Stark County to hold farm bill meetings

January 14th, 2015 Other News

MASSILLON, Ohio — The Stark County Farm Service Agency and Ohio State University Extension will hold a meeting to educate farm producers and landowners about the 2014 farm bill programs (Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage) Jan. 26 at 6 p.m.

The meeting will be held at the R.G. Drage Career Center, in the auditorium, located at 2800 Richville Drive SE, in Massillon.

Topics

Producers who participate in the meeting will learn about the ARC and PLC programs, how to get signed up for the new program and how to use the online decision tool. And they’ll learn about whether to reallocate base acres and/or increase farm yields.

This opportunity must have paperwork signed by a landowner and returned to the county office by close of business Feb. 27 in order to benefit the producer.

Both programs offer farmers protection when market forces cause substantial drops in crop prices and/or revenues. Producers will have until March 31 to select which program works best for their businesses.

It is career center policy that if R. G. Drage is closed for any reason, the meeting will be canceled.

Opting out: Farm bill exempts more organic farmers from checkoffs

January 14th, 2015 Brian Lisik

SALEM, Ohio — Circleville, Ohio-based dairy farmer Perry Clutts has been farming 100 percent certified organic since 2005.

Since transitioning from a conventional dairy operation, Clutts has not had to pay into the national dairy checkoff order, thanks to a 2002 farm bill provision exempting 100 percent organic operations from conventional checkoffs.

A proposed rule change announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dec. 15 would expand that exemption to include 95 percent organic farmers, handlers, marketers and importers — otherwise known as “primary organic” operations.

The USDA recently fast-tracked its efforts to expand the exemption, part of the 2014 farm bill. A 30-day public comment period on the proposed rule change ended Jan. 15.

There are 22 national research and promotion checkoff programs. Under these programs, producers of a particular agricultural product pay assessments to fund marketing campaigns and research initiatives that benefit their commodity.

The USDA estimates the organic exemption has freed up $13.6 million for the organic sector, which produces an estimated $35 billion in annual sales, according to the USDA.

Not far enough

Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director of Organic Trade Organization, applauded the USDA’s efforts to implement the rule change so quickly.

“The 100 percent exemption solved some of the problems, but was drafted in such a way that it was restrictive,” Batcha said. “Communications from some of the commodity orders were bordering on disparaging to organic. They were not promoting organic a lot.”

The USDA’s proposed rule change, Batcha explained, would apply to split operations, those that farm both organically and conventionally. It would also address instances when non-organic agents are used in processing, such as sanitizing agents on a production line or milk processing line.

Carol Goland, executive director for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said the USDA’s proposed rule change corrects the 2002 rule’s inequity in defining different types of organic operations.

“In a sense, what this farm bill does is better define the multiple foods and crops of organic as a single commodity,” Goland said, adding that OEFFA fully supports the proposed rule change.

Public comment

A number of conventional commodity organizations, including the United Soybean Board and the Almond Board of California, have requested the USDA extend its 30-day public comment period due to the complexity of the issue.

Organic checkoff option

The 2014 farm bill grants the USDA authority to not only expand the organic exemption in the 2002 farm bill, but to also explore options for an organic-specific checkoff order.

Maggie McNeil, director of media relations for the Organic Trade Association, said the organization has been working on the framework for such a checkoff for three years.

McNeil said they hope to have the application out within the next two months. If accepted by the USDA, it then has to go through a comment period, and a referendum — an actual vote of all organic stakeholders in the industry.

“A lot of people know the word organic, but don’t know really what it means,” said Clutts, who also sits on the board of the Organic Trade Organization. “It is based on a very specific criteria like no other food process anywhere. I think the collective pool could do something bigger (to promote organic agriculture).”

Gaining majority support for an organic checkoff order, however, could be challenging.
Goland said OEFFA recognizes the need for organic research and promotion and feels the organic sector should “be able to spend its money as it sees fit.”

“But I would not necessarily go so far as an organic checkoff,” she said.

Several comments on the USDA’s rule change proposal also cautioned against an organic checkoff.

