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New farm bill will bring change, but of what kind?

Staff writer

Marion County farmers — and farmers across the country — are going to have some choices to make before enrolling their various commodities in protection plans.

Farm Service Agency executive director Sara Morrey recently attended a weekend training program to learn about provisions of the 2014 farm bill, which covers American farmers from this year until 2018.

Morrey said her main take-away from the program is that farmers will undergo a three-part decision-making process to benefit from the new bill.

Part one will be to update base acres and reallocate counter-cyclical yields. Part two will be to decide between an agricultural risk coverage (ARC) and a price loss coverage (PLC) program. Part three will be enrolling the farm’s various commodities in the plan with the FSA.

The main decision for farmers comes at part two, selecting plans in which to enroll their individual commodities. As for telling which is best, Morrey said that’s where the challenge lies.

“It’s a bit of a gamble,” Morrey said. “We don’t know whether the odds are better than in Vegas.”

Agricultural risk coverage covers revenue losses for selected commodities, whereas price loss coverage offers price protection, but nothing for things like a decline in production.

The ARC is split into two subcategories, the ARC-CO for county-level loss coverage and the ARC-IC for individual-level loss coverage. While the PLC and ARC-CO can pay for up to 85 percent of a farm’s base acreage, an ARC-IC can only go as high as 65 percent. For this reason, among others, Morrey said most farmers are likely to choose either the PLC or the ARC-CO plan.

The ARC-IC plan is ideal for a farmer whose yields are higher than others in the county, or “a superfarmer,” Morrey said.

The FSA, along with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will present information at three extension agent meetings in November.

The first will be today at Tampa Community Center, the second will be Nov. 20 at Marion County Lake Hall, and the third will be Nov. 25 at Goessel Wheat Building. All three meetings will be from 7-9 p.m.

The farm bill appropriated funds for extension agents to give more assistance to farmers in choosing which path to pursue between ARC and PLC plans, Morrey said. County extension agent Rickey Roberts will meet individually with farmers to provide more insight as to what their farm may be better suited for.

A big change in the new farm bill, Morrey said, is no guaranteed direct payment for farmers. This means the amount of money farmers receive will be more contingent on their yields and the programs in which they enroll their commodities.

Farmers will choose which program to use by commodity, by farm, Morrey said. A farmer owning multiple farms with multiple commodities on each farm, can “hedge bets,” Morrey said, by enrolling different commodities in different programs.

The changes are sure to impact farmers, Roberts said, but as of yet, it’s impossible to say how.

“What this is, is more of a risk management type policy,” Roberts said. “I don’t know. I don’t know whether it’s going to be a good or a bad thing.”

Last modified Nov. 6, 2014

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