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Where to Get FSA Yield Info

By now you may have gotten a letter from your local Farm Service Agency office with information about your farm or farms' historical bases and yields. The new farm bill will allow you to bring the base information up-to-date to reflect what you actually planted from 2009 through 2012. You can also update the yields to the simple average of yields for a program crop from 2008 through 2012. (That's correct -- another year for yields.)

The updated yields will be used only if you sign up for Price Loss Coverage, a target-price program. If you sign up for the county-level ARC (Agricultural Risk Coverage) program, county yields will be used to calculate a benchmark for that revenue program. However, most Extension service advisers on farm programs are urging growers to update yields even if they may not sign up for PLC, just because this will be the first time since 2002 that you have this opportunity. And no one knows if those yields will be even more important when future farm programs are written.

Exactly how you document your yields to FSA isn't crystal clear yet, as one farmer, B.A. Deere, pointed out in our farm business discussion group last Friday:

"I got my letter today. What I'm reminded of is my cc yield is kind of low. Does anyone know if that can be raised this time? And if it can, are your insurance-proven yields good enough evidence?"

The short answer to that question is: Probably.

Kevin McClure, a program specialist with the FSA state office for Iowa, says that your crop insurance yield data could be used for the 2008 farm bill revenue program, ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election), and that, so far, everything USDA has said about the new PLC program suggests that crop insurance records will be allowed.

"I'm hoping that that moves forward," he said.

But the USDA hasn't issued the final regulations for the ARC and PLC programs, so local FSA staff aren't likely to know for certain. FSA already has access to crop insurance data from the USDA Risk Management Agency, McClure said, so it won't be difficult for FSA to verify crop insurance yields.

The bottom line is that it's too soon to go into your FSA office to change your yields. They're not set up yet to do that. They will be able to answer questions about any possible errors or lack of correct information in the report on base acres that you've gotten.

Meanwhile, it would be good to pull together your crop insurance yield history.

"Basically, what our counties are telling producers is to be getting your yield data," McClure says.

Also, if you had a year with very low yields, you may get a chance to increase your average slightly. The Farm Bill allows you to plug in 75% of the county's five-year average yield for that year.

USDA has already posted those plug yields at the county level on the FSA website if you want to check them. That Excel file may be hard to find. We suggest going here to the FSA page for ARC/PLC programs. Then look at the upper right-hand corner of that page, labeled "I want to…" and click on "View Substitute Yields for Updating PLC Payment Yields…"

If you do that and have your insurance yields, then you'll be ready when FSA allows folks to update yields, possibly sometime in late September or October, according to McClure's estimate.

Actual sign-up for ARC and PLC will likely be later this fall or in early winter.

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