Several decisions await farmers as the Agricultural Act of 2014 is now in the implementation phase. USDA held a series of listening sessions in Washington on the new bill, culminating with a March 27 session for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Risk Management Agency (RMA), two of the key USDA offices farmers will deal with as they consider the new farm program.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack used his appearance at Commodity Classic on Feb. 28 to start fleshing out some of the key dates ahead for farmers:
- Livestock disaster assistance: Signup should start by April 15 for losses dating back to Oct. 1, 2011. "We will work very hard shortly thereafter to make sure the resources are paid," Vilsack said.
- Agriculture Conservation Easement Program: Application period should start by May 1.
- Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC): USDA will soon release the $3 million allocated to pay for training materials. Producers can start updating production history this summer. Regulations will be finalized this fall so farmers can decide on programs by the end of the year or early 2015. Using the money Congress provided, USDA will hire temporary help in local offices to speed signup, he said.
- Crop insurance: The Stacked Income Protection Program (STAX) revenue insurance policy for cotton will be available nationwide for 2015.
The Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) maps should be available by the summer or fall of 2015 to inform producers of where coverage will be available. The Risk Management Agency has started assessing each county to determine whether there are enough farms and adequate production history to determine the cost of the policy.
The beginning farmer incentives should be available for spring crops in 2015.
- Actively engaged in farming: USDA expects by late 2014 to update the current rule on who is considered actively engaged in farming for purposes of receiving farm program payments. The new rule would not affect producers until the 2015 crop year.
- The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research: The process of setting it up begins this spring. The foundation will enable the leveraging of an additional $400 million investment in agricultural research.