By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
OMAHA (DTN) -- Farmers having a tough time making a decision on their farm-program options or finding time to set up an appointment at the county Farm Service Agency office are going to have at least one more week to make it happen.
USDA announced Friday a one-week extension for base-acre reallocation, yield updates and enrollment in the commodity program election for Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC).
Anyone who has made an appointment with their local FSA office to discuss ARC/PLC doesn't need to do anything more except attend that appointment.
As of now, nearly 98% of landowners have already updated their yields and reallocated base acres.
Close to 90% of producers have enrolled in one of the programs, which translates into a significant jump throughout the month of March. USDA's Farm Service Agency administrator told lawmakers on Thursday that about 77% of farmers had made their ARC-PLC decisions through the week of March 19.
Last month, as landowners bumped right up against the deadline for the base-acre reallocation, USDA announced it would extend that deadline to the end of March.
The choice between ARC and PLC is a one-time, irrevocable election that will stick with a farm and/or commodity through the life of the farm bill. All producers in an FSA farm entity must agree with the program decision.
To recap, ARC is a revenue-protection program and actually has two different versions, a county option and individual whole-farm option. ARC-County is an area coverage plan that pays when the actual county revenue falls below a county benchmark for a particular commodity. ARC-County could cover up to 86% of that benchmark revenue and historical yield. Effectively, ARC provides a band of revenue protection from 76% to 86% of the expected average revenue in the county. Insurance is expected to cover deeper individual losses.
Under ARC-County, 85% of base acres are covered; payment acres are set at 65% for the ARC-Individual coverage.
Farmers who sign up for ARC are excluded from buying Supplemental Coverage Option insurance because they are similar in effect.
PLC doesn't have the nuances that go with ARC. PLC has set reference prices in the 2014 farm law that would pay if the national marketing year price is less than the reference price. For corn, PLC would pay if the average yearly price is below $3.70 a bushel. The reference price for soybeans is $8.40 per bushel and is $5.50 per bushel for wheat.
ARC and PLC can be mixed and matched on different farms and commodities. For instance, a farmer can enroll his corn base on one farm in ARC and enroll his soybean base in PLC. However, once the decision is made at the Farm Service Agency office to lock in a particular program for a crop on a certain farm, that decision becomes irrevocable throughout the life of the farm bill.
Up through Thursday, Val Dolcini, administrator for the Farm Service Agency, didn't tip his hand at a hearing before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. Dolcini would not say whether USDA would grant any kind of extension to farmers enrolling in ARC or PLC.
Producers do not have to have their ARC/PLC enrollment completed by April 7, but they do need to have contacted their local FSA offices to set an appointment and file their paperwork.
Farmers who do not make a choice on ARC or PLC will not be eligible to receive payments for either program in 2015 and will be automatically enrolled in PLC for 2015-18 crop years.
The National Corn Growers Association issued a statement after Thursday's hearing, noting Dolcini had encouraged county offices to remain flexible during program sign-up. Farmers who are unable to complete the process by the deadline are encouraged to go to their local FSA office before March 31 to sign a document of their intent to enroll. This will allow the farmer to come back to the FSA office later to complete the enrollment process.
"These are important decisions that will impact farm operations for at least the next five years," said Chip Bowling, NCGA's president. "FSA offices are here to help with that process. If you haven't completed the enrollment process yet, and need more time, get into your local office as soon as possible and sign your intent to enroll."
Producers who still have questions about how ARC and PLC would work can examine some of the USDA or Extension online decision tools. Here are the two main decision tools funded by USDA.
Texas A&M decision tool: https://www.afpc.tamu.edu/…
Illinois Farmdoc: http://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN
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