What's Up at the USDA Office?

Upcoming Deadlines/Dates
January 15: Closed for observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
January 30: Deadline to submit a 2023 Livestock Forage Program (LFP) application
March 15: Deadline to sign up for ARC PLC program

Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage Programs Receive 2018 Farm Bill One Year Extension, Farmers Can Now Enroll for the 2024 Crop Year
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that agricultural producers can now enroll in the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC), or ARC-Individual (ARC-IC) programs for the 2024 crop year. Producers can enroll and make election changes for the 2024 crop year starting Dec. 18, 2023. The deadline to complete enrollment and any election change is March 15, 2024.

On Nov. 16, 2023, President Biden signed into law H.R. 6363, the Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024 (Pub. L. 118-22), which extended the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-334), more commonly known as the 2018 Farm Bill, through September 30, 2024. This extension allows authorized programs, including ARC and PLC, to continue operating.

Many universities offer web-based decision tools to help producers make informed, educated decisions using crop data specific to their respective farming operations. Producers are encouraged to use the tool of their choice to support their ARC and PLC elections.

For more information on ARC and PLC, producers can visit the ARC and PLC webpage or contact the Allamakee County Farm Service Agency (FSA). Producers can also make elections and complete enrollment online with level 2 eAuth.

USDA Develops Simplified Direct Loan Application to Improve Customer Service
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a simplified direct loan application to provide improved customer experience for producers applying for loans from the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The simplified direct loan application enables producers to complete a more streamlined application, reduced from 29 to 13 pages. Producers will also have the option to complete an electronic fillable form or prepare a traditional, paper application for submission to their local FSA farm loan office. The paper and electronic versions of the form are now available.

Approximately 26,000 producers submit a direct loan application to the FSA annually, but there is a high rate of incomplete or withdrawn applications, due in part to a challenging and lengthy paper-based application process. Coupled with the Loan Assistance Tool released in October 2022, the simplified application will provide all loan applicants access to information regarding the application process and assist them with gathering the correct documents before they begin the process. This new application will help farmers and ranchers submit complete loan applications and reduce the number of incomplete, rejected, or withdrawn applications.

In October 2022, USDA launched the Loan Assistance Tool, an online step-by-step guide that provides materials to help an applicant prepare their farm loan application in one tool. Farmers can access the Loan Assistance Tool by visiting farmers.gov/farm-loan-assistance-tool and clicking the ‘Get Started’ button. The tool is built to run on any modern browser like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, or the Safari browser. A version compatible with mobile devices is expected to be available by the summer. It does not work in Internet Explorer.

The simplified direct loan application and Loan Assistance Tool are the first of multiple farm loan process improvements that will be available to USDA customers on farmers.gov in the future. Other improvements that are anticipated to launch in 2023 include: 
• An interactive online direct loan application that gives customers a paperless and electronic signature option, along with the ability to attach supporting documents such as tax returns.  
• An online direct loan repayment feature that relieves borrowers from the necessity of calling, mailing, or visiting a local Service Center to pay a loan installment.

USDA provides access to credit to approximately 115,000 producers who cannot obtain sufficient commercial credit through direct and guaranteed farm loans. With the funds and direction Congress provided in Section 22006 of the Inflation Reduction Act, USDA took action in October 2022 to provide relief to qualifying distressed borrowers while working on making transformational changes to loan servicing so that borrowers are provided the flexibility and opportunities needed to address the inherent risks and unpredictability associated with agricultural operations.

Soon, all direct loan borrowers will receive a letter from USDA describing the circumstances under which additional payments will be made to distressed borrowers and how they can work with their FSA local office to discuss these options. Producers can explore all available options on all FSA loan options at fsa.usda.gov or by contacting Shelby Richards at 563-382-8777.
Livestock Producers in Allamakee County Are Eligible for Drought Recovery Assistance
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Allamakee County is reminding producers that FSA is accepting applications for the Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP) for grazing losses due to drought. The deadline to apply for 2023 LFP assistance is Jan. 30, 2024.

LFP provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses for covered livestock due to drought on privately owned or cash leased land or fire on federally managed land. For LFP, qualifying drought intensity levels are determined using the U.S. Drought Monitor. Producers in Allamakee County are eligible to apply for 2023 LFP benefits for grazing losses on native pasture, improved pasture, annual ryegrass, or forage sorghum. Visit the FSA LFP webpage for a full list of eligible counties and pasture types.

Livestock eligible for LFP include alpacas, beef cattle, bison, buffalo, beefalo, dairy cattle, deer, elk, emus, equine, goats, llamas, ostriches, reindeer, or sheep that have been or would have been grazing the eligible grazing land or pastureland. Recently, FSA updated LFP policy to expand program eligibility to include additional income producing grazing animals, like horses and ostrich, that contribute to the commercial viability of an agricultural operation.

Livestock used for hunting and consumption by the owner and horses and other animals that are used or intended to be used for racing and wagering remain ineligible.

As a reminder, producers who want to participate in many USDA programs including disaster assistance programs like LFP, must file timely acreage reports by filling out the FSA-578 form to remain eligible for program benefits. Livestock producers interested in applying LFP should contact Allamakee County FSA at 563-568-2148 ext. 2 with any questions about the eligibility of specific livestock and forage crops.

More information on USDA disaster assistance is available at farmers.gov/recover.