Just a few weeks ago Farm Service Agency officials in Ripley County cautioned farmers to make an appointment and get in soon. The deadline was fast approaching to participate in '09 farm programs, and only a small number of producers were signed up. The office director even urged farmers to make an appointment before coming in so that they didn't risk spending lots of time in line just waiting.
The advice offered that day still holds, but the pressure is off just a bit. Don Hunton, acting director of the Indiana FSA, announced a few days ago that instead of a June 1 deadline, producers now have until August 14 to sign up for both the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program and the new Average Corp Revenue Election Program, which shall be known as ACRE. Hunton made the announcement based upon a decision in Washington to extend the deadline across the country.
So a new administration may be in power inside the Beltway, but the familiar tactics of government bureaucracy are at work- delay, make deadlines but then extend them. In this case, however, Hunton believes the delay is positive, not just for harried local FSA office staff, but for farmers.
"Extending the sign-up deadline for both these programs ensure that American farmers have enough information and time needed to determine if ACRE is the right program for their operational needs," he said in a prepared statement. "The DCP and ACRE programs play a critical role in the farm safety net, and it is vital that we act to support the hard work of the farmers we depend upon."
Rules were slow in coming after the '08 Farm Bill passed that clarified how the new program, ACRE, will work. It bases payments on revenue expectations. If a producer elects to be in ACRE, he can't be in DCP. And once he makes the decision to enroll in ACRE, he can't change his mind, at least not for the duration of the Farm Bill. That means he's committed to ACRE through 2012.
Details of when ACRE would trigger a payment are somewhat complicated. The trigger revolves around both a state and farm-level trigger. State-average yield is also tied into the program. When a farmer signs up, he automatically sees a 20 % reduction in direct payments and a 30% reduction in loan rates. This is in addition to forfeiting counter-cyclical payments.
Informational meetings are being held this week in Indiana to help farmers understand ACRE more fully. If there is not a meeting in your area, contact your local FSA office for help in understanding your options.