USDA Provides One-Time Extension of Deadline to Update Base Acres or Yield History for ARC/PLC Programs

Farmers Now Have Until March 31 to Update Yields and Reallocate Base Acres; Deadline for Choosing Between ARC and PLC also Remains March 31WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that a one-time extension will be provided to producers for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill, known as Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres has been extended one additional month, from Feb. 27, 2015 until March 31, 2015. The final day for farm owners and producers to choose ARC or PLC coverage also remains March 31, 2015.

“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,” said Vilsack.

If no changes are made to yield history or base acres by March 31, 2015, the farm’s current yield and base will be used. A program choice of ARC or PLC coverage also must be made by March 31, 2015, or there will be no 2014 payments for the farm and the farm will default to PLC coverage through the 2018 crop year.

“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,” said Vilsack.

Nationwide, more than 2.9 million educational postcards, in English and Spanish, have been sent to producers, and over 4,100 training sessions have been conducted on the new safety-net programs. The online tools, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc, allow producers to explore projections on how ARC or PLC coverage will affect their operation under possible future scenarios.

Covered commodities include barley, canola, large and small chickpeas, corn, crambe, flaxseed, grain sorghum, lentils, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, dry peas, rapeseed, long grain rice, medium grain rice (which includes short grain rice), safflower seed, sesame, soybeans, sunflower seed and wheat. Upland cotton is no longer a covered commodity.

To learn more, farmers can contact their local Farm Service Agency county office. To find your local office visit http://offices.usda.gov.

The Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Want Kids’ Test Scores to Improve? Try 4-H

When 4-H’ers across the county pledge their ‘heads to clearer thinking,’ they may not realize that recent research suggests this venerable yet adaptive youth development organization may be delivering much more than mental clarity.  A study using data collected over five academic years from Florida students in grades 3 through 10 reveals that standardized test scores in math and reading are higher in school districts, grades and years that saw more 4-H participation.  The research was conducted by Alfonso Flores-Lagunes of the State University of New York – Binghamton and Troy Timko of the University of Miami conducted the research, and appears online in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

The magnitude of the effect of 4-H participation on test scores was similar to the effects seen from reducing class size and other well-known approaches to enhancing student test scores. Analysis of the data further suggests that the positive effect of 4-H on test scores accumulates over time, particularly for performance on math tests.

Known by its iconic four-leaf clover logo, 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States, with over six million young Americans participating in the various programs it offers, such as organized clubs, day camps, and school enrichment programs (the next largest is Boys & Girls Club of America, serving 4.8 million).  4-H has an uncanny geographical reach with a presence in every county and state in the United States, which is made possible through its partnership with universities within the Land Grant University System. 4-H traces its origins to 1902, when it provided a link between public school education and rural communities, and for this reason it is widely regarded as agriculturally-focused.

However, since the 1950s, it has spread into urban areas and its focus has shifted towards life skills development of youth.  Indeed, Flores-Lagunes and Timko find evidence that 4-H appears to be more effective in district-grade-year combinations with a higher proportion of urban students and with a higher proportion of African American students, although the evidence is not fully conclusive.

Flores-Lagunes and Timko note that the standardized test results are particularly remarkable given that the 4-H program has not been designed with the purpose of improving test scores. They suggest test score improvements are most likely by-products of positive youth development and the programmatic focus on science, engineering and technology.  For example, improvements in test scores could result from increased student interest in academically related topics, improved general motivation for school, or more productive interaction with instructors.

The authors point out that, while their research focuses on standardized test scores, the program obviously only represents a partial effect of 4-H’s overall impact on participants. The ubiquitous nature of 4-H across the US means it has a large reach and can complement the efforts by teachers, schools, and communities to improve their schools in the face of the higher accountability brought about by federal and state pressures. This synergy can provide valuable positive spillovers to schools and communities beyond the private benefits to participants in the program. Finally, they note that 4-H makes use of a vast pool of volunteers in the delivery of its programs in a cost-effective manner, which must also be appealing to school officials looking to stretch ever tightening budgets.

Did the Newly Released 2014 County Yields Impact Estimated 2014 ARC-CO Payments?

By: Wm. Bruce Clevenger – OSU Extension Educator, Defiance County

The much anticipated 2014 county level yields for corn and soybeans were released on February 19, 2015 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Ag Statistics Service (NASS).  With some farmers looking for more information to use during the election of programs under the current Farm Bill, county yields can provide some relevant data.  While the NASS county yields have been released, the FSA yield used to determine program payments could vary from the NASS yield, but not significantly. The county yield information will be used to estimate/calculate Agriculture Risk Coverage – County (ARC-CO) payments, but is not used for the Agriculture Risk Coverage – Individual (ARC-IC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs.

If farmers have used trend or estimated county yields to calculate an estimated 2014 ARC-CO payment, it’s worth the time to review those calculations and consider the newly released county yields.   ARC-CO is a revenue protection program that will use county yields and the Market Year Average (MYA) price to determine a payment for losses below a calculated revenue guarantee for a county.  While Ohio now has NASS county level yields, farmers will still need to use a U.S.D.A. projected MYA price to estimate a 2014 ARC-CO payment.  The 2014 MYA prices for corn and soybeans will not be released until September 29, 2015. Download the pdf of Did Newly Released 2014 County Yields Impact Estimated 2014 ARC CO Payments