What's Up at the USDA Office?

Upcoming Deadlines/Dates
February 12: CRP Signup
March 15: 2021 ARCPLC Signup

USDA to Open General Signup for the Conservation Reserve Program in January 2021
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the signup periods for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in 2021. Signup for general CRP will be open from Jan. 4, 2021, to Feb. 12, 2021. This program is competitive and provides annual rental payments for land devoted to conservation purposes.

Through CRP, farmers and ranchers establish long-term, resource-conserving plant species, such as approved grasses or trees, to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on cropland. Farmers and ranchers who participate in CRP help provide numerous benefits to the nation’s environment and economy. CRP general signup is held annually. The competitive general signup includes increased opportunities for enrollment of wildlife habitat through the State Acres For Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative.

For more information on CRP, visit fsa.usda.gov or contact your local FSA county office.

Enrollment Begins for Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage Programs for 2021
Agricultural producers can now make elections and enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2021 crop year. The signup period opened Tuesday, Oct. 13.  These key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) safety-net programs help producers weather fluctuations in either revenue or price for certain crops, and more than $5 billion in payments are in the process of going out to producers who signed up for the 2019 crop year.

Enrollment for the 2021 crop year closes March 15, 2021.

2021 Elections and Enrollment
Producers can elect coverage and enroll in crop-by-crop ARC-County or PLC, or ARC-Individual for the entire farm, for the 2021 crop year. Although election changes for 2021 are optional, enrollment (signed contract) is required for each year of the program. If a producer has a multi-year contract on the farm and makes an election change for 2021, it will be necessary to sign a new contract.

If an election is not submitted by the deadline of March 15, 2021, the election defaults to the current election for crops on the farm from the prior crop year.

For crop years 2022 and 2023, producers will have an opportunity to make new elections during those signups. Farm owners cannot enroll in either program unless they have a share interest in the farm.

Web-Based Decision Tools
In partnership with USDA, the University of Illinois and Texas A&M University offer web-based decision tools to assist producers in making informed, educated decisions using crop data specific to their respective farming operations. Tools include:

• Gardner-farmdoc Payment Calculator, the University of Illinois tool that offers farmers the ability to run payment estimate modeling for their farms and counties for ARC-County and PLC.
• ARC and PLC Decision Tool, the Texas A&M tool allows producers to analyze payment yield updates and expected payments for 2021. Producers who have used the tool in the past should see their username and much of their farm data already available in the system.

FSA Quickly Implemented Crucial Programs Amid Challenging Year
SDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) helped farmers, livestock producers and foresters weather a tough 2020, marked with a pandemic and natural disasters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, FSA continued to deliver farm programs to producers through phone and online tools, using social distancing guidelines. The agency also provided extra flexibilities to its programs, adjusting reporting dates and loan processing timelines, and continued to expand technology and streamline services to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Key highlights from 2020 include:

Support amid COVID-19 Pandemic: FSA worked with economists and commodity specialists across USDA to quickly build and deliver two rounds of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides financial assistance to help producers absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline to apply for almost all commodities was last week, and so far, the two rounds of funding have provided nearly $23 billion in relief. Additionally, FSA has added flexibilities to its farm credit options, including loan servicing and enabling a disaster set-aside option to defer a loan payment.

Disaster Assistance: Natural disasters, including wildfires in the West, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, the derecho in the Midwest and widespread severe drought, took a toll on U.S. agriculture in 2020. Through FSA’s suite of disaster assistance programs, producers received more than $212 million to help offset disaster-related losses in 2020. Additionally, FSA added drought and excess moisture as eligible causes of loss for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program - Plus, which provided much-needed assistance to help producers impacted by 2018 and 2019 natural disasters. In total, the program provided $1.24 billion in relief.

Farm Credit: FSA helps farmers and ranchers get the financing they need to start, expand or maintain a family farm. This past year, FSA obligated more than $7.5 billion in direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans, the highest in agency history. This includes more than $3.4 billion for beginning farmers, also an agency record. The 2018 Farm Bill raised the amount producers can borrow, and FSA has seen sharp demand for loans in the past year, especially direct and guaranteed farm ownership loans. Meanwhile, FSA provided low-interest financing to producers to build or upgrade storage facilities and to purchase portable structures, equipment and storage and handling trucks through the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program. FSA obligated a record $340 million in fiscal year 2020. Finally, FSA provided producers with more than $600 million in interim financing in fiscal year 2020 through marketing assistance loans, which help producers meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are low.

Conservation: FSA held its 54th general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the first since 2016, and enrolled 3.4 million acres into the program.

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