What you need to know about 2014 Farm Bill implementation

Starting Monday, producers and landowners can start visiting their local Farm Service Agency to update their yield history and/or reallocate base acres.

For those farmers planting crops, this is the first of three important decisions they will need to make as implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill starts. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is switching from traditional farm subsidy programs to a new risk management program created under the farm bill.

Letters were sent this summer to producers and landowners so they could analyze their crop planting history in order to decide whether to keep their base acres or reallocate them according to recent plantings. Those decisions need to be made before farmers and landowners decide whether to sign up for the new Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) program or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. The first payments will be allocated in October 2015 for any 2014 crop losses.

The decision of whether to use ARC or PLC is a major one because once producers are enrolled, they must stay with it through the 2018 crop year. Both programs offer farmers protection when uncontrollable factors such as weather or market forces cause substantial drops in crop prices and/or revenues.

Online tools allow farmers to enter information about their operation and see projections about what each program will mean for them under possible future scenarios. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged farmers to talk with Extension experts, crop insurance agents, loan officers and others before deciding which program will work best for their operation. No deadline has been set yet for enrollment into ARC and PLC but Vilsack said it will probably go until the first few months of 2015.

Steve Mauer, executive director of Ohio FSA, noted that the week of Oct. 7 is statewide training for FSA employees so offices will be open but won’t be fully staffed. Mauer suggested producers and landowners not wait until the last minute to visit FSA offices because their information may have parts missing or need to be revised, which takes time.