New Commodities Added to Farm Storage and Facility Loan Program

We’ve previously discussed the Farm Storage Facility Loan program, with the recent additions of cold storage facilities for fruits and vegetables.  However, the USDA announced yesterday additional commodities will be covered under FSFL.  The new commodities are:

  • Aquaculture (excluding systems that maintain live animals through uptake and discharge of water)
  • Floriculture
  • Hops
  • Milk
  • Rye
  • Meat and poultry (unprocessed)
  • Eggs
  • Cheese, butter, and yogurt

The expansion of FSFL, especially for meat and dairy, is likely welcome news for small and niche producers.  We’re happy to help in any way if you have questions about the program, or any FSA program — feel free to contact us!

Enrollment Period for ARC and PLC Now Open

The USDA has announced that eligible producers may now officially enroll in Agricultural Price Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2014 and 2015 crop years.  Enrollment officially begins tomorrow, June 17, 2015 and runs through September 31, 2015.

Nationally, 96% of soybean farms, 91% of corn farms,  and 66% of wheat farms elected ARC-County coverage.  In Nebraska:

  • 53% of barley farms elected PLC, whereas 47% elected ARC-County;
  • 5% of corn farms elected PLC, whereas 95% elected ARC-County;
  • 31% of grain sorghum farms elected PLC, whereas 69% elected ARC-County;
  • 16% of oat farms elected PLC, whereas 84% elected ARC-County;
  • 3% of soybean farms elected PLC, whereas 97% elected ARC-County; and
  • 34% of wheat farms elected PLC, whereas 65% elected ARC-County.

The link also contains information about canola, dry peas, flax, lentils, large chickpeas, mustard, peanuts, safflower, small chickpeas, and sunflowers if those crops of are interest to you.

 

USDA Conservation Assistance Now Online

The USDA recently announced that farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners can now work with the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) online.  The new Conservation Client Gateway permits producers to work with conservation planners online to access Farm Bill programs, request assistance, and track payments for conservation activities.  Now, instead of a trip to your local USDA service center, you can fire up your computer and log on to the Gateway.

The Gateway can be used to:

  • Request NRCS technical and financial assistance;
  • Review and sign conservation plans and practice schedules;
  • Complete and sign an application for a conservation program;
  • Review, sign and submit contracts and appendices for conservation programs;
  • Document completed practices and request certification of completed practices;
  • Request and track payments for conservation programs; and
  • Store and retrieve technical and financial files, including documents and photographs.

Currently, the Gateway is limited to individuals but will soon be expanded to included business entities, such as limited liability companies.

To get started with the Gateway, you will need to have:

  1. An individual Service Center Information Management System (SCIMS) record with a primary email address that is linked to your Level 2 eAuth account.
  2. A USDA Level 2 eAuthentication (eAuth) account that is linked to your SCIMS record.

More information about getting started is at the link.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us — we’re happy to help!

Deadline Extension For Updating Basis and Yield

A quick note that serves as an addendum to yesterday’s post.  The USDA has announced a one-time extension to update basis and yield due to the implementation of ARC and PLC safety-net programs.

The deadline to update basis and yield is extended from February 28, 2015 to March 31, 2015.  This is the same date for producers to elect between ARC and PLC coverage.

If no updates are made to basis and/or yield, the farm’s current base and yield will be used.  Additionally, if no election between PLC and ARC is made by March 31, 2015, the farm will automatically be enrolled for PLC coverage through the 2018 crop year  and no payments for the 2014 crop year will be made.

In short:  make the time to study the choices, use the online decision-tools and head over to your local FSA office with questions and to make elections if so desired.

Deadlines Approaching for Farm Program Sign-Ups

As we approach the spring and the planting season, it is a good idea to take a long, hard look at the various programs available for assistance and their respective deadlines.  In chronological order:

Conservation Stewardship Program — The deadline for CSP sign-up is extended to Friday, March 13, 2015.  We’ve previously discussed CSP and the benefits that may accrue to applicants.  If you are interested, head over to your local NRCS office to complete the initial two-page application.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program — EQIP has rolling deadlines of March 20, April 17, and May 15.  EQIP is a voluntary working lands program offering farmers and ranchers cost-share funding and technical assistance.  EQIP now provides up to a 50% cost-share for beginning and limited resource farmers.  EQIP can help fund a number of projects, including high tunnels, organic conservation, and other conservation practices.  Like CSP, just head over to your local NRCS office for more information as it varies state by state.

Organic Production Survey — The survey is due April 3, 2015.  The survey is specifically for the organic sector, to determine growth, trends, and challenges.  The survey may be taken electronically, so feel free to review our previous article and let the USDA know what you think.

 

ARC versus PLC decision required soon

As many readers of this blog are aware, there are looming deadlines for the ARC and PLC programs.  Landowners must decide whether to update their program payment yields and whether to reallocate their program base acreage by February 27, 2015.  Additionally, producers must decide between ARC and PLC coverage by March 31, 2015.

The latest issue of Cornhusker Economics discusses the above decisions from an economic standpoint that will likely be very helpful to Nebraska landowners and producers.  The article is well worth the read; below, I highlight some interesting bits of information but I cannot stress enough — read the entire article as it is worth your time.

First, yield updates.  Landowners can choose between keeping their current counter-cyclical payment yields or updating their payment yields based upon actual average yields per planted acre from 2008 to 2012.  Producers can choose between keeping their current payment yield or updating their payment yield on a crop-by-crop, farm-by-farm basis.

Next base acreage updates.  This is, as the article notes, an all-or-nothing decision.  The crux of the decision for landowners is, on a farm-by-farm basis, whether to keep current program base acreage or reallocating according to the average mix of planted and prevented-planted acres of program commodities from 2009 to 2012.

