Farmers are not exactly knocking down the USDA Farm Service Agency doors to sign up for the average crop revenue election, according to members of a panel who spoke at an Ag Issues Forum at the start of the 2009 Commodity Classic.
The farmers, most of whom hail from the Midwest, said their FSA offices seem to have little information about ACRE, the optional program that makes revenue-based counter-cyclical payments available to producers. But most said they have mixed feelings about what they know about ACRE.
“Yes and no,” said Bill Steinert, a multi-crop producer from Fairmont, Okla., when asked if he was considering enrolling in ACRE during the Ag Issues Forum sponsored in Grapevine, Texas by Bayer CropScience. “We have so many different sources of income, we're not sure it would work for us.”
Steinert was one of a panel of five producers who shared their thoughts on the 2009 crop season with ag editors and broadcasters. The others included Mike Jordan, Beloit, Kan.; Clarke Kelso, MacCombe, Ill.; Mike Martin, Forbes, N.D. and Jim Otis, Wesley, Iowa.
None of them indicated they planned to sign up for ACRE, a feeling that has been mirrored in conversations with other growers, members of farm organizations and congressional staff members in recent days.
“Our Farm Service Agency office has scheduled a meeting today to discuss the new program, but they said it might be a short meeting because they don't know much about it,” said Kelso.
“What our FSA folks have been telling us is how little they know about it,” said Jordan, who grows 2,800 acres of wheat, milo, sunflowers and soybeans in central Kansas. “They are concerned they don't have more information.”
Martin noted the new program, which was added to the 2008 farm bill with the backing of the National Corn Growers Association, is based on state rather than county revenues as its proponents originally sought. “The program was set up for growers in the I states — Iowa, Illinois and Indiana,” he said.
“We think it was set up where we wouldn't like it,” said Otis, who runs a corn, soybean and hog operation in western Iowa.
The panelists, who took questions from the ag media for nearly 90 minutes, said they weren't aware of any producers in their areas who planned to sign up for the average crop revenue election program in 2009.
Corn producers began seeking an ACRE-like program for the farm bill after growers in Illinois and Iowa suffered crop losses due to drought in 2003 and 2004. Although the farmers were eligible for conventional counter-cyclical payments, the drought losses pushed prices up, which resulted in no counter-cyclical payments being made those years.
The Iowa Corn Growers Association and the National Corn Growers Association attempted to persuade Congress to pass an ACRE program based on county revenues, but the Bush administration and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees balked at that language because of the added expense.
Growers who sign up for ACRE must remain in the program for the remainder of the 2008 farm bill. They also agree to forego a portion of their direct payment and loan deficiency payments.