Farm bill deadlines coming up

The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended until March 31 the Feb. 27 deadline to update yields and reallocate base acres. The final day to apply for farm bill safety-net coverage also is March 31, USDA says. The extension was announced Feb. 27....

The U.S. Department of Agriculture extended until March 31 the Feb. 27 deadline to update yields and reallocate base acres.

The final day to apply for farm bill safety-net coverage also is March 31, USDA says.

The extension was announced Feb. 27.

"This (the yield update and base acre reallocation extension) is an important decision for producers, because these programs provide financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says in a news release. "Producers are working to make the best decision they can. And we're working to ensure that they've got the time, the information, and the opportunities to have those final conversations, review their data, and to visit the Farm Service Agency to make those decisions."

Farm Service Agency officials and others who talked with Agweek before the Feb. 27 extension say the signup process was going smoothly.


"It's gone well," says Diane Beidler, executive director of Turner County (S.D.) FSA.

Debra Crusoe, executive state director of Minnesota FSA, says her impression is that many landowners signed up.

Even with the extension, most attention is on the March 31 deadline to sign up for the farm bill safety-net provisions. FSA officials say they're optimistic that sign-up for these complicated provisions also will go well, but they stress that farmers shouldn't wait until the last minute to sign up.

"If you're 99 percent sure of what you're going to do, come in and sign up. If you change your mind (before the March 31 deadline), you can always come back in," says Aaron Krauter, executive state director of North Dakota FSA.

Big differences

There are two important differences between the two sign-ups.

Landowners are the ones to update yields and reallocate crop base acres, while farmers are responsible for the safety-net sign-up.

The other big difference is the yield update/base allocation sign-up decision is relatively clear-cut, while the safety-net provision sign-up decision is murky at best. Regional extension economists and other experts say allocating crop base acres, authorized by the new farm bill approved in 2014, merits careful consideration.


Crop yields help determine the size of potential farm program payments, so updating them could mean more money for farmers.

"It's a no-brainer to update yields if you can," says Howard Person, veteran Pennington County, Minn., extension agent.

Improving crop practices had pushed up yields overall, he and others note.

Reallocating base acres, in turn, could make more acres on a farm eligible for farm program programs, which also could mean more money for farmers.

Soybeans are increasingly common in northwest Minnesota, prompting many farmers there to reallocate, Person says.

The popularity of both corn and soybeans has risen across much of the Upper Midwest, often at the expense of wheat, increasing the incentive to reallocate, ag officials say.

Dan Weber, with Weber Insurance in Casselton, N.D., in the east-central part of the state, says many of his clients have reallocated to reflect increased corn acres on their farms.

Safety-net options


But the decision on the farm bill safety-net programs is more complicated.

Farmers need to choose between Agricultural Risk Coverage, which protects against falling revenue, and Price Loss Coverage, which provides payments when crop prices fall.

To complicate matters, ARC comes in two versions: the county level and individual producer/farm level.

FSA offers these reminders for farmers who still need to sign up for the farm bill program:

n Signatures: Using the correct signature when doing business with FSA can save time and prevent a delay in program benefits.

The following are FSA signature guidelines:

Spouses may sign documents on behalf of each other for FSA and CCC programs in which either has an interest, unless written notification denying a spouse this authority has been provided to the county office.

Spouses shall not sign on behalf of each other as an authorized signatory for partnerships, joint ventures, corpo-rations, or other similar entities.


n Power of attorney: FSA has a power of attorney form available that allows producers to designate another person to conduct business at the office.

n Farming operation changes: Producers who have established a trust or other entity, bought or sold land, or added or dropped rented land from their operation must report those changes to the FSA office as soon as possible. A copy of the deed or recorded land contract for purchase property is needed to maintain accurate records with FSA.

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