by Eric Armentrout
New Farm Bill
On Feb. 4, the 2014 farm bill (named the Agriculture Act of 2014) was passed by Congress, and it was signed into law by President Obama on Feb 7. Writing the rules to fully implement the new farm bill now falls to USDA. The final regulations will further determine program and decision parameters and set sign up dates for producers. At the current time, the choices farmers make to participate will begin with the 2014 crop year. We will do our best to provide you information on the new farm bill as details become available. We will use newspaper articles, personal emails, public meetings and in office face to face discussions to assist you in gaining the understanding you will need to make the best decisions for your particular situation.
County Committee Election Results
County committee elections are over, the ballots are counted and the results are in:
Dan Dale of Wabash was elected to represent LAA 2, consisting of Paw Paw and Noble townships. In addition to Mr. Dale, Jeff Rager representing Pleasant and Chester townships, Greg Dawes representing Waltz, Liberty and Lagro townships and Teresa Flora minority advisor will serve as the Wabash County COC for 2014. Jeff Rager will be up for election this fall.
Elected county committee members serve a three-year term and are responsible for making decisions on FSA disaster, conservation, commodity, and price support programs, as well as other important federal farm program issues.
County committee members are a valuable asset because they are comprised of local producers who participate in FSA programs themselves and have a direct connection to farmers and ranchers in the community.
Recently, FSA and the Risk Management Agency (RMA) worked to coordinate acreage reporting dates for programs to streamline this process for common customers. In order to ensure compliance with FSA program eligibility requirements, all producers are encouraged to visit their local county FSA office to file an accurate crop certification report by the applicable deadline.
Acreage Reporting Dates for 2014 for all of Indiana are/were as follows:
Dec. 15, 2013: Fall Mint, Fall Seeded Small Grains
Jan. 15, 2014: Apples
July 15, 2014: All Other Crops
FSA County Offices are accepting late-filed acreage reports without traditionally required late-filing fees for 2014 crops.
The following exceptions apply to the above acreage reporting dates:
•If the crop has not been planted by the above acreage reporting date, then the acreage must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after planting is completed.
•If a producer acquires additional acreage after the above acreage reporting date, then the acreage must be reported no later than 30 calendar days after purchase or acquiring the lease. Appropriate documentation must be provided to the county office.
•If a perennial forage crop is reported with the intended use of “cover only,” “green manure,” “left standing,” or “seed” then the acreage must be reported by July 15th.
•Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) policy holders should note that the acreage reporting date for NAP covered crops is the earlier of the dates listed above or 15 calendar days before grazing or harvesting of the crop begins.
For questions regarding crop certification and crop loss reports, please contact your local county FSA office.
Marketing Assistance Loans (MAL)
Short-term financing is available by obtaining low interest commodity loans for eligible harvested production. A nine-month Marketing Assistance Loan provides financing that allows producers to store production for later marketing. The crop may be stored on the farm or in the warehouse.
Loans are available for producers who share in the risk of producing the eligible commodity and maintain beneficial interest in the crop through the duration of the loan. Beneficial interest means retaining the ability to make decisions about the commodity, responsibility for loss because of damage to the commodity and title to the commodity. Once beneficial interest in a commodity is lost, it is ineligible for a loan, even if you regain beneficial interest.
Farm Storage Facility Loan Program
The Farm Storage Facility Loan Program (FSFLP) allows producers of eligible commodities to obtain low-interest financing to build or upgrade farm storage and handling facilities.
The new maximum principal amount of a loan through FSFL is $500,000. Participants are now required to provide a down payment of 15 percent, with CCC providing a loan for the remaining 85 percent of the net cost of the eligible storage facility and permanent drying and handling equipment. Additional security is required for poured-cement open-bunker silos, renewable biomass facilities, cold storage facilities, hay barns and for all loans exceeding $50,000. New loan terms of 7, 10 or 12 years are available depending on the amount of the loan. Interest rates for each term rate may be different and are based on the rate, which CCC borrows from the Treasury Department.
Payments are available in the form of a partial disbursement and the remaining final disbursement. The partial disbursement will be available after a portion of the construction has been completed. The final fund disbursement will be made when all construction is completed. The maximum amount of the partial disbursement will be 50 percent of the projected and approved total loan amount.
