USDA announces amended farm bill provisions

Owners and operators of farms with 10 or fewer base acres now have the opportunity to receive payments for the 2008 Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment Program.

According to Robert Helmer, county executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Evangeline Parish, on October 13, President George W. Bush signed a bill that made amendments to the 2008 Farm Bill. These amendments apply to farms with crop acreage bases of 10 acres or less. These changes and clarifications allow some producers more flexibility in farming practices and create new sign-up opportunities with new deadlines for some farms. Helmer explained the amendments also apply to the new Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) Program.

10-Base Acre Limit Changes

As originally enacted under the 2008 Farm Bill, direct and countercyclical payments (DCP) could not be made with respect to farms with crop acreage bases of 10 acres or less. The new law makes that provision inapplicable for the 2008 crop year. Related to this, producers on a farm with 10 acres or less of base may now, under the new law, enroll their farms until November 26, in the 2008 DCP program. As Helmer explained, “This extension of the original September 30, deadline only applies to producers who were previously excluded because of the minimum acreage requirement. USDA began issuing payments to producers on farms with 10 base acres or less who had already enrolled in the DCP program soon after the President signed the new law. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will now resume allowing reconstitutions for farms with 10 acres of base or less according to normal reconstitution rules and policy.

Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) Changes

Under SURE in the 2008 Farm Bill, producers seeking disaster benefits must generally have obtained crop insurance or coverage under the Non-insured crop disaster Assistance Program (NAP) for all crops on all farms. Under the new law (P.L. 110-398), producers have a new minimum loss threshold under SURE. Under the new law, to qualify for payments, there must be a production loss of at least 10 percent for at least one crop of economic significance on the farm.

Helmer said under the SURE program, the new law provides that when a second crop is planted after the first crop was prevented from being planted, or if such first crop failed, the second planting will not count toward the SURE program guarantee or total farm revenue. This is true except in areas where double-cropping is a normal practice. Producers also are not required to purchase crop insurance or a NAP policy for the second crop.

By provision of the new statute, the purchase of insurance or a NAP policy for grazed acreage is no longer a requirement for the SURE program. However, such insurance is required as a condition for payment for the livestock feed program, tree assistance program and the emergency livestock, honeybees and farm-related fish programs.

In addition, the new law amends SURE eligibility so crop insurance or NAP coverage is no longer required for crops that are not of economic significance or those where the administrative fee required to buy NAP coverage exceeds 10 percent of the value of the coverage.

Eligible producers interested in the DCP and/or SURE Programs should contact the Evangeline Parish FSA Office or obtain information on FSA’s website at www.fsa.usda.gov.

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