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ACRE signup at 66,000 the week after deadline, will grow

As of Tuesday, August 18, some 66,000 farms have been approved for the USDA's new Average Crop Revenue Election, or ACRE, program, a spokesman for the Farm Service Agency told Agriculture Online.

"That number is still going up and the number will keep going up until as late as October 15," FSA spokesman Jonathan Groveman told Agriculture Online.

That's farms, not producers, since the FSA has a larger number of farms eligible for commodity programs. Last year 1.85 million were eligible for the direct and counter-cyclical payment program.

And it represents the ACRE contracts approved, not the number of farmers who may have gotten in the door just in time to meet the August 14 deadline, put their name on a register, and return later to finish the paperwork to apply.

The number of applications actually approved varies by state.

"Some states are at 75% reporting and others were at 35% reporting," by Tuesday, Groveman said.

The appeal of ACRE varies by region, with Corn Belt states like Iowa and Illinois accounting for about half of the early tally. And Cotton Belt states like Arkansas, Louisiana and Georgia had small sign-ups, since cotton prices are already low enough that it appears likely farmers would be giving up some existing farm program payments to enroll in ACRE.

Iowa had no last-minute rush to sign up for ACRE, so its sign-up appears close to a final tally.

"The indications are right now, and counties are still cleaning up, but it's about 10%," said Keven McClure, a program specialist at the state's FSA office. That's about 14,000 to 15,000 farms.

"We were able to take care of everybody on Friday. We had no lines," McClure said.

He said that he thought producers in the state were well informed about ACRE, thanks to FSA county workshops, Farm Bureau webinars and outreach by Iowa State University economists Chad Hart and William Edwards.

McClure wasn't surprised by a relatively small sign-up for a new program. From reports he's gotten from county offices, farmers who did enroll in ACRE often did not sign up all of their eligible farms.

"Some producers may have done everything, but I think what most are doing is they're trying something out," he said.

In Missouri, the state FSA's chief program specialist, Mike Lafolette, told Agriculture Online that possibly half of the ACRE contracts initiated still are waiting for final approval. That state has more grass farms, which might have a small crop base, making ACRE less attractive. ACRE payments are made according to crops actually planted on a farm, but the acres eligible for payment can't exceed the base.

Missouri did have a rush to sign up from those who liked the program.

"Whatever we wind up with, a lot of those were initiated in the last week or so," Lafolette said.

In Missouri's Bootheel, a cotton growing region, the program is also less attractive because cotton farmers have to give up 30% of their loan rate and prices might be low enough that the lower loan rate would affect growers.

In the Corn Belt, even as low as prices are this summer, they're far above the national loan rate for corn of $1.95 a bushel. And the effective target price for corn counter-cyclical payments is $2.35 a bushel.

The likely corn price that might trigger ACRE payments right now looks to be about $3.50 or $3.50 a bushel, McClure said, so with ACRE, "you're kind of bringing it up to current" levels of protection.

McClure said that no one knows whether ACRE payments will be triggered, since the revenue calculation is based on state and on-farm yields and a national average price from a marketing year that won't start until September 1.

"If we hit a trigger this year, we're definitely going to see more participation next year," he said.

In Nebraska, "the last 10 days we really saw the traffic pick up, exponentially," said Doug Klein, program specialist.

The state has 7,900 approved contracts as of 10 p.m. Monday. But based on contracts not yet approved "potentially we may end up doubling that" to about 15,000 farms, he said.

Nebraska last had just over 86,000 farms enrolled in the DCP program. So if approved contracts hit 15,000, the signup would be about 17% of total farms.

"For something this brand new and different, that's a pretty good start," Klein said.

As of Tuesday, August 18, some 66,000 farms have been approved for the USDA's new Average Crop Revenue Election, or ACRE, program, a spokesman for the Farm Service Agency told Agriculture Online.

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