FAQ: The enrollment period is now underway for USDA's Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs for 2014 and 2015. This enrollment period began June 17, 2015 and will end September 30, 2015. I visited my FSA office last winter and elected to participate in the ARC-County option. Why do I need to go back and enroll now? How soon should I do this?
Answer: On June 15 USDA announced that eligible producers may now formally enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for 2014 and 2015. The enrollment period begins June 17, 2015, and will end September 30, 2015. Previously, eligible producers completed the ARC/PLC "election" process that started September 29, 2014 and ended April 7, 2015.
These programs were introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill and trigger financial protection for farmers when market prices fall and revenues drop for eligible covered commodities. Implementing the new farm bill has been a three-part process, explains Kevin McClure, chief program specialist for production adjustment at the Farm Service Agency state office for Iowa.
First, FSA worked with farm owners to reallocate or retain base acres and the counter-cyclical yield history, by farm number. The next step was for farmers to elect which farm program option they want to participate in for the five-year life of the 2014 Farm Bill. They had to make that election decision by April 7, 2015. Most farmers in Iowa chose the ARC-County option. The final step is to enroll or sign up each year to confirm that they want to go ahead and participate in the program that was elected on the farm (PLC, ARC-CO or ARC-IC).
McClure says farmers will complete enrollment each year (2014-2018) for the program elected on the farm even though the election decisions they had to make regarding choosing ARC and PLC by early April were for the full five years of the current 2014 Farm Bill.
What happens if you don't enroll by Sept. 30?
If a producer doesn't sign up by September 30, 2015 they won't be participating in the program elected on the farm for the 2014 and 2015 program years, says McClure. If ARC payments or PLC payments are made in those years, the payments would not be available to farmers who haven't completed enrollment by the September 30 deadline.
September 30th is a long time from now, but USDA wants to give producers and FSA staff enough time to get things squared away on participation in the farm program to make sure the paperwork is finalized, etc. Sometimes when producers come into the FSA office, maybe something has changed in the farming operation regarding business structure or ownership of land. These kinds of changes need to be updated in FSA's records.
"This is really a key step. You need to remember to enroll in the program," says McClure. "It's best to do it as soon as you can, don't put it off until September. Contact your local FSA office to see if an appointment is necessary so the appropriate paperwork requiring signatures can be prepared. As a reminder, completing an election of ARC or PLC did not enroll the farm for 2014 and/or 2015."
Most Iowa farmers elected ARC-CO program option
As expected, most Iowa and U.S. corn and soybean farmers elected ARC-County as their farm bill safety net over the five-year life of the new 2014 farm program. According to numbers released June 15 by FSA, Iowa farmers made election decisions on over 22.5 million base acres prior to the April 7 deadline.
Iowa's totals included more than 15.57 million base acres of corn and 6.788 million acres of soybeans, according to FSA. Farmers could choose by crop to elect their base acres in either the ARC or PLC program. That decision cannot be changed through the 2018 crop. However, farmers still need to enroll annually in the ARC/PLC program they elected on the farm by the deadline of April 7, 2015. "This was the same requirement with the DCP/ACRE program in the previous USDA farm program provided by the 2008 Farm Bill," notes McClure.
Need to enroll in program for financial safety
For the new farm program, here's how Iowa farmers elected their base acres for corn and soybeans crops in terms of percent:
•Corn: 97% ARC-CO; 3% PLC
•Soybeans: 98% ARC-CO; 2% PLC
Farmers need to enroll in the program they elected so they can receive payments if commodity prices or crop revenues drop below certain levels, which can vary by crop, county and region of the country. As expected, there were some regional splits in the election numbers, with Corn Belt growers generally opting for ARC as Southern producers chose PLC. Overall, the election totals more than 22.5 million base acres in Iowa and nearly 260 million acres of farmland covered nationwide under the ARC/PLC programs.
For data on other crops and state-by-state program election results go to fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc.