Iowa’s two U.S. Senators want to know how growers in one Iowa county can receive a payment of $23 per acre while growers in a neighboring county receive nearly fourfold that amount, or $91.52 per acre, under the same farm bill program.
In May, Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst asked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to explain.
“We recognize counties are different sizes which can affect how well the crops in a county correlate to the county average yield,” they wrote in their letter. ”However, legitimate questions have been raised about the significant payment disparity that has occurred between adjacent counties in certain areas throughout the country.”
The farm bill program in question is ARC-County, the county-based farm bill safety net that was elected for 93% of covered corn acres and 97% of soybean acres. The ARC/PLC program covers nearly 260 million acres of farmland, according to USDA.
Under ARC-County, payments are based on county yields, not individual producer yields, and they can vary dramatically, according to economists.
The situation is just adding to the frustrations felt this year by producers, who are fighting for profitability.
“I’m getting a lot of complaints from people saying the farm is not adequate to deal with this,” said U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
Dairy farmers and cotton farmers are expressing similar opinions about the dairy Margin Protection Program and Cotton’s Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX).
In terms of ARC-County payment variations, USDA has said the differences stem from counties’ production histories and historical weather patterns. Are those county production histories’ accurate? Some may rely more heavily on estimates than others. According to Scuse, USDA had to establish yields for more than 100,000 counties across the country, but only 44,000 had complete data.
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