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Vilsack: Some Farmers Have Picked Between ARC and PLC

A small portion of U.S. farmers have decided which crop support program they want under the 2014 farm law, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday, as farm bill deadlines begin to near. Vilsack said 75,000 to 80,000 producers have told USDA whether they want to enroll in the insurance-like Agricultural Risk Coverage program or the traditionally designed Price Loss Coverage program. 

Farmers have a little more than seven weeks to make the ARC vs PLC choice. Vilsack said during a tele-conference that if farmers fill out the paperwork now, “they can change their election before March 31,” the cut-off day. The farm program choice is “an important decision. It will govern activities for the life of the farm bill,” he said.

Vilsack said “several hundred thousand” producers have begun the process of re-allocating base acres. The deadline for that decision is February 27.

On Tuesday, the White House proposed $1.6 billion in cuts in the crop insurance program, targeted as prevented-planting coverage and revenue policies using harvest price triggers. “The safety net is solid and still there,” Vilsack said, if Congress agrees to the changes.

A proposal by two senators to limit growers to $50,000 in premium subsidies “could potentially affect participation” in crop insurance, now the mainstay of farm supports, said Vilsack. Years ago, Congress decided to make crop insurance more attractive in order to end reliance on multibillion-dollar disaster bills that were passed if damage was widespread enough to gain lawmakers’ attention.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a small-farm advocacy group, said a cap on premium subsidies is “one very important piece of a larger, much needed crop insurance reform agenda.”

Some 2.5% of U.S. farmers would be affected by the $50,000 cap, which is estimated to save $2.2 billion over 10 years. A similar cap was proposed during drafting of the new farm law. The sponsors of this year’s proposal, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, said the cost of the federally subsidized crop insurance system has doubled since 2000.

If you want, this is USDA’s fact sheet on farm bill implementation 

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