Two months into the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE) sign up period, it appears most of the program's implementation kinks are finally on their way to being ironed out by the USDA Farm Service Agency.
For farmers on the Texas High Plains, and elsewhere, who have gone through the sign up process and not yet received their payment, the wait may be close to an end. This includes, apparently, producers who have been unable to sign up for the program due to issues involving peanuts as well as those who purchased pasture and rangeland insurance.
Currently there is no deadline for completing the SURE enrollment process.
According to USDA officials in Washington, some $100 million in SURE payments have already gone out and more are on the way. They indicate that over the next few weeks producers should see more SURE payments being delivered.
FSA officials explained that as they fine tune the many processes needed to deal with the significant amount of data required to deliver the program, it has sometimes been necessary for FSA staff to rework previously completed applications to verify that initial preliminary benefit calculations were accurate or, if necessary, substitute revised crop insurance yield or coverage information. USDA expects SURE payments to begin ramping up over the next few weeks.
A big contributor to the sluggish performance that has occurred thus far is the complicated nature of the program itself. USDA officials say that despite the challenges they are having to deal with from a complexity stand-point, they are actively working to incorporate the final pieces of the SURE calculation puzzle, namely the incorporation of a producer's weighted average counter-cyclical program (CCP) payment yield, into a revised version of the SURE sign up software used to calculate preliminary SURE benefits.
The SURE program is significantly more complex than previous incarnations of ad hoc disaster assistance due to its application at the whole farm level, which often means dealing with multiple crops, as well as the fact it addresses overall revenue on the farm instead of only focusing solely on yield-based losses.
Adding to the complication is the fact that FSA is also working closely with the USDA Risk Management Agency to obtain crop insurance yield, coverage and loss data that must be incorporated into a producer's SURE Interim report.
Cooperation between the two agencies has been good as they work together to insure that the producer information developed for the SURE interim report is as accurate and complete as possible.
For growers who haven't had an opportunity to complete their official SURE sign up, but still need to develop an estimate of the benefit they are likely to receive, the Texas AgriLife Extension SURE Benefit Estimator remains available for download and use from the internet. Growers interested in using it are encouraged to download the new version 3.0 file.
The file is available for download from the Plains Cotton Growers Web site, located at http://www.plainscotton.org, and from the South Plains Profitability Project Web site located at http://southplainsprofit.tamu.edu. A copy of Microsoft Excel is required to view and use the estimator.
With an official release date of Jan. 25, 2010, key changes made in version 3.0 include the incorporation of input spaces for data included on a producer's Farm Service Agency SURE Interim Report and a producer's crop insurance premium information on a unit-by-unit basis.
Another useful adaptation included in version 3.0 is the ability to toggle the Summary page to display the estimated amount of benefit payable through the Farm Service Agency's initial sign-up procedure or an estimation of the total amount of SURE benefit that might be payable once all SURE program features are implemented.
These changes will allow the spreadsheet to more accurately calculate SURE guarantee amounts, including adjustments provided through implementation of provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the amount of crop insurance premium a grower may deduct from their calculated total revenue.
The Texas AgriLife Extension Service developed the original SURE Benefit Estimator with assistance from Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. more than a year and a half ago to help answer producer questions about the SURE program.