ACRE Meetings Being Held In Iowa

Average Crop Revenue Election is a new option in the USDA farm program.

Meetings are being held in Iowa this week and next week to explain the new Average Crop Revenue Election program or ACRE, as it is called. ACRE is part of the USDA farm program and will be available to farmers beginning in 2009. ACRE was created as an option in the new 2008 Farm Bill passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this year.

Farmers also still have the traditional USDA farm programs they can choose to participate in, with the new Farm Bill.

Although ACRE doesn’t begin until 2009, farmers need to begin learning about it now and understand how it can fit into their farming operation, says Steve Johnson, an Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist. ISU Extension is holding the series of 12 information meetings on ACRE across central, east central and west central Iowa.

Prove your crop yields in 2008

For a schedule of the ACRE meetings Johnson is holding this week and next, go to Google on the Internet and type in “Polk County ISU Extension Farm Management.”

The reason you want to start learning about ACRE now is because you’ll need to prove your yields in 2008 if you sign up to participate in ACRE in 2009.

“ACRE is called an election because you don’t have to sign up for it,” says Johnson. “It’s your choice whether or not to participate.”

That means beginning next year farmers will have a choice of USDA farm programs to participate in—either the current traditional programs—or the new ACRE. The idea of ACRE is to help farmers cope with volatile markets, high crop prices and rising input costs. It’s a different way of managing the revenue risk associated with producing corn and soybeans will be offered through the USDA farm program.

Why learn about ACRE now?

If the ACRE program doesn’t begin until next year, why go to a meeting about it now? Because you will want to keep good records and document the production on your fields this fall so you can prove your yields in 2008, he says.

“Even if you are only thinking about ACRE at this point, and not sure whether or not you’ll participate in this new revenue program in 2009, you will want to do a good job of segregating your 2008 bushels—and do it by your FSA farm number,” says Johnson. “The FSA number is going to be a real critical number. You are going to want to be able to prove how many bushels each crop that you produce on each farm that you may enroll in the 2009 ACRE program.”

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is still developing the details on the rules for the ACRE program. “However, we are holding these meetings now to get out in front so farmers can start thinking about this new option,” he says. “Thus, they can participate in the ACRE program in years ahead.”

Don’t confuse ACRE with SURE

Don’t get ACRE confused with SURE, another new USDA program. SURE is the name for the new Supplemental Revenue assistance program and FSA is administering both the ACRE and the SURE programs. SURE will replace the ad hoc disaster programs used over the past several farm bills.

The bottom line is that in order for a farmer to benefit from SURE in 2009, he or she must carry at least the minimal coverage level of crop insurance on all insurable acres—or the farmer can sign up for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) through the FSA for uninsurable crops.

The 2008 farm bill requires farmers who wish to participate in USDA disaster programs to have either crop insurance or NAP coverage for the land for which assistance is being requested, and have it for all farms in all counties in which they have an interest.

Crop insurance now more important

“Changes that have taken place as a result of the new 2008 Farm Bill have increased the importance of crop insurance,” says Johnson. SURE is tied directly to the coverage level, so the higher the crop insurance coverage you have, the higher your SURE payment will be in the event of a crop disaster. This means decisions regarding insurance for 2009 deserve your thoughtful consideration.

“If you have a significant crop loss in 2008, you need to make sure you get to the FSA office in your county on or before Tuesday September 16,” says Johnson. That’s the sign up deadline if you want to ensure eligibility for crop yield losses. You’ll have to get to the FSA office and pay what is called a buy-in fee.”

Buy-in fee is for 2008 disaster eligibility

The buy-in only affects eligibility for the 2008 disaster program. The payment of the buy-in fee doesn’t get you the actual crop insurance or NAP coverage. The 2008 eligibility buy-in fee for SURE supplemental disaster assistance is $100 per crop, but not more than $300 per farmer per county, or $900 total per farmer for all counties.

Buy-in fees are not required for crops already covered by CAT or NAP. Those who miss the Sept. 16 deadline will not be eligible for 2008 supplemental disaster assistance, he says. For more information contact your local county FSA office to file the application for the waiver and pay the applicable fees.

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