Don't get USDA's new ACRE program confused with the other new USDA program, SURE. Both are in the new 2008 Farm Bill that became law earlier this summer, and rules are now being written to carry these new programs out. SURE will be offered each year. But if you think you qualify for it for 2008, you need to sign up at your local FSA county office on or before September 16, 2008.
Steve Johnson, Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist, held 8 meetings across the state this last week and talked about ACRE and SURE. "One thing I discovered is that there is a lot of confusion among farmers regarding these two new and very important USDA programs," he says.
ACRE is a revenue protection program for corn and soybeans, while SURE is a program where you get payments if your farm is hit by a crop disaster. ACRE stands for Average Crop Revenue Election program, a revenue guarantee program to help protect farmers from wild market gyrations and soaring input costs. SURE stands for Supplemental Revenue assistance program—which covers losses from crop disasters that aren't covered by crop insurance.
Prove your 2008 crop yields
ACRE is the new USDA crop revenue guarantee program farmers can sign up for in 2009. "However, if you are considering being a participant in ACRE in 2009, you need to be thinking about it this fall," says Johnson. "Keep in mind that if you sign up next year for ACRE, you will need to prove your 2008 yields. Thus, you need to do a good job of keeping records of your harvest this fall."
You'll need to keep track of 2008 bushels produced and be able to tie that production back to FSA farm numbers.
"SURE, the other new program is the one that's currently creating a lot of questions among farmers," says Johnson. "SURE is the program that has the Sept. 16 deadline for signing up, if you want to participate in SURE for 2008."
Who needs to sign up now?
Who needs to get to their FSA office and sign up for SURE? "It's not every farmer who needs to do this," says Johnson. "It's those farms who had 50% of their crop production lost this year. If you think you're going to have 50% or more of your 2008 crop production lost, you need to go to FSA on or before September 16, 2008. This loss would be for are all of your farms and all of your crops."
What you would do when you go to the FSA office is "buy in" for SURE for 2008. You write a check for $100 per crop per county, up to $300 so that you might get a SURE payment in 2008 if you have a crop disaster. "More importantly," says Johnson, "if you want to participate in SURE in 2009, you might want to consider ensuring your hay crop this fall."
All insurable crops must be covered
Many farmers haven't thought about insuring hay crops before. "But with this new 2008 farm bill," says Johnson, "SURE requires that all insurable crops be covered, if you want to qualify for SURE disaster assistance."
"So, what we learned this week in our 8 meetings across Iowa was that there is lots of confusion among farmers regarding SURE," says Johnson. "You need to contact your FSA office on or before Tuesday September 16 regarding SURE and the buy-in, and also talk to your crop insurance agent."
Consider crop insurance for hay
"If you are in a county where forage is an insurable crop, then you might want to consider making sure you've got crop insurance coverage in place for forages. Not all forages—but especially winter wheat, rye and hay. You will need to have coverage in place on these crops to be sure you qualify for SURE in 2009 on your other crops such as corn and soybeans."
If you think you qualify for SURE in 2008, you should get in to FSA by September 16. Everything has to be covered, including forages. "That's what is different with this new disaster program, SURE," says Johnson. "It requires crop insurance. The only reason we are doing the buy-in for 2008 is there was a 90-day window to get this done for this year, and that window expires on September 16."
"Get your questions answered at your county FSA office," he advises. "Start by saying yes, I think I have 50% or more production loss on all of my farm in 2008."