“Please stop the start of a checkoff plan for organic products,” wrote Roger Pepperl, of Wenatchee, Washington-based organic fruit farm, Stemilt Growers. “Our organic world is too large and diverse to have an organization work on our behalf. We grow organic tree fruit and have nothing in common with organic cotton, organic beef, etc.”

Organic farmer Ted Weydert, of DeKalb, Illinois, added, “Contrary to popular belief, the Organic Trade Association only speaks for a very small number of actual organic farmers. This checkoff is not needed.”

Northeast Ohio: Plans for farm bill workshops set

January 9th, 2015 Other News

JEFFERSON, Ohio — OSU Extension in Northeast Ohio will be collaborating with local Farm Service Agency offices to offer meetings to discuss the crop side of the 2014 farm bill.

Farm bill changes

The 2014 farm bill has instituted major changes to the federal farm programs which require landowners and farmers to make a couple major decisions during the winter of 2015.

Landowners will need to decide whether or not to update their property’s crop yields and determine whether or not to re-allocate the farm’s base acres by Feb. 27.

Program elimination

The new farm bill also eliminated the Direct Payment, Counter-Cyclical Payment (DCP) and the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) programs that were included in the 2008 farm bill.

These programs were replaced by a choice of three programs that farmers may elect to enroll in for the 2014 to 2018 crop years.

Choices

These programs are Price Loss Coverage (PLC), Agricultural Risk Coverage County Option (ARC-CO), and Agricultural Risk Coverage Individual Coverage (ARC-IC). Producers need to choose their program choice by March 31.

OSU Extension Educator, David Marrison and a local Farm Service Agency Representative will share specifics of the farm bill.
Please note that additional meetings will be scheduled as demand persists. There is no cost to attend but pre-registrations are requested so that adequate handouts can be made.

Details

More information about these programs can also be obtained by calling the Ashtabula County Extension office at 440-576-9008.

Jan. 13
Lorain County Farm Service Agency
42110 Russia Road
Elyria, Ohio 44035
2 p.m. to 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Call 440-326-5830 to register.

Jan. 14
Trumbull County AG Center
520 West Main Street
Cortland, Ohio 44410
1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Call 330- 637-2046, ext 109 to register.

Jan. 15
Akron University- Medina
Medina County University Center (of Akron University)
6300 West Technology Lane
Medina, Ohio 44256
10 a.m. to noon or 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Call 330-722-2628 to register.

Jan. 15
Portage County Ag Center
6970 State Route 88
Ravenna, Ohio 44266
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Call 330-297-7633, ext 113 to register.

Jan. 20
Trumbull County AG Center
520 West Main Street
Cortland, Ohio 44410
1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Call 330- 637-2046, ext 109 to register.

Jan. 22
USDA Service Center
Hopedale, Ohio
10 a.m.
Call 740-942-8823 to register.

Usefulness of farm data to change with new Farm Bill provisions

December 8th, 2014 Katie Woods

The vast amounts of data that farmers collect, farm machinery records and drones can calculate aren’t analyzed by farmers due to time constraints and indifference to learning how to use the data. However, Delta Farm Press reports that provisions in the new Farm Bill will change this by requiring data reporting to government agencies and crop insurance.

Today, more than 60 percent of farmers have access to precision technology, and about 90 percent of farm machinery can connect to the Internet and transmit data back to the manufacturers so that future equipment can be improved, but almost all of that data is left on the machines and isn’t used by farmers.

The movement now is to get data into usable form that farmers can use. All of this data gathering and analysis will be used to develop farm management, sustainability and production

Via: Delta Farm Press > Today’s farms awash in data: But what to do with it?

Already unimpressed with farm bill

October 30th, 2014 Alan Guebert

In a series of toughly-worded articles published in Choices, the quarterly journal of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA), nearly every major element of the 2014 farm bill — from its expanded crop insurance program to its impact on global trade negotiations — comes under fire as either “perverse,” “false,” “vacuous,” “absurd,” “failing,” or “wasteful.”

