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Serving: IN

Can landowners switch tenants during 5-year FSA programs?

Can landowners switch tenants during 5-year FSA programs?
The one-time election for five years adds confusion to the process.

Odds are if you haven't been to your local FSA office yet to determine yield updates or base reallocations, or at least sat down and considered whether you want to make these changes, you will soon.

Carl Schweikhardt, chief of production adjustment for FSA in Indiana, hopes more farmers will be visiting county offices to go through these procedures soon.

So far, the number of farmers completing these steps has been behind expectations, he says. These first two steps in the new Farm Bill process must be completed by Feb. 27, and he is hoping farmers will spread it out so there isn't a last-minute crunch that could stretch the ability of some county offices to complete everything on time.

Year by year: A one-time election into a farm program is made for the farm. However, if there are changes in ownership or in who will farm the farm, those changes will be specified in annual enrollment each year.

Related: Indiana FSA officials concerned about lack of farm bill inquiries so far

One question arising is this: What happens if a landowner decides to change tenants two years into the new program, after all initial choices , including election or program, due March 31, 2015, have been made? Can the landlord even still switch tenants during the five-year period?

The short answer is the ability to switch tenants isn't affected, experts say. A landowner can still reassess who he or she wants running the farm and make changes according to rules governing rental agreements, just as they always have done. The FSA program is not a factor.

"Changing tenants or landowner changes will not impact the election process made on the farm and does not limit there being tenant and or owner changes on the farm," Schweikhardt says. "The farm must be enrolled annually."

Related: Crop insurance yield information simplifies yield updates

That annual enrollment is much like in the past. "During the enrollment period, it will be determined who is eligible for payment – whether it is the landowner, tenant or both," he says.

Short answer to this question is that if the landowner changes tenants or a farm changes hands in ownership, FSA will learn of those changes when the farm is enrolled each year. Just because you are making a five-year choice in programs up front doesn't mean you still don't have to enroll the farm annually. During annual enrollment details about how payments will be split that year are specified.

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