It’s “still a possibility” the deadline for enrolling in farm bill safety net programs will be extended past March 31, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack tells AgriTalk. A decision to do so would be made by the end of this week.
“We’re going to look at this [possibility] from day to day,” Vilsack explains. “I’ve talked to our team about maybe the opportunity for flexibility, but given the pace we’re seeing, it may not be necessary.”
He reports 85% of farms expected to participate in Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) already have made elections, a “significant increase” compared to recent weeks.
“We’re seeing day-to-day a 2% to 3% to 4% increase, so we’re very pleased with where we are,” Vilsack notes. “We want to remind folks that if you don’t sign up before the end of the deadline, the election will be made for you. You’ll be in the PLC program, but you won’t be entitled to benefits in 2015, so [we] really encourage people to get this work done. And all you need to do is get on the registry, get your appointment set up and that qualifies.”
AgriTalk: Farm Bill Extension Possibilities Discussed by Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack [beginning at 27-minute mark]
Deadline Uncertainty. Among those unsure whether the deadline will stick is Jamie Wasemiller of The Gulke Group.
He suspects it will be extended, though he thinks it might work in producers’ favor by giving them more time to see whether the government plans to introduce language regarding budgets cuts to crop insurance in the federal budget. If this happens producers should consider going with PLC, he advises.
“I hope I am wrong [about an extension], but it would buy us producers time to see what budget cut proposal gets backed and if insurance is in the crosshairs. If they go after crop insurance there has already been supported discussions about reducing crop insurance premium subsidies and that should be a strong consideration for picking PLC for some farmers across the country,” Wasemiller says.
In an interview with AgriTalk, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden said signups are tracking at a better rate than she anticipated. She and Vilsack receive daily updates on signups from USDA—Farm Service Agency offices.
“I’m really hopeful that this deadline will hold firm,” Harden says. “A lot of folks had to sign our register, and you know what that means, it means they’ll come in later for the face-to-face meeting. We just couldn’t handle the workload. And that deadline is actually May 15, which is a hard deadline if we’re going to be ready for payments.”