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Farmers Union Asks USDA to Extend Buy-in for Disaster Assistance

Organization urges implementation of farm bill as Congress intended.

Following their annual Fall Fly-in this week, the National Farmers Union board of directors sent two letters to Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer urging USDA to look at the intent of Congress in implementing the 2008 Farm Bill.

In the first letter the board requested Schafer use his authority to extend the "buy-in" deadline for producers to pay risk management program fees for the farm bill's Supplemental Disaster Assistance Program. Currently the deadline for producers to enroll is Sept. 16.

"In order to minimize the potential problems, we urge USDA to use all its authority to extend the 'buy-in' deadline to a reasonable period after the program rules and regulations are made public," the NFU board said.

The other letter addressed the USDA's announcement that producers will not be allowed to aggregate acres to establish total farm base acres that exceed a 10-acre limitation in the bill. The NFU board is asking Schafer to change the department's interpretation of the farm bill language concerning the 10 base acre provision and inform producers of their ability to aggregate acres.

"The department's interpretation will exclude a significant number of producers from participating in commodity programs that Congress clearly expected would retain program eligibility," the NFU board said.

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to force the USDA to allow farmers to aggregate base acres to qualify for farm program payments. Representatives Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., have introduced a bill that would address that fact that far more producers are being denied payments than was anticipated.

"We have in this country a number of people who are engaged in agriculture who generally earn their living from farming, or at least a substantial portion of their income with a group of 10-acre tracts. Different farms that are less than 10 acres," Moran says. "It seems to me that in fairness to those farmers, fairness outweighs concerns of administrative costs in making certain that people who really do have a farm qualify for farm programs."

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