The seven articles, overseen by Vincent H. Smith, a professor of ag economics at Montana State University, are a “careful, thoughtful examination of the economics behind the 2014 law,” explained Smith in a telephone interview Oct. 21. “Too often there has been a serious lack of critical attention given to farm bills by the ag economics community.”

Not anymore

Smith and 10 other land grant ag economists — most of whom are AAEA “Distinguished Fellows” — take a hard, unobstructed look at the $100-billion-per-year 2014 law and come away deeply unimpressed. (A link to all is posted http://farmandfoodfile.com/in-the-news/.) A quick sample shows just how unimpressed.

On the overall “potential economic benefits and costs” of the law, Smith and Barry Goodwin, a professor of ag and resource economics at North Carolina State University, write that the “standard pro-farm policy rhetoric … typically claims that subsidies are needed to save small family farms” and are “important rural development mechanisms.”

Facts show, however, that “the conventional wisdom is based on a paradigm that is, at best, a relic of history and the assertions that are often put forward to argue for billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies are false in almost every case.”

In his explanation of the near-century old “resiliency of farm programs,” Iowa State’s Bruce Babcock, a pioneer of the 2014 law’s key element, crop insurance, writes, “The disconnect between a lack of actual economic rationale for farm subsidies and their continued existence demonstrates that farm programs exist not because of a need to enhance social welfare but rather to meet the political objective of members of Congress to care for a constituency that lends them political cover.”

Getting wealthy

That political back-scratching, explains Brian Davern Wright, an ag economist from the University of California, delivered a 2014 law even more reliant on “crop insurance and disaster programs (that) are themselves disastrous” because each “reduces the incentive for farmers to manage farm risks and environmental problems” while it “increases their wealth, which far exceeds the average wealth of non-farm families and continues to rise.”

The story is equally upside down when looking at the international food aid provisions of the 2014 law, claims Erin Lentz of the University of Texas, and Christopher Barrett of Cornell. If just one restriction of the food aid formula, the requirement that 50 percent of all U.S. food aid be sent abroad on American-flagged ships — which “only affect(s) six to 11 mainly outdated vessels” — was removed, “4-10 million acutely malnourished people … would receive food aid.”

Or, “In other words, roughly 10,000 additional hungry people are not being fed for each domestic shipping job protected” in the bill.

Free trade

Moreover, the global trade implications of the law, writes Colin Carter, an ag economist at UC-Davis, are in clear conflict with what farmers repeatedly claim they want: free trade.

“The 2014 farm bill … may well cost the United States any credibility in future agricultural trade negotiations in the Doha Round. Perhaps even more importantly, the (law) has undermined U.S. credibility in regional trade negotiations…” such as the now-bogged down trans-Pacific trade talks.

Two other articles dive into the farm bill’s impact on ag research and “U.S. Agri-Environmental Policy.” Both are equally blunt and equally unimpressed by the long-in-the-making, short-in-reality policies the law dictates.

Smith, who describes himself as “far more liberal” than the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, the Washington, D.C. think tank where he serves as a “visiting scholar,” says “the empirical evidence that underpins the entire series of articles is rock solid.”

So will be the lumps of limestone, granite and coal thrown at him and his ag econ colleagues by all the beneficiaries of the 2014 farm bill.

Farm Science Review opens with farm bill commodity discussion

September 16th, 2014 Chris Kick

LONDON, Ohio — Early visitors to the 2014 Farm Science Review got a heavy dose of new acronyms and policy terms, during a farm bill crop update moderated by OSU ag economists and farm policy experts.

There are at least four main programs crop farmers can choose from — and they’re all complex and multifaceted.

“These have multiple moving features going on,” said Carl Zulauf, OSU farm policy expert. “I’m sorry they’re complex. But you’ve got to understand, that complexity means difficult answers.”

Program choices

They include the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) county level program, the ARC individual farm program, and the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program. And, farmers can participate in a new insurance program, called the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO).

The ARC generates payments to farmers when pre-acre actual market revenue falls below the ARC per-acre revenue guarantee. Growers have a choice of whether to calculate actual revenue and revenue guarantee on county yields or on farm yields. Payments are calculated using base acres.

