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Published August 14, 2014, 10:17 AM

SD meetings help inform farmers on farm bill programs, decisions

With a new farm bill signed into law, farmers are now faced with big decisions that could affect their farms far into the future. To help farmers in South Dakota learn about the new five-year farm bill, which sets policies for hundreds of programs ranging from farm subsidies to nutrition, the South Dakota Farmers Union and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency held an educational meeting Aug. 13 at the Cedar Shore Resort in Oacoma.

By: Chris Mueller , Forum News Service

OACOMA, S.D. — With a new farm bill signed into law, farmers are now faced with big decisions that could affect their farms far into the future.

To help farmers in South Dakota learn about the new five-year farm bill, which sets policies for hundreds of programs ranging from farm subsidies to nutrition, the South Dakota Farmers Union and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency held an educational meeting Aug. 13 at the Cedar Shore Resort in Oacoma.

Karla Hofhenke, executive director of the South Dakota Farmers Union, said the meeting, which was attended by at least 50 people, will be one of many in the next few months, as the group works to ease farmers into the programs that are part of the new, complex legislation.

Jim Anderson, executive director of the Farm Service Agency for Brule and Buffalo counties, said it’s beneficial to have the two organizations working together to educate farmers about the new farm bill.

“Anytime you can get multiple farm groups talking about the same thing, it helps,” he said.

Anderson has 30 years of experience working for FSA, but said this is the most extensive public outreach effort in which he has ever been involved.

“This is a complex program that they’re all going to try to get their heads wrapped around,” he said.

Much of the discussion at the Aug. 13 meeting dealt with two commodity programs in the new farm bill, known as Price Loss Coverage, which provides payments when crop prices fall below certain levels, and Agricultural Risk Coverage, which protects against falling revenue.

Anderson explained farmers will need to make a one-time decision between the two options by sometime early next year, and will have to commit to that choice at least until the new farm bill expires in 2018.

“You’re going to have to decide and weigh which way you’re going to want to go with this,” Anderson said, addressing those in attendance. “Once it’s done, it’s done.”

For now, Anderson advised farmers to familiarize themselves with all of the options available to them, so they’re not overwhelmed when it comes time for them to make a final decision.

Deciding which of the two programs to take part in will be a big decision for farmers, Anderson said.

“It could make a difference in their bottom line, and what crops they plant,” he said.

Farmers unable to attend an educational meeting about the new farm bill should reach out to their local Farm Service Agency office for help, even during the hectic harvest season, Anderson said.

“They’re busy, but this is important,” he said.

Other farming organizations in the state will likely also offer farmers specific guidance on the new farm bill, Anderson said.

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