Harvest time in the Southeast can resemble a circus – a high-wire balancing act or maybe a juggling performance. For many producers, it requires one eye on peanuts, one on cotton, and another on the weather report for any late-season tropical storms that might be planning some mischief our way. So you don’t need one more thing to think about. But you do have a few more things this year, and they’re pretty important.
Prior to a recent scorching hot field day in southeast Alabama, Aaron Wells with the state FSA office in Dothan reminded growers of some changes coming their way that’ll require action on their part.
“There was a long time when there weren’t many changes in the FSA offices, but some changes are coming,” says Wells. If a grower is an owner or operator of a farm, he or she should have received letters by now stating all of the farms with which they’re affiliated, he says.
“It shows the current base acres on the farm and what we have on file at the FSA office for being planted on that farm in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Right now, all you need to do with that letter is if you disagree with what is in it as being historically planted, or if you forgot to certify a crop in a particular year, now is the time to do it. You have 60 days from the date of that letter to try and reconcile any differences,” says Wells.
After this process if finished, farmers probably will receive another letter giving them the option either to retain the base that’s now on the farm or to reallocate. The reallocation of acres, he says, is not a simple, and hopefully there will be more answers as the process moves forward.
The second letter, says Wells, will also probably offer growers a chance to update their yields on the bases they have or on the historical planting. But you can expect to be limited to what you can update your base yields to, he adds.
“Once we get the yields and the acreage in place, into the first of next year, then you’ll actually make decisions on whether you want the base crop to go into the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program or the Risk Coverage (ARC) program. The PLC is essentially your old counter-cyclical program and the ARC is a revenue program,” says Wells.
“You’ll have to look at this on a farm-by-farm situation, because there may be cases where you have a 50-acre corn base on a farm, but you’re eligible now for a 20-acre peanut base. You’ll have to sit down, look at your numbers and your operation, and decide if it’s worth losing 50 acres of corn base to pick up 20 acres of peanut base. There are a lot of questions to be answered.”
Another thing growers need to consider now is a cotton transition payment, with sign-up going through Oct. 7, says Wells. “Cotton is being transition except for loans and LDPs. You’ll notice on those letters you received earlier that cotton isn’t listed. It doesn’t show up if you planted cotton in one of those years or if you have cotton base. That is now generic base.”
The new Farm Bill created the STAX program for cotton, and it’ll be administered by your insurance agent, he explains. “USDA knew that the program wouldn’t be ready for the 2014 crop, so the Farm Bill implemented this one-time transition payment for cotton. If your county doesn’t have STAX for next year, there will be an additional year of the cotton transition payment. It has nothing to do with crop insurance – it’s looking at the base yield on the farm. You get paid 9 cents per pound on 60 percent of your acres. So make sure you don’t miss out on that.”
There’s also the Livestock Forage Program for growers to consider, says Wells. “If you had cattle in 2011, 2012, and 2013, you need to contact your FSA office because there’s possibly a payment associated with grazing for those years. Each county will vary because it’s based on the drought monitor. The longer and more intense the drought in your county, the higher the payment will be. From what I’ve seen, it’s a worthwhile program and very well worth your time to sign up. And winter grazing is eligible as well in certain counties.
Wells advises growers, in between harvesting, to be on the lookout for more notifications. “USDA never has the perfect timing on these things, as everyone is getting into harvest, but don’t let anything slide by you.”