The PLC is basically the previous countercyclical payment program with a new name and higher trigger prices. Payments are triggered when the season-average market price is less than a crop’s reference price.

The SCO is a new crop insurance program that makes payments if county revenue or yield falls below 86 percent of the SCO guarantee. Unlike PLC and ARC, SCO payments will be based on planted acres.

What’s the difference?

In general, the ARC option will likely fit farmers who want to take a little more risk, while the PLC helps protect against drastic losses. But there still is no “default decision on program choice,” Zulauf said.

This is because of the complexities with each choice, and the ever-changing commodities market. On the one hand, it might make sense to protect oneself the most against major losses, but Zulauf said the smaller, “shallow” losses can be “just as dangerous, just as difficult,” especially over a period of several years.

The farm bill is in effect for five years, which means farmers need to give a lot of forethought and calculation to which program best fits their operation.

The ARC-Individual option allows farmers to protect their farm on an individual, per-farm basis.

The ARC-County is a county crop loss program with a coverage range limited to 76-86 percent. If the ARC benchmark revenue is reasonably close to the insurance guarantee, a farm — especially if cash-flow is restrained — may choose to buy individual insurance at 75 percent coverage and use ARC-CO to provide partial coverage, at the 76-86 percent level.

Both ARC-CO and PLC have a minimum price, and the PLC has a reference price. However, if market price is below the reference price for multiple years, PLC will likely pay more because ARC’s revenue benchmark changes with market conditions, and therefore declines if the low prices persist.

Calculate what’s best

Indeed, the options are complex, and Zulauf and the other panelists urged careful forethought and calculation. Calculators are being developed that will allow farmers to enter their data and determine their best option, but Zulauf warned that calculators are “only as good as the information you enter.”

He’s heard word that calculators could be available online by the end of September, but another issue is, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is still developing some of the rules for how to implement the commodity programs. These final rules could impact the calculation, and the farmer’s decision process.

Zulauf said there is speculation the rules will be finalized by late fall to early winter, at which point farmers will have a better understanding of which option works best.

He expects about $5 billion already could be paid to farmers this year, based on provisions within the new farm bill.

“Farmers have had choices before,” Zulauf said. “They’ve just never had these kinds of choices.”

Helpful resources

The panel was moderated by OSU Ag Economist Matt Roberts. OSU is involved in a statewide effort to help farmers understand their options, and Zulauf has published numerous articles about the issue. For more information, visit his article Program Choice — A Big Picture Perspective.

The one acronym most people already know is FSR — Farm Science Review — which continues Sept. 16-18 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

(Some information from Choices and the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association.)

Meetings will help dairy farmers navigate new farm bill programs

August 14th, 2014 Other News

COLUMBUS — Dairy and ag economics experts from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences will hold meetings across Ohio as part of an effort to help farmers learn more about the 2014 farm bill and how it will impact dairy producers.

Dianne Shoemaker, an Ohio State University Extension field specialist in dairy economics, and Cameron Thraen, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, will present information on the Margin Protection Program for Dairy (DMPP), a new national voluntary dairy safety net program.

The USDA plans to launch the DMPP program by Sept. 1, and the Farm Service Agency has been charged with devising the rules and administering the program, Shoemaker said.

“This is a major change for dairy farmers,” she said. “Every farm is going to have to make a decision as to whether they will participate or not.

“But you can’t make a sound decision if you don’t understand how the program works and what it means for your farm under different feed and milk prices.”

Meeting schedule

The dairy producer meetings will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

Sept. 3 at Romer’s St. Henry, 321 South Eastern Ave., St. Henry, Ohio. Registration is $15 with a deadline of Aug. 29 to register.

Sept. 11 at Mahoning County Experimental Farm, 7475 Columbiana- Canfield Rd., Canfield, Ohio. Registration is $15 with a deadline of Sept. 4.

Sept. 15 at the OARDC Shisler Center, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, Ohio. Registration is $15 with a deadline of Sept. 8.

Additional information about upcoming programs and on-line resources is available at http://dairy.osu.edu.

Ohio Farmers Union to hold farm bill forum

July 18th, 2014 Other News

COLUMBUS – Farmers around Ohio will soon be faced with several choices concerning the national safety net for agriculture.

To help farmers get fully informed about coming ag commodity program changes due to the 2014 farm bill, the Ohio Farmers Union along with POET Biorefining, Superior Energy Solutions and First Federal Bank will hold a farm bill implementation forum later this month at Bowling Green State University.

Two paths

Under the new law, farmers will take one of two paths regarding the ag safety net. One option is Price Loss Coverage, or PLC, a price-based assistance program. The other is Agricultural Risk Coverage, or ARC, a farm revenue-based program. The choice farmers make around the country will stick with them for the next five years.

In this farm bill, direct payments are out – replaced by ARC and PLC.

Under these paths, farmers will also choose whether to keep their current Farm Service Administration base acres or payment yields or make adjustments under the new law.

Decisions

Logan said there is a level complexity in the decision-making process for farmers this year due to the changes in the programs and the fact that decisions made in 2014 will last for five years.

As an example of the complexity, farmers may elect to take on a new form of crop insurance – the Supplemental Coverage Option – but only those farmers who have elected the PLC program for their acres.

FSA has not announced when the new programs will actually be available for signup so farmers do still have time to learn more about the new programs and begin considering their choices.

“There is going to be a lot for local FSA offices to explain to producers in a relatively short period of time,” Logan said regarding the eventual rollout of the new farm programs.

Forum

The forum will be held at 1 p.m. July 25 at BGSU, Bowen-Thompson Student Union in the Grand Ball Room. Moderated by Logan, there will be a panel presentation and time for questions and answers from those attending.

Panelists include:

• Joe Shultz, Chief Economist, U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
• Jonathan McCracken, Legislative Agriculture Assistant, Office of Sen. Sherrod Brown
• Carl Zulauf, Professor, OSU Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics
• Terry Cosby, State Conservationist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
• Tony Logan, State Director, USDA Rural Development
• Steve Maurer, State Executive Director, USDA Farm Service Agency

2014 farm bill changes for FSA Farm loans

April 10th, 2014 FSA Andy

Hello Again!

The 2014 Farm Bill made several modifications to the Farm Service Agency farm loan programs. These modifications were implemented as of February 7, 2014 when the President signed the Farm Bill.

The definition of a qualified beginning farmer has been modified. It was based on the median farm size and has been changed to the average farm size owned. A beginning farmer is now defined as “does not own a farm greater than 30 percent of the average sized farm in the county. ”This applies to farm ownership purchase loans before buying farm land.

As an example: Columbiana County, Ohio- the median farm size is 60 acres and 30% is 18 acres while the average farm size is 124 acres and 30% is 37.2 acres. This results in more farm operators qualifying as beginning farmers.

The maximum loan amount for a Direct Down Payment Farm Ownership loans have been increased from $225,000 to $300,000. Direct Down Payment Farm Ownership loans are for beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers to purchase farm real estate. The applicant must have 5% down; FSA loans 45% of the purchase up to $300,000; and another lender loans the remaining 50% of the purchase.

The interest rate charged on Direct Farm Ownership Joint Financing loans made with another lender is now set at 2% below the regular Direct Farm Ownership loan rate with a minimum of 2.5%. The other lender (Farm Credit, bank, etc.) must loan at least 50% of the total amount borrowed. The goal is to encourage joint financing and thereby stretch the FSA direct farm ownership loan dollars.

Limited resource interest rates are now available to beginning and veteran farmers who receive a microloan. Borrowers will be given a choice between the limited resource interest rate or the regular operating loan interest rate. Currently the regular operating loan is lower than the set limited resource rate but this may not always be.

Microloans made to beginning and veteran farmers are to be exempt from the direct loan term limitations. Term limits will still apply for non-microloan direct loans such as regular operating loans and farm ownership loans. Presently applicants are eligible to close direct operating loans in 7 calendar years and a beginning farmer’s eligibility is limited to a maximum of 10 years.

