Mont. farm groups talk Farm Bill at Hobson event | TSLN.com

Mont. farm groups talk Farm Bill at Hobson event

The Montana Farm Bureau (MFBF) and the Montana Grain Growers Association (MGGA) held an informational session on the Agricultural Act of 2014 March 4 at the Bos Terra Auditorium in Hobson. The session was designed to provide the most up-to-date knowledge about the changes in the five-year 2014 Farm Bill.

MFBF's John Youngberg discussed the latest assistance available to livestock producers should disaster strike.

"The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) has been approved and will be made retroactive to cover eligible losses back to Oct. 1, 2011," noted Youngberg. "It covers livestock deaths due to weather events such as wildfires, blizzards, floods, hurricanes, extreme heat and extreme cold."

He explained the Livestock Forage Disaster Program provides compensation to eligible livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to drought or fire. Details of the rules for the 2014 farm bill are still being hammered out, but to make a claim, grazing losses must have occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011 for the producer to be eligible.

"Farmers and ranchers can sign up for the forage disaster program starting April 15," said Youngberg. "I know that some ranchers aren't used to going into the FSA office, but it you're going to apply for this insurance, it's important to do go in and meet with the people at FSA."

"I can't say enough how extremely important it is to keep good records on livestock numbers and livestock losses. You will need good beginning and ending inventory numbers for any retroactive claims. If you haven't kept meticulous records on livestock numbers and losses, it's very important to start now," said Youngberg.

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"Programs that were eliminated in this farm bill in the Commodity Title included Direct Payments, Counter-Cyclical Program, Average Crop Revenue Election Program and the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payment for Crops," noted Ryan McCormick, past president, MGGA. He explained some programs were extended, such as the Loan Program at current loan rates and the SURE for livestock, trees, bees and fish.

The new programs that were created, and the ones most farmers will need to sign up for are, Price Loss Coverage (PLC), which is a price loss safety net; or the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), which is a revenue loss safety net.

"The ARC program is a one-time election on the individual level, with all crops on the farm included or you can sign up on the county level," noted McCormick. "You have a one-time choice for both PLC and ARC to retain your existing base acres or reallocate existing base acres. You can only reallocate your base, though, you can't increase it."

The grain farmer noted that the new Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) is the option to purchase shallow loss county/area coverage on top of an individual insurance plan, and is available for the 2015 crop year.

"One change to note is that there is conservation compliance tied to crop insurance which is for highly erodible conservation and wetland compliance for federal crop eligibility," note McCormick. "If a farm is already in compliance for FSA program, however, they should be in compliance for crop insurance.

McCormick stressed that doing one's research is key to knowing which program—ARC or PLC—

works best for you and your farm, and whether you want to select the individual or county levels of coverage.

"You want to get your research done and make your selection before planting season starts because it is going to take time. The MGGA has some worksheets available online to help farmers make some critical choices," he said.

The MGGA and MFBF plan to conduct other talks on the farm bill around the state, especially as the rules and details get worked out and put into practice. F

–Montana Farm Bureau