For crop insurance and USDA farm program purposes each year, farmers must report their planted acreage information to the local Farm Service Agency office. This year there are important changes in acreage certification and crop insurance reporting to keep in mind.
Everyone who plants an insured crop should keep track of the date he or she planted each field and how many acres are planted to that crop. That information has to be reported to your local Farm Service Agency office on FSA Form 578—the acreage report. You'll likely be asked to document that information by FSA farm and tract number. For 2012 FSA wants you to report planted acreage to the local office by June 30. You should also provide a copy of your completed FSA form to your crop insurance agent by July 15.
The June 30 and July 15 dates can be confusing. For reporting acreage information to your crop insurance agent, USDA's Risk Management Agency has changed the deadline to July 15 for the 2012 crop. For reporting acreage information to FSA, farmers are being allowed to certify planted acreage by July 15—if they don't get to their local FSA office to do it by June 30. However, FSA is strongly encouraging farmers to meet the June 30 deadline.
Good reasons to report acreage information to FSA by June 30
"We want farmers to report their acreage information to their local FSA office by June 30," says Vickie Friedow, program specialist at the FSA state office in Des Moines. "There are good reasons for farmers to meet this June 30 deadline."
One of those reasons, notes Steve Johnson, an Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist, is the July 15 deadline for reporting acreage of spring-planted crops to your insurance agent. The crop insurance billing date is August 15, which leaves little time for turnaround of acreage reports for crop insurance purposes. A penalty will be attached for late payment of premiums. The premium this year must be received by October 1--which is a month earlier than in the past.
Farmers need to report crops planted, practice (irrigated vs. non-irrigated), number of acres and planting date. FSA Form 578 must include farm serial number, tract number and field number. FSA assigns each farm, tract and field a unique identifier called a Common Land Unit or CLU.
Reporting acreage by CLU, USDA moving toward a map-based system
"Across the Corn Belt more farmers are finding acreage reporting just got easier," says Johnson. "They still need to report the crop and date planted for each field and complete FSA Form 578 before the deadline. However, many farmers can now report this data while viewing a map of each field boundary."
With each field identified by a CLU assigned by FSA, this data is in USDA's Comprehensive Information Management System. The crop insurance industry has access to it and is already using the system to assist farmers. Insurance agents may be able to speed up the process of acreage certification. However, information reported on FSA Form 578 must match the information your crop insurance agent files.
The table accompanying this article gives an example of how information on the number of planted acres and the planting date has changed in recent years.
Advantages of using CLU information—FSA & RMA want consistency
The initial reason for USDA developing the CLU reporting system was for agencies like FSA and RMA to have consistent information. Now heading into year three of phasing in this nationwide CLU effort to create map-based reports, farmers are beginning to see some real benefits in using the new system, says Johnson.
The benefits can include the following:
* It's easier and likely more accurate to track data using mapping information. Fewer reporting errors occur as field boundaries are easier to identify.
* You might be able to use the map-based information obtained from your crop insurance agent in advance of completing the acreage certification with FSA and filing FSA Form 578.
* Map-based information makes it easier for crop insurance adjusters to verify policies, adjust claims and make the indemnity payments.
* The maps work well with precision farming technologies and using planter and yield monitor data for reporting.
The new CLU system is a globally unique identifier associated with each field. Acreage reporting with the CLU system is targeted at 50% of the nation's crop acreage by 2012 and 100% by 2016. The addition of CLU to traditional acreage reports will become the new format for electronic data management and likely lead to the potential for self-certification of planted acreage.
2012 crop insurance premium due in September; pay by Oct. 1 to avoid penalty
"Consider working with your crop insurance agent in advance of FSA acreage certification," advises Johnson. "This can provide an opportunity for you to use CLU information and gain experience with map-based information." Farmers who added land for 2012 or those whose FSA office hasn't yet assigned CLU identification to each field may need extra time during acreage certification.
Whether or not you're moving to map-based information, be sure to provide your acreage report to FSA by June 30, well in advance of the July 15 deadline for crop insurance acreage reporting. Visit your local FSA office about acreage certification and completion of FSA Form 578. Contact your crop insurance agent if you have concerns about your coverage or potential access to CLU and map-based information opportunities.
"Remember, the 2012 crop insurance premium is due in September. To avoid having to pay a penalty, payment must be received by October 1, one month earlier than in the past," notes Johnson. "Always talk to your insurance agent if you have questions regarding your policy or coverage."
For farm management information and analysis, go to ISU's Ag Decision Maker site www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm and ISU Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson's site www.extension.iastate.edu/polk/farmmanagement.htm.