The definition of a “veteran farmer” has been established as: a farmer who has served in the Armed Forces (as defined in section 101(10) of title 38 United States Code) and who (a) has not operated a farm, or (b) has operated a farm for not more than 10 years.

The percentage of guarantee for Conservation Loans will increase to 80% for non-beginning farmers.

For beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers the guarantee percentage for Conservation loans will increase to 90%. Guaranteed Conservation loans can be used for installation of conservation structures to address soil, water, and related resources; installation of water conservation measures; and the establishment or improvement of permanent pasture.

Previously applicants could not receive Guaranteed Operating loans for more than 15 calendar years. This term limit has now been eliminated.

Previously Rural Youth loans were limited to rural areas or towns with populations of less than 50,000. This rural restriction has now been removed and youth loans are now available to all regardless of the population where they reside. The goal is to open the program up to urban youth who are interested in agricultural projects such as urban gardens. The biggest FFA Chapter in the US is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Additional information on FSA Farm Loans can be found by visiting a nearby FSA Service Center or online at fsa.usda.gov.

That’s all for now,
FSA Andy

Understanding the new farm bill will take patience

April 3rd, 2014 FSA Andy

Hello again,

I sure have seen a lot of information about the new farm bill in the newspaper. There is some good information out there with most of it being put out by our agency. Like everyone else, I read the information and store it away until a sign-up period becomes a reality.  I compare the news releases to the directives and software that we have actually received in the local county office.

Huge disconnect

Sometimes I see a disconnect in what is being released to the public and what is available to us in the local offices. A program deadline will be published in a newspaper, and that may be the first time we are made aware of it. The administrators will publicize program deadlines without making the forms, software or policy available to us.

The local producer sees it in the paper, calls the office and we have to explain to them that we are aware of what they read, but they have not given us the necessary tools to complete the job.

I often times compare it to spring planting — you have the tractor, you have the planter, you have the field all ready to be planted, but you don’t have any seed because your seed dealer put it on the truck to be delivered but the delivery truck ran into an unforeseen problem.

Frequently that is what happens in our agency — a mission is developed, a time frame is implemented, but it doesn’t always allow enough time for the information to get to the local offices where the program is actually implemented.

Program

Down below is some information about a permanent disaster program that has a deadline of April 15, we already know we will not be trained on this program until the week of April 14. So be patient with your local office, as soon as the information is received your sign-up will be our priority, even when we read the other articles telling us that 250 more local offices will be closed. We are the Farm SERVICE Agency, we take pride in knowing that SERVICE really is our middle “name.”

The 2014 farm bill, formally known as the Agricultural Act of 2014, makes the Livestock Forage Program and Livestock Indemnity Program permanent programs and provides retroactive authority to cover eligible losses back to Oct. 1, 2011.

LFP provides compensation to eligible producers who suffered grazing losses due to drought and fire. LIP provides compensation to livestock producers who suffered livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. USDA is determined to make implementing the livestock disaster programs a top priority and plans to open program enrollment by April 15, 2014.

As USDA begins implementing the livestock disaster assistance programs, producers should record all pertinent information of natural disaster consequences, including:

• Documentation of the number and kind of livestock that have died, supplemented if possible by photographs or video records of ownership and losses
• Dates of death supported by birth recordings or purchase receipts
• Costs of transporting livestock to safer grounds or to move animals to new pastures
• Feed purchases if supplies or grazing pastures are destroyed
• Crop records, including seed and fertilizer purchases, planting and production records
• Pictures of on-farm storage facilities that were destroyed by wind or flood waters
• Evidence of damaged farm land.

Still have questions?

Many producers still have questions. USDA is in the process of interpreting Farm Bill program regulations. Additional information will be provided once the enrollment period is announced. In the meantime, producers can review the LIP and LFP Fact Sheets.

Thanks for your patience as USDA works diligently to put Farm Bill programs into action to benefit the farmers and ranchers of rural America.

That’s all for now,
FSA Andy