ARC, PLC decision aid tools available Sept. 29

Online tools will help farm owners make decision on new farm bill programs designed to protect against drops in crop prices and revenues.

Beginning Monday, farmers will be able to visit their local Farm Service Agency offices to learn more about the new Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, new risk management tools authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

New Web-based tools will help make owners and operators make the best decision for their individual operation. The tools allow farmers to enter information about their operation and see projections about what each program will mean for them under possible future scenarios.

"We're committed to giving farmers as much information as we can so they can make an informed decision between these programs," said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. "These resources will help farm owners and producers boil the information down, understand what their options are, and ultimately make the best decision on which choice is right for them. We are very grateful to our partners for their phenomenal work in developing these new tools within a very short time frame."

In a call Thursday afternoon Vilsack said that Sept. 29 the Web-tools will go live giving landowners the opportunity to reallocate base acres and yields.

“The 2014 Farm Bill made important reforms to farm programs and provides farmers with a choice of a price or revenue-based safety net that will only provide assistance if there is a price or crop loss,” said House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) who was with Vilsack making the announcement. “I have been closely following USDA’s efforts to implement the 2014 Farm Bill and am pleased to see implementation of ARC and PLC move ahead.”

Vilsack noted it will be the owner’s responsibility on the election base and yield and the operator’s decision on what program (ARC or PLC) to sign-up under (although those sign-ups have not been announced yet).

If a landowner has a crop-share agreement with the producer, both would be involved in the decision.

Lots of land is owned by elderly or absentee land owners. Vilsack said he didn’t know whether an online opportunity would allow for them to not go into FSA offices and sign off on changes themselves. In the end, Vilsack said he hopes the decision is a “collaborative process” between owners and producers.

The new suite of programs does provide the ability to make different decisions on each Farm Service Agency farm. The Web tools will allow producers to begin to plug in different variants and determine which would be the best decision for each of those farms.

“This is an individual farm by farm decision and crop by crop decision,” Vilsack said, adding that is why the decision is so complex.

Vilsack said the agency hasn’t determined a definitive timeline on when elections must be made, but it likely will go until the first few months of 2015. He’s urging producers to take the time to go to educational meetings on the programs as well as sitting down with their farm managers, lenders and crop insurance agents and see how the numbers plug into different options.

Vilsack said FSA staff has been trained on the final regulations for ARC and PLC. He said many of the staff has also likely worked through the new online tools as well.

The ag secretary didn’t give any more details about the timeline of future important dates, including an end date of when reallocation election decisions need to be made. Rather Vilsack said the agency will play it by ear to see what crops up with issues in technologies and other concerns users may have during this initial process.

The next step in USDA's safety net implementation is scheduled for this winter when all producers on a farm begin making their election, which will remain in effect for 2014-2018 crop years between the options offered by ARC and PLC.

The farm bill authorized $3 million for farm program education. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center (AFPC) at Texas A&M (co-leads for the National Association of Agricultural and Food Policy), along with the University of Illinois (lead for the National Coalition for Producer Education) worked with USDA to develop educational tools to help farmers choose between ARC and PLC.

Web-based tools to aid in the decision making process will be available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.

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