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DCP, ACRE sign-up starts Jan. 23

Sign-up for USDA’s Direct and Countercyclical and Average Crop Revenue Election programs for 2012 crops won’t begin until Jan. 23, and the sign-up period runs through June 1. Farmers who want to enroll in ACRE for the first time can do so during that same period.

Beth Grabau, public information and outreach specialist for USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Des Moines, answers the following questions. If you need more information, contact a county FSA office, or see www.fsa.usda.gov.

Question: Is this the last year of the 2008 Farm Bill? When does the DCP and ACRE sign-up begin for the 2012 crop year?

Answer: The current DCP and ACRE programs expire with the 2008 Farm Bill, which ends in 2012. As required, there are no 2012 advance direct payments for DCP or ACRE. Since there are no payments to be issued, there is not an advantage to receive benefits in one calendar year versus another. Thus, sign-up will not begin until Jan. 23, and it runs through June 1. Producers interested in electing to enroll into the ACRE program for the first time can do so during that same time frame.

Question: I’m renting an additional 160 acres in 2012. It has had at least six different operators since conservation compliance began in 1985. This is a new farm for me. What do I need to do to be in compliance? How do I find out about its soil conservation compliance requirements?

Answer: When changes that result in new producers on a farm are reported to FSA, the new producers shall be advised of Highly Erodible Land Conservation (HELC) and Wetland Conservation (WC) requirements. Local county FSA offices will also inform new producers of Natural Resources Conservation Service HEL and wetland determinations by providing a photocopy showing the HEL and wetland determinations for the farm.

New producers on a farm are encouraged to contact NRCS for development or revision of a conservation plan or system. Purpose of the FSA notification to new owners and operators is to provide an added reminder to potential program participants of their conservation compliance responsibilities.

It remains the responsibility of the producer to ensure compliance with HELC and WC provisions on all newly acquired land. The county FSA office is not required to become aware of all land transfers (sales or rentals) by every producer. Failure to notify producers will not eliminate any loss of program benefits if producers are found out of compliance.

Question: The owners of a farm I’m renting for the first time in 2012 just inherited the farm and all live out of state. None are very knowledgeable on FSA requirements, and I’m unsure if there is a problem. How does FSA determine who is ineligible for payment? What happens if the previous operator has failed to comply, leaving me in limbo?

Answer: When a HELC or a WC violation is discovered, FSA determines the extent of the ineligibility based on the person’s status on the farm and whether or not they share in the crop, which was planted on the land with the violation. The producer’s status can be that of operator, landowner, owner/operator, tenant or sharecropper.

The extent of ineligibility for the producer who violated shall be the same for the affiliated persons. The county FSA office has information on the definition of an affiliated person. FSA will also determine the year in which benefits are to be denied. A new operator on a noncompliant farm should contact NRCS immediately to discuss options to correct a compliance problem and do it within the specified time.

Annually, NRCS makes visits to farms to verify land is being farmed according to an acceptable conservation plan or that no wetland conversion was made without prior approval. These visits can result from a random selection, through a whistleblower or perhaps another review or from aerial photography.

This article published in the December, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.