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Vilsack: Part of Farm Bill Sign-up Deadline Extended

While speaking to the nation’s corn, sorghum, soybean, and wheat growers at the 2015 Commodity Classic, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Friday an extension to the sign-up program for parts of this year’s new Farm Bill.

Vilsack announced today that landowners will have another month, until March 31, to reallocate their base acres and update yields. He did not, however, extend the deadline for the election between ARC and PLC programs for operators. It remains March 31. He did say he'll monitor farm bill progress daily, and he encouraged producers to visit FSA offices.

"This is an important decision for producers because these programs provide financial protection against unexpected changes in the marketplace. Producers are working to make the best decision they can. And we're working to ensure that they've got the time, the information, and the opportunities to have those final conversations, review their data, and to visit the Farm Service Agency to make those decisions," Vilsack said Friday. "These are complex decisions, which is why we launched a strong education and outreach campaign back in September. Now we're providing a one-time extension of an additional month so that every producer is fully prepared to enroll in this program."

In his speech to farmers at the Commodity Classic, Vilsack said that some renters haven’t finished getting landowners to decide on whether or not to change their commodity base acres or update yields.

“We know that has created a challenge for some operators who are still working with their owners,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack didn’t yet answer the obvious question about whether or not the decision on ARC (Agricultural Risk Coverage) or PLC (Price Loss Coverage) will be extended past its current March 31 deadline.

“That would be kind of like you as parents telling your kids you have another week to do your homework,” Vilsack said.

Producers have another month to do their homework on ARC and PLC, Vilsack said.

“I would encourage you to do it. About a half million producers have already made their election,” he said.

Later, during a press conference, Vilsack said USDA estimates that roughly 60% of the landowners who are likely to reallocate their base acres or update yields have already done so. And about a third of the producers who can make the so-called election between ARC and PLC have also made their decision at local Farm Service Agency offices

“We’ve seen a remarkable uptick in the last couple of weeks,” he said.

When asked how he expected FSA offices to handle more than 1 million more decisions in just over 20 days, Vilsack said the process is much faster than the days when FSA used paper records.

One producer said his visit to an FSA office took about 12 minutes, Vilsack said. “They couldn’t believe it.”

“I’m not concerned today that we’re not going to get it done,” Vilsack said, but he reminded reporters that the USDA has shown flexibility in the past on farm program sign-up. The 2014 Farm Bill gives USDA the authority to put producers into the PLC program if they don’t make an election. (They would also not receive any potential PLC payments for the 2014 crop, with any benefits running from 2015 through 2018.) 

Vilsack said that’s not the goal of his department. If farmers don’t decide, “we will fill that in, but that’s not what we want,” he said, adding that only farmers can decide what is best for their operation.

He repeated the efforts USDA has made to get landowners and producers to visit FSA offices, including sending out some 3 million postcard reminders in early February.


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