Cuts affect programs: FSA program sign-ups change with cuts

With cuts in the federal budget affecting administration of the U.S. Farm Service Agency, the cuts have also delayed several federal programs for farmers and producers.

The delay in programming makes it imperative for farmers to meet with local FSA personnel as soon as possible, the local FSA executive director says.

FSA Executive Director Anita Green explained sign-ups for the Direct Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) and the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program typically start Oct. 1, which would have started with the federal fiscal year, but federal officials delayed the sign-ups. Along with the delay, they eliminated advanced payments and program payments will be held until after Oct. 1, 2012.

The sign-up start date was delayed until Jan. 23, so the farmers window to sign up was shortened by nearly 3 1/2 months. The deadline is still June 1.

“Obviously, once this weather breaks farmers will get busy in the field and come April and May do not have the time to come in and see us,” Green said. “We need them in here immediately, they need to be calling before they start farming. With us having limited hours and staffing, it would be wise to call ahead so we can have all their records ready and start the processing. This is critical.”

In the past farmers or producers could have requested 22 percent up front, Green said, but with federal budget cuts and delays in the program, they will only be receiving one final payment.

Another program, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program, is a supplemental payment program to provide assistance to producers suffering crop losses to natural disasters occurring through Sept. 30, 2011. The program runs in arrears after the crop has been harvested and marketed.

“What is important to farmers in this area is Auglaize County was declared a disaster county or received a Secretary of Agriculture declaration for 2010,” Green said. “Most of that was relative to 2010 wheat — we had a lot of wheat quality issues in 2010, such as vomitoxin, low test weights. We want farmers to know this sign-up is still going on and its deadline also is June 1.

“Farmers would have had to carry crop insurance on all crops of significance and it includes quality and quantity losses,” she said. “When farmers look at SURE payment they have to meet a 10 percent production loss off everything on their farm operations. If they have five tracts of land, we look at all of that together.”

She said some farmers lost $1.50 to $2 per bushel and would be entitled to payments if they met all the thresholds.

A wet spring and a hot, dry summer contributed to stunted growth and molds and bacteria growth.

Green reminded farmers the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with sign-up starting March 12 and ending April 6. This is the third consecutive general CRP sign-up. She stressed Auglaize County is in a national target area — Lake Erie sediment basin ­— so area farmers can benefit greatly.

“There is not as much interest in conservation and we are seeing a lot of land coming out of CRP and going into production, but there is always land that is better off in conservation,” Green said. “Many farmers have those acres on their farm which is just better off because they do not yield well enough, they may be environmentally sensitive because they are near a stream, maybe they have wind erosion or they like wildlife — if any folks identify those then this is a good time to enroll and they would want to get a hold of us during the sign-up period.”

FSA personnel will work with Auglaize Soil and Water Conservation District and Natural Conservation Service staff to help create and maintain CRP land.

The last program is the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program which started Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30.

“While we have not seen a payment yet, the program is activated when the price of milk or the price of milk adjusted for feed index would fall below the support price then we could step in a support it,” Green said. “The price of feed — because the corn market and soybean market have gotten so high — that the feed supplements for dairy have risen and that may have an affect and they are predicting that it will kick in.

“We just want to remind them producers to provide their milk production records to our office on a monthly basis and that is to make sure they are eligible,” she said. “It will also help us make the payments promptly and timely if they kick in.”