July 2014
Farm & Field

Implementing the Farm Bill

Universities and state Extension services are developing online tools and materials to help farmers and ranchers make informed decisions on programs that will affect their operations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is gearing up to implement provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill and help farmers and ranchers decide how participation in the legislation’s various programs will affect their business operations.

As part of that effort, the department has awarded $6 million to universities and state cooperative Extension services to develop online decision tools and other materials, and train experts to educate producers about new options in the legislation.

According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, "Helping farmers and ranchers understand new Farm Bill programs and what the programs mean for their families is one of USDA’s top priorities.

"With the resources we’re providing, university experts will help ensure farmers and ranchers are highly educated as they make critical decisions about new programs that impact their livelihoods. The new tools that will be developed will empower farmers and ranchers to select the plan that best fits their unique needs."

Among other things, the new resources will help farmers and ranchers make an educated choice between the new Agriculture Risk Coverage and the Price Loss Coverage programs. Using online tools, producers will be able to use data unique to their specific farming operations combined with factors such as the geographical diversity of crops, soils, weather and climates across the country to test a variety of financial scenarios before officially signing up for the new program options later this year.

Once a producer enrolls in the ARC or PLC program, he or she must remain in the program through the 2018 crop year.

New tools also will be provided for other programs. Sign-up for the newly established Margin Protection Program for Dairy begins late this summer, and enrollment for "buy-up" provisions under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program will begin early next year.

An online MPP tool will be available when sign-up begins and the NAP buy-up provision resource will become available to producers in the fall for the 2015 crop year.

The University of Illinois will head the National Coalition for Producer Education, and the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri and the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M will serve as co-leads for the National Association of Agricultural and Food Policy. The three organizations will receive a total of $3 million to develop the new online tools and train state-based Extension agents who can in turn help educate farmers.

Plans call for the U.I., FAPRI and AFPC to develop ARC and PLC online tools. Illinois also will develop the online resources for the MPP and NAP programs. Working with the lead entities will be a number of other universities and consultants.

In addition, USDA will award $3 million to state cooperative Extension services at land-grant universities for outreach and education on the new Farm Bill programs. Funds will be used to conduct public meetings where producers can talk with local Extension agents and Farm Service Agency staff.

The implementation schedule has the outreach meetings beginning late this summer.

A preliminary website now gives farmers and ranchers opportunities to begin familiarizing themselves with the new programs and the information they will need to consider when deciding which program options work better for them. Producers can visit www.fsa.usda.gov or the local FSA office for those details.

Since the Farm Bill’s enactment, USDA also has been working to implement the legislation’s other provisions, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding research; establishing public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.

During upcoming months, the anticipated implementation time line for selected Farm Bill programs includes the following:

Mid-summer - Producers receive letters notifying them of current bases and yields, and 2009-2012 planting history.

Late summer - MPP, ARC and PLC online tools become available. MPP enrollment for 2014 and 2015 begins. MPP owners have opportunity to update yields and reallocate bases for ARC/PLC purposes.

Fall - NAP buy-up online tools become available.

Winter - ARC/PLC one-time selections occur.

Early 2015 - ARC/PLC sign-up for 2014 and 2015 begins. NAP buy-up enrollment starts.