Signup for the USDA 2008 Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment Program (DCP) has begun. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said the programs help deliver certainty for the crop year and the option of a timely advance payment. Contracts are available at USDA Service Centers and signup will continue until Sept. 30.

USDA’s DCP readiness follows the availability of marketing assistance loan and loan deficiency payment (LDP) provisions within three weeks of commodity title enactment.

“Within weeks of its becoming law, we began to put a farm bill into the field and into the country,” said Schafer. “USDA does what its employees do best: putting policy into action and delivering results.”

Producers can fill out their 2008 DCP contracts at any USDA Service Center or sign up online. They can choose payment options, assign crop shares and sign and submit their contracts from any computer with Internet access. They can also view and print submitted contract options.

USDA computes DCP payments using base acres and payment yields established for each farm. Eligible producers receive direct payments at rates established by statute regardless of market prices. For 2008, eligible producers may request to receive an advance payment of 22 percent of the direct payment for each commodity associated with the farm.

USDA will issue advance direct payments as soon as practical after enrollment. Final direct payments will be issued after Oct. 1.

Counter-cyclical payments vary depending on market prices and are issued only when the effective price for a commodity is below its target price (which takes into account the direct payment rate, market price and loan rate).

Since 2002, USDA has issued approximately $40 billion in DCP payments to American agricultural producers. Participants must submit the completed DCP contract by Sept. 30. Applications filed after that date will not be approved.

The online, electronic DCP (or eDCP) service saves producers time, reduces paperwork and speeds contract processing at USDA Farm Service Agency offices. It is available to all producers who are eligible to participate in DCP and who obtain eAuthentication accounts.

The electronic service is available by going to http://www.fsa.usda.gov and clicking on “Access eDCP Service.” To access the service, producers must have an active USDA eAuthentication Level 2 account. To get a Level 2 account, producers must complete an online registration form at http://www.eauth.egov.usda.gov and then visit the local USDA Service Center to verify their identity. The service has strict security measures to protect participants’ private information. Only authorized federal employees have access to information producers submit electronically. For more information about DCP, which will include a fact sheet, go to the DCP Web page at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov.