If you are a corn or soybean producer who has elected to participate in either the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) option in the USDA farm program, make sure you take the third and final step. You need to go to your local FSA office and enroll annually in the program you've chosen. If you don't, you won't be eligible for a payment that may be issued by USDA for that particular year. Enrollment deadline for the 2014 and 2015 ARC and PLC programs is September 30, 2015.
Most corn and soybean farmers in Iowa elected to participate in the Agricultural Risk Coverage-County option (ARC-CO) as their USDA farm program safety net for the five year life of the 2014 Farm Bill. Earlier this year, farmers could go to the local Farm Service Agency office and choose by crop to elect their base acres in either ARC or PLC. In Iowa, 97% of the farmers elected ARC-CO coverage for corn, while just 3% chose PLC. That decision cannot be changed through the 2018 crop, the five-year life of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Producers must enroll annually to be eligible for payment
"There is one more important step to take to be eligible for payment in either of these programs," reminds John Whitaker, state executive director for FSA in Iowa. "You have to go to the FSA office and enroll in the program each year. We are currently in the enrollment process for ARC and PLC for 2014 and 2015. Enrollment is the last phase of the process. It's important for producers to remember to enroll annually."
The new farm program created by the 2014 Farm Bill is a three-part series. Producers had to update their base acres and yield information at the local FSA office. The second step was program election. They needed to choose the program they were going to participate in for the five-year life of the farm bill. Like farm bills in the past, this new farm program has an annual enrollment provision: the third step.
If you still need to enroll in either ARC or PLC, do it now
"Now we're in the third and final step: enrollment," says Whitaker. "September 30 is the deadline to enroll for 2014 and 2015 and we're coming up on it quickly. Producers need to go to their local FSA office and enroll in the program before the deadline.
"The choice you've made by electing to participate in either ARC or PLC is effective for five years," he notes. "Producers have made that choice already. But if they are expecting to get a payment this fall from the program they've chosen, they need to enroll. I realize not everyone is expecting to get a payment, it depends on what program they chose. But they have to enroll before September 30. They have to go through the enrollment process if they are expecting a payment this fall."
What happens if you don't enroll by September 30?
What are the consequences for farmers who don't sign up? "If they don't enroll by September 30 and the ARC or PLC program ends up paying money this year to participants in their county farmers who aren't enrolled won't get a payment for 2014. And we're in the enrollment process for 2015 as well. You need to enroll now for both years. Enrolling could be very important for producers to receive potential payments they've earned as a result of lower market prices."
Next year, do producers need to come back to the FSA office and enroll again to be eligible for possible payments for 2016? "Yes, this is an annual process," says Whitaker. "We'll announce the enrollment period for next year sometime in the future. Right now we're concentrating on getting the 2014 and 2015 enrollment done. We're doing both years of enrollment at the same time."
Does FSA have an estimate of how many Iowa farmers still need to enroll? "There are a lot of producers who still need to go to their local FSA office and enroll," he notes.
Although you elected to participate, you still need to enroll annually
Some producers are saying, "Oh, we thought we were done when we made the choice of programs -- when we elected which program we are participating in for the five years of the farm program -- either ARC or PLC." However, you aren't done until you've completed the enrollment process: taken the third step. You can opt out of any particular year of these programs if you would choose to not participate that year. That's the reason for this annual sign up or enrollment.
Give it some thought and decide if you want to enroll in either ARC or PLC, the one you elected for the five-year program. For 2014 and 2015, you have until September 30. "You have until the end of this month to enroll if you are expecting a payment in whichever program you chose," says Whitaker. "If you put a pencil to the program and look at it, and think you have potential to collect a payment, that payment won't be available to you if you haven't completed the enrollment."
Even if a producer is in a county where the projected ARC-CO payment for corn in 2014 indicates no payment is likely to be triggered, there is no reason for that producer to not complete the enrollment, he adds.
Will there be a payment for 2014 for some farmers in Iowa?
As you look at the program today, especially ARC-CO for corn and soybeans, does one or the other crop look more likely that there will be a payment for at least some producers in Iowa?
It depends on the area of the state and the yields, says Whitaker. "Also, keep in mind the program takes into account both yield and price when it calculates revenue. There are some areas of the state where it's less likely there will be a payment and other areas where it's more likely there will be a payment. Where those areas will be, we don't know yet because the marketing year average price as calculated by USDA at the end of the marketing year hasn't been released yet."
The marketing year ended August 31 for corn and soybeans, but the official 2014 MYA (marketing year average) price will not be released by USDA until the end of September. Does it cost a farmer anything to enroll? No, says Whitaker. "They've taken step one and step two in the process, now they need to finish up. Steps one and two are done. It's time for step three. Just go to your local FSA office and enroll. It's easy."
Iowa State University has several articles and tools online to help Iowa corn and soybean farmers calculate projected ARC and PLC farm program payments for 2014 and 2015 crop years. You can find those tools on the ISU Ag Decision Maker website.
For farm management information and analysis visit ISU's Ag Decision Maker site at extension.iastate.edu/agdm; ISU farm management specialist Steve Johnson's site is at extension.iastate.edu/polk/farm-management.