With the signup for one U. S. Department of Agriculture’s program set to start Monday and the end of another just around the corner, the Hill County Farm Service Agency executive director said this morning he hopes local agricultural producers will take a close look at what is best for their operations.
Executive Director Mike Zook said Monday is the start of signups for the Conservation Reserve Program; Thursday is the deadline for signing up for the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, commonly called NAP; and signups for an alternative safety net program, the Average Crop Revenue Election, or ACRE program, are ongoing and local producers might want to look at that option.
Zook said, with changes in programs, operations and local conditions, many of these programs might be something farmers and ranchers could use to benefit their operations.
He said NAP is something producers should look at, especially with some new provisions in the program and its being a requirement for eligibility for some other programs.
Those include the Livestock Forage Program that provides benefits for conditions such as drought, or the assistance program known by the acronym ELAP, that covers losses such as fires destroyed by natural fires or having to feed longer than expected.
“Based upon prevailing moisture conditions and the fact we haven’t had any significant moisture since July of last year, I think that people may want to take a strong look at throwing a NAP policy on their native and introduced grazing, ” he said.
All grazing, for example, on the operator’s land in the county would be covered by one $250 payment.
“I think people need to step back and take a fresh look at their farm operations and see if maybe there isn’t something they should get some coverage on, ” Zook said.
He said the opening of CRP also is something people may want to consider. Hill County has some 200 contracts about to expire, and land that has been denied for enrollment in the past. While it takes an appointment and some time to discuss applications, Zook said, his office staff members are ready to help people take a look at applying for the program.
While many people have been moving away from CRP, which pays a rental in return for the reintroduction and maintenance of native grasses and vegetation for conservation and to provide wildlife habitat, some producers like the consistency of the program, he added.
The third program he discussed, ACRE, is something that could be of interest to producers, especially because it is the last year of authorization.
In ACRE, farmers give up their eligibility for countercyclical payments, a safety net for when crop prices drop; a percentage of their direct payments; and a reduction of price support loan rate if used, for the alternative safety net program.
In ACRE, the rate is based on the amount of planted yields and market rates. Zook said that, because of the dry conditions around the state, the statewide yield is likely to be lower and is likely to give an ACRE payment to many producers.
It also is a shorter term commitment. Farmers must elect to be in ACRE for the duration of the program, which means if they elected to go with ACRE in 2009, they were committed to that election through 2012. As this is the last year of the Farm Bill that created ACRE, it will be a one-year election at this point.
As for next year, what will come out of the Farm Bill now being crafted is unknown, Zook added.