Cotton farmers need to get on a first-name basis with their local federal crop insurance agent, the chairman of the National Cotton Council said in remarks at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show.

In the past, Wally Darnielle, who is also president and CEO of Plains Cotton Cooperative Association in Lubbock, Texas, would have advised growers to get to know the director of their county Farm Service Agency office if they hadn’t already done so.

But the passage and signing of the Agriculture Act of 2014 by President Obama three weeks ago, has led to major changes in the delivery of farm program benefits – from a government-oriented to a crop insurance-based program – he said on the opening day of the Gin Show in Memphis, Tenn.

“This is probably going to come down to an individual decision; it’s going to depend on what crops people grow, what counties they farm in and it’s likely to be different for just about everyone,” said Darnielle. “It is critically important that people seek out all the educational opportunities available to them.”

To assist its members, the National Cotton Council conducted a set of farm bill education meetings across the Cotton Belt that began in South Texas the week of Feb. 23. The meetings in other areas of the Cotton Belt will be conducted during the period of March 17-25.

The council also will be conducting follow-up sessions later this year as more details on the new crop insurance provisions become available, and it has appointed a special working group to provide the Council with input in implementing the crop insurance provisions in the new farm bill.

Darnielle and other commodity organization leaders have expressed concerns about reductions in Farm Service Agency personnel at the county level at a time when USDA is trying to prepare for implementing a complicated new law.

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He asked producers to wait an “appropriate” amount of time before visiting county FSA offices to allow personnel to fully digest the details of the new farm bill. “We hope they all understand it in the same way, but you guys know that doesn’t always happen.”

The farm law includes a new feature – the STAX program – that Darnielle says was specifically developed in response to the WTO case brought by Brazil in 2002. STAX provides a “shallow loss” coverage option for farmers to help offset the future loss of direct payments under the new farm law.

Read “Meet your federal crop insurance agent, ‘your new best friend'" at Delta Farm Press.