USDA’s Vilsack: Farm Program Signup Could Run Into 2015

February 28, 2014 06:27 AM

Signup period now expected longer than originally thought

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Farmers can start signing up for the 2014 farm bill’s new price loss and revenue protection programs this fall, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told attendees at the Commodity Classic today. Signup will extend into early 2015 to give USDA time to provide producers with enough information for them to decide which program is best for them, Vilsack said.  Farmers must choose between Price Loss Coverage or Agriculture Risk Coverage.

He is eying this summer to roll out regulations on a new requirement that farmers must meet minimum conservation standards in order to buy federally subsidized crop insurance. USDA is aiming to implement the requirement by the start of the 2016 harvest year, he said.

A new definition of "actively engaged," which will determine who in a farm operation qualifies for program subsidies probably won’t be ready until the end of 2014, Vilsack said. The issue was a contentious one during farm bill negotiations with supporters calling for a tighter definition to limit the number of off-farm partners eligible for payments, and opponents saying a more limited definition would harm large operations with multiple partners and participants. Negotiators punted the decision to USDA.

PERSPECTIVE: Based on Vilsack’s comments today, it appears farmers will have an even longer time to enroll in the program and will have even more information to consider when they make their choices, including the June Acreage report, potentially several survey-based estimates of US production of crops like corn and soybeans and several months of the Supply/Demand projections for the 2014/15 marketing year.

USDA recently held its first official farm bill implementation meeting. Sources advise that during the meeting, Vilsack "made it clear" that he wants to make "all of the decisions" regarding the farm bill operations. That could be a lot of extra detailed work for a Cabinet secretary, as USDA staffers have identified over 600 key decisions to be made. 

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.


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