We then turn to the big decision: ARC versus PLC.  Note that it is the producer, not the landowner, who makes the ARC or PLC decision.  The decision is a one-time decision that is binding for the 2014 to 2018 crops years.  If no decision is made, the default is PLC coverage that cannot be changed at a later date.

The remainder of the article discusses the economic decision-making behind the choice of ARC and PLC.  The decision between ARC and PLC is dependent upon the program crops grown in your operation, projected prices for commodity crops, and your comfort with the possible outcomes.

Again, check out the article.  It provides a bevy of charts and graphs to explain the decision-making that producers and landowners must undertake if they wish to update yields and base acres, as well as the decision by producers between ARC and PLC.  And remember, the deadlines are looming so take the time to analyze the best path forward for you!

 

Livestock Disaster Assistance Deadline Approaching

If you are a livestock producer who wants to request assistance for losses suffered from October 1, 2011 through December 31, 2014, the deadline to apply for assistance is fast approaching.  The deadline to apply is January 30, 2015.

Assistance is available via two programs: the Livestock Indemnity Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program.

The Livestock Indemnity Program provides financial assistance to eligible producers for livestock deaths due to adverse weather, extreme temperatures, disease, wildfires, or attacks by animals re-introduced into the wild by the federal government or protected by federal law, including wolves and avian predators.

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program provides financial compensation to livestock producers that suffered grazing loss due to drought or fire.  Qualifying droughts are based upon the U.S. Drought Monitor severity ratings and qualifying fires are those on rangeland managed by a federal agency and normally permitted for grazing.

Contact your local FSA office for more information on whether you potentially qualify, the types of records required to document losses, and any other questions you may have.

Conservation Compliance and Crop Insurance

Pursuant to the 2014 Farm Bill, crop insurance premium subsidies are now linked to conservation compliance.  The Risk Management Agency has put together a good FAQ about conservation compliance but here are some highlights:

What type of compliance is required?

For production on highly erodible land, a producer of annually tilled crops or sugarcane is required to use a Natural Resources Conservation Service approved conservation plan.  If production occurs on a converted wetland, certain USDA benefits are not available.

Are there any deadlines?  If so, what is required to be done before the deadline?

Yes.  To be eligible for a crop insurance subsidy, a completed and signed form AD-1026 must be on file at the Farm Service Agency by June 1, 2015 for the 2016 reinsurance year (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) and you, and any affiliated person, must be in compliance.

What is a form AD-1026?

Form AD-1026 is also called a “certificate of compliance” and is the form used to certify compliance with highly erodible land and wetlands conversion provisions.

Who determines if my farm has highly erodible land or wetland conservation?

The National Resource Conservation Service makes the determination.

How do I know if I am already in compliance?

If you are currently eligible for commodity, conservation, or disaster programs administered by FSA and the USDA, you are in compliance for crop insurance subsidy purposes.  If you are unsure if you are eligible for commodity, conservation, or disaster programs, you may contact your local USDA service center.

Can I obtain crop insurance if I do not file the proper documentation and/or am not in compliance?

Yes, although you will pay the full crop insurance premium.

I do not grow annual crops; I insure only livestock and pasture.  Must I still file a certificate of compliance?

Yes.  To be eligible for any crop insurance premium subsidy, you must have a completed and signed form AD-1026 on file with the Farm Service Agency by June 1, 2015.

There are more technical questions and answers posted on the RMA FAQ.  Feel free to take a look at the FAQs and if you have further questions, you are welcome to contact us!

Some Thoughts As We Begin the New Year

As 2014 quickly fades into the rear-view mirror, now is a good time to reflect.  The past year saw a number of changes to the agricultural landscape for beginning farmers.  In no particular order:

  •  The Farm Bill passed early in the year with a number of provisions aimed at beginning farmers.  From increased lending limits on microloans to increased cost-sharing for EQIP contracts and revival of the Conservation Reserve Program’s Transition Incentive Program, beginning farmers have some new resources at their disposal.  As we enter 2015, and before the crop year begins, now is a good time to research how many of the updates in the Farm Bill can help with your operation.
  • The Nebraska Department of Agriculture launched new websites for the Nebraska Beginning Farmer Tax Credit.  The NextGen website contains all the information and forms you need to apply for the Nebraska Beginning Farmer Tax Credit.  The website also lists upcoming workshops and clinics for young and transitioning farmers and ranchers.
  • The 2014 crop year was one in which some beginning farmers and ranchers faced financial headwinds.  The 2015 crop year may intensify those headwinds.  However, one-on-one clinics to discuss financial concerns are available throughout the year.
  • New crop insurance products are rolling out, including changes in the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.  These products will assist beginning farmers weather the headwinds identified above.  These products also address how beginning farmers are farming in today.
  • And last but certainly not least, ARC and PLC are coming down the pike.  ARC and PLC replace direct payments.  Now is the time to begin considering what product to enroll in for the best potential benefit to your operation.

The upcoming year has the potential to change your operation, in both positive and negative respects.  If you ever want to take some time to discuss your operation, your options, and what programs are available, feel free to contact us.

SARE Report On USDA Programs

SARE, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education arm of the USDA, recently released an updated guide titled Building Sustained Farms, Ranches and Communities: A Guide to Federal Programs for Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry, Entrepreneurship, Conservation, Food Systems, and Community Development.

The guide provides background information on 63 government programs, including programs in the 2014 Farm Bill.  Each description provides information on available resources, how to apply and, when applicable, how funding as been used.  Information is also included on finding appropriate funding programs and grant writing.

The guide is a wonderful resource, especially for beginning farmers and ranchers.  Take a look at it!