GUEST OPINION: Avoid the end-of-month crunch — elect your safety net program before the March 31 deadline

Bruce Nelson
Montana FSA

The month of March is upon us and with the change of calendar comes the dawn of springtime and many decisions for Montana farmers. And this year, these decisions include several important choices on federal safety net programs that could make a big difference for you, your family and your farm through 2018.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) is urging you, and farmers and landowners across the nation, to finalize your decisions on updating crop yield histories and reallocating base acres for new safety net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). Updated yields and base acre reallocations could help improve your potential to recover payments when a weather disaster or unexpected changes in the marketplace negatively affect your income. March 31 is the last day to update your records.

March 31 is also the last day to decide which program – ARC or PLC – is the right one for your operation. Each program provides unique protections. The best choice will depend on factors specific to your individual farm. FSA, in cooperation with a number of universities, has provided online Web-based tools, found at to help you make this important decision. The online tools have already helped more than half a million farmers so far. If you have not yet considered your PLC or ARC options, take the time today to explore the Web tools and then contact your FSA county office if you have questions.

If you don’t make a decision by the March 31 deadline, then you will be assigned Price Loss Coverage, the default program, and lose payments for losses incurred in 2014. However, if you complete your ARC or PLC election by the deadline, you will be protected against 2014 price or revenue losses.

Farming is one of the riskiest businesses in the world. These new programs can help to support your agricultural operation during unanticipated downturns in in the weather or markets.

So, don’t let this opportunity slip by. Finalize your yield or base acre decisions, complete those conversations between landowners and producers, and conduct your final reviews to determine how ARC or PLC can help you. Avoid that end of the month rush, and make an appointment today. Your Montana FSA county staff is standing by ready to help.