Legislation allows farmers to enroll in new programs

By Katie Demeria

The 2014 farm bill brings with it farmers’ abilities to enroll or reenroll in various safety net programs over the upcoming months.

According to a United States Department of Agriculture news release, producers can choose agriculture risk coverage or price loss coverage programs between Nov. 17 and March 31. If they refuse to choose, they will be automatically signed up for the price loss program until 2018, said Jeanette Smith, director of the Strasburg USDA Service Center.

“It’s a new farm bill, so that’s a good thing,” Smith said. “There is a new one every five years and producers can enroll in a new program and take advantage of those program benefits.”

The news release stated that the new programs “usher in one of the most significant reforms to U.S. farm programs in decades.”

Farmers can choose from two different versions of the agriculture risk coverage, including county and individual, as well as the price loss coverage program, giving them three options. All are free.

The price loss coverage program and county agriculture risk program provide coverage on a commodity-by-commodity basis, and the individual agriculture risk program covers all commodities on the farm. Each option will last until 2018.

“It’s a safety net for them,” Smith said. “They know they have these payments coming in, so they can help plan different things for their operations.”

It is a way for operators to have some control over their business despite the uncertainty around farming on a yearly basis, she added.

This year, the USDA is also offering new online tools at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc for farmers to use in order to understand exactly how each program could impact their operation.

The tools allow producers to enter their information and learn how the program will impact them under future possible scenarios.

“It’s very useful because it’s something they have to choose — I can’t choose for them,” Smith said. “They have to look it up and run the figures to see what best fits their operation.”

Landowners can also visit their local farm service agency office to update their yield histories or reallocate base acres from now until Feb. 27, 2015.

To learn more about the individual safety net programs, visit http://tinyurl.com/ncopztn.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com