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Inform local FSA of new acres

With high corn and soybean prices, many farmers will bring new acres into row-crop production in 2011, which can affect their eligibility for USDA farm program benefits. Before bringing new acres into production, talk to your county Farm Service Agency.

Bringing new land into production could cause you to violate Highly Erodible Land, or HEL, and Wetland provisions as set by the 2008 Farm Bill.

These violations carry penalties and potential ineligibility for farm programs. Farmers are also asking about bringing land into production that hasn’t had an FSA farm number before. Beth Grabau, at the FSA state office in Des Moines, provides the following answers.

Question: I’ve acquired a new piece of land, but from what I can tell it doesn’t seem to have a farm number associated with it. Do I need a farm number if there isn’t one? What do I need to know to get one? What happens if the area in question is just a farmstead or a building site?

Answer: Many FSA programs require a farm number associated with the application, so these areas will need to be assigned one. Farm numbers can be assigned for anyone that is raising an agricultural commodity for commercial sale. There is no specific acreage requirement or requirement to have cropland. A farm could be pasture for livestock.

First, let’s see if there is a farm number associated with this parcel of land. FSA records can determine this. If the acreage does have a farm number associated with it, then your local FSA office can determine what action needs to be taken next.

If the entire piece you acquired is associated with a larger farm, then this area will be split or reconstituted from its existing farm number and a new farm number will be created. Or it could be as simple as just changing the owner and/or operator on the existing farm number if it was determined you acquired the entire farm number. A related consideration is that filed deeds may need to be provided if there is a change in ownership.

If it has been determined there is no farm number associated with this area, provide the county office with a copy of the current filed deed. Addresses and tax ID numbers will also need to be supplied to the FSA office for all of the landowners listed on the deed.

If a crop is going to be planted on the area, provide FSA an estimate of the area, a survey, or footages by drawing the approximate area on the map. The office will assign a farm and tract number(s). The area to be cropped will be drawn out as an estimate. After the area has been cropped and aerial slides made, the county office will measure the area more accurately.

Remember, conservation compliance regulations apply if new land is being brought into production.

Question: Part of the land I acquired is grass or pastureland. I was just going to graze some cows on it, so do I even need to be concerned with this acreage?

Answer: Under the current farm bill, in order to be eligible for USDA benefits, all acreage is to be reported. This includes grass and pastureland. Reporting involves identifying what crops have been planted in what areas, with the planting dates.

The reason for this has to do with having accurate acreage data in the event there is a disaster. There are many FSA emergency assistance programs available to eligible livestock producers.

The Livestock Forage Disaster Program compensates eligible livestock producers who suffered grazing losses for covered livestock due to a qualifying drought condition. Under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm Raised Fish Program, producers are compensated for livestock losses caused by an eligible adverse weather or loss condition.

Livestock losses could also fall under the Livestock Indemnity Program, but not both. Livestock losses must be reported to your FSA office within 30 days of death.

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

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.