Farmers are entering the final week of the countdown for the first of three deadlines they face in making decisions on the Agricultural Act of 2014 or the 2014 farm bill.
Under the provisions of the new law, farmers have through Feb. 27 to update their yields for covered crops and for landowners to reallocate their crop base acres if it makes economic sense to do so – by visiting their county Farm Service Agency offices.
By the end of March, farmers must decide whether they want to enroll in the Agricultural Risk Coverage or ARC or the Price Loss Coverage or PLC programs, and by June 1 they must begin sign-up for the 2015 farm program.
Many growers have indicated they consider the 2014 Agricultural Act much more complicated than any farm bill they’ve encountered before, and the signup figures reflect their confusion. In some states, less than 5 percent of producers had signed up for any part of the farm bill programs by the beginning of February.
As with previous farm bills, the Agricultural Act of 2014 is a product of a number of tradeoffs, tradeoffs that were made more challenging by the budget environment in which the new farm bill was passed, says Dr. James Richardson, co-director of the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University.
But Richardson, who conducted a series of briefings on the Farm Bill Decision Aid developed by the AFPC for farmers in Arkansas in early February, says the multitude of choices farmers have in the farm bill programs serve a purpose.
“All of the decisions required for the 2014 farm bill add to the producer’s ability to tailor the bill to fit their operations – not just add to complications,” said Dr. Richardson, whose AFPC has been providing farm bill analysis for Congress for three decades.
On the surface, it would seem a “no brainer” that farmers would want to update their yields and reallocate their base acres to reflect their current crop mix. They have not been able to do so since 2002 and they might not be able to do so again in the next farm bill.
Richardson says the Farm Bill Decision Aid software from Texas A&M can help farmers work through the process by analyzing up to 500 possible outcomes of different factors affecting their decisions.
Among those are reallocating and not reallocating their acreage bases and selecting either the Agricultural Risk Coverage-County, Agricultural Risk Coverage-Individual or Price Loss Coverage options using the Farm Bill Decision Aid software. Richardson walks growers through using the software in a webinar that can be accessed by clicking on the first link above.
“Farmers really need to run these calculations on each individual farm,” said Richardson, “because the answers can be different for each farm, especially if they farm in multiple counties.”
The software also allows farmers to see the impact of different price scenarios on those calculations, using monthly price forecasts provided by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri.