downs may not make it possible to complete the project.

Brian Olschlager, a state program specialist with the agency in Fargo, says a new software initiative — Modernize, Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems — launched in 2012, is eventually supposed to provide more seamless reporting for FSA offices, but is not yet fully functional. Parts of the program are working.

Olschlager confirms that workers in some counties in the state using the Crop Acreage Reporting System this past week have experienced three-minute waits while uploading farm records, while normally those uploads would occur with a “snap of the finger.”

In some cases, county officials who have scheduled farmers in for acreage reporting appointments late in an afternoon have had to continue working “past supper” to get the work done. He expects that every county in the state will have to set up registers, to put names on lists for people to come in after the deadline to complete the reports. With only a few days left before the deadline, some counties are roughly half done, primarily because of the internal computer issues. Some of the delays are worsened by the fact that more people have been on the system all at once because of a late spring planting and a late, piled up reporting season.

“Some producers went straight from seeding into spraying, and never had a break to come in and report their acreage, while in a normal year they would,” Olschlager says.

When fully implemented, MIDAS is designed so that once the system is opened by an FSA employee, various databases can be accessed without going in and out of the system. “Our name-and-address records and our farm records are the two primary phases we have available now,” Olschlager says. “We’ve had the major issues with the farm records in terms of slowness and have been encountering some unexpected errors.”

He says this is the third or fourth season with the CARS part of the program, and this kind of “latency” or slowness wasn’t expected.

The annual crop reporting provides an accurate acreage report for crops and land uses — including failed and prevented planting acreage. Reports must be filed for farmers to receive Direct and Counter-Cyclical Program and Average Crop Revenue Election benefits, and for Loan Deficiency Payments benefits, as well as Conservation Reserve Program and Non-insured Assistance Program benefits.

Olschlager says FSA offices are also responding to congressional requests to provide county-by-county estimates of prevented planting acres. North Dakota prevented planting acreage is thought to be more than 2 million in 2013, which accounts for about 10 percent of the state’s 22 million cropped acres.

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