The following commodities are eligible for farm storage facility loans:
•Corn, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, oats, peanuts, wheat, barley or minor oilseeds harvested as whole grain
•Corn, grain sorghum, wheat, oats or barley harvested as other-than-whole grain
•Pulse crops - lentils, small chickpeas, dry beans and dry peas
•Fruits (including nuts) and vegetables - cold storage facilities
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) developed the Microloan (ML) program to better serve the unique financial operating needs of beginning, niche and small family farm operations.
FSA offers applicants a Microloan designed to help farmers with credit needs of $35,000 or less. The loan features a streamlined application process built to fit the needs of new and smaller producers. This loan program will also be useful to specialty crop producers and operators of community supported agriculture (CSA).
Eligible applicants can apply for a maximum amount of $35,000 to pay for initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses. As financing needs increase, applicants can apply for a regular operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000 or obtain financing from a commercial lender under FSA’s Guaranteed Loan Program.
Individuals who are interested in applying for a microloan or would like to discuss other farm loan programs available should contact their local FSA office to set up an appointment with a loan official.
Rural Youth Loans
The Farm Service Agency makes loans to rural youths to establish and operate income-producing projects in connection with 4-H clubs, FFA and other agricultural groups. Projects must be planned and operated with the help of the organization advisor, produce sufficient income to repay the loan and provide the youth with practical business and educational experience. The maximum loan amount is $5000.
Youth Loan Eligibility Requirements:
•Be a citizen of the United States (which includes Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) or a legal resident alien
•Be 10 years to 20 years of age
•Comply with FSA’s general eligibility requirements
•Reside in a rural area, city or town with a population of 50,000 or fewer people
•Be unable to get a loan from other sources
•Conduct a modest income-producing project in a supervised program of work as outlined above
•Demonstrate capability of planning, managing and operating the project under guidance and assistance from a project advisor. The project supervisor must recommend the project and the loan, along with providing adequate supervision.
Stop by the county office for help preparing and processing the application forms.
Beginning Farmer Loans
FSA assists beginning farmers to finance agricultural enterprises. Under these designated farm loan programs, FSA can provide financing to eligible applicants through either direct or guaranteed loans. FSA defines a beginning farmer as a person who:
•Has operated a farm for not more than 10 years
•Will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm
•Agrees to participate in a loan assessment, borrower training and financial management program sponsored by FSA
•Does not own a farm in excess of 30 percent of the county’s median size.
Additional program information, loan applications, and other materials are available at your local USDA Service Center. You may also visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
Foreign Buyers Notification
The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) requires all foreign owners of U.S. agricultural land to report their holdings to the Secretary of Agriculture. The Farm Service Agency administers this program for USDA.
All individuals who are not U.S. citizens, and have purchased or sold agricultural land in the county are required to report the transaction to FSA with 90 days of the closing. Failure to submit the AFIDA form (FSA-153) could result in civil penalties of up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the property. County government offices, Realtors, attorneys and others involved in real estate transactions are reminded to notify foreign investors of these reporting requirements.
Farming Operation Changes
Producers who have bought or sold land, or added or dropped rented land from their operation must report those changes to the FSA office as soon as possible. A copy of the deed or recorded land contract for purchase property is needed to maintain accurate records with FSA. Failure to do so can lead to possible program ineligibility and penalties. While making record updates, be sure to update signature authorizations. Making record changes now will save time in the spring.
Clearing Wooded Areas or Bringing New Land into Production
Agricultural producers are reminded to consult with FSA and NRCS before breaking out new ground for production as doing so without prior authorization may put a producer’s federal farm program benefits in jeopardy. This is especially true for land that must meet Highly Erodible Land (HEL) and Wetland Conservation (WC) provisions.
Producers with HEL determined soils must apply tillage, crop residue and rotation requirements as specified in their conservation plan. Land determined to be a wetland has significant use restrictions. Participants should ensure they are aware of any existing technical determinations for acreage they own or operate.
Producers should notify FSA prior to conducting land clearing or drainage projects to ensure compliance. If you intend to clear any trees, woody vegetation, or improve drainage to create new cropland, these areas will need to be reviewed to ensure any work will not risk your eligibility for benefits.
Landowners and operators can complete form AD-1026 Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) Certification to determine whether a referral to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is necessary.