Corn Growers Association talks better ACRE program for next Farm Bill | TheFencePost.com

Corn Growers Association talks better ACRE program for next Farm Bill

Eric Brown Greeley, Colo.

A safety net for farmers in a shaky economy and during a time of high volatility in commodity prices should be a top priority for lawmakers as they simultaneously work on deficit reductions and piece together a new Farm Bill, according to Sam Willett, the public policy director for the National Corn Growers Association.

For that reason, Willett focused the majority of his presentation at a Colorado Corn meeting in Platteville on July 25 on changes he and association officials hope will be made to the Average Crop Revenue Election program before the 2012 Farm Bill is finalized.

The ACRE program was put in place as part of the 2008 Farm Bill to provide farmers with an additional option for reimbursements for damaged or destroyed crops.

However, the program hasn’t been heavily used by farmers – at least in Weld County, July 25 meeting attendees noted – because of the complexities in the program and the long-term commitments required from farmers, among other issues.

“We want folks to know that farmers want budget deficits addressed just as much as their neighbors,” Willett said. “However, there has to be recognition that we’re in an environment in agriculture where we haven’t seen this kind of volatility in commodity markets. And we have reminders from the spring and summer that Mother Nature is always in charge and can wreak havoc.

“We’re really wanting to bring something to the table that better utilizes the dollars that taxpayers are bringing to farmers. We want to make sure we have a farm safety net in place that really delivers assistance when it’s needed … and one that’s more fiscally responsible.”

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Willett said his proposed changes would result in more frequent payments for farmers, protection against shallow revenue losses and limits to yearly payments compared to the current ACRE program, thereby reducing overlap with crop insurance, while not providing protection for catastrophic losses.

According to Willett, the revised shallow-loss ACRE program would offer Colorado farmers average payments of $22.73 per acre, compared to $12.32 per acre under the current ACRE program.

With Willett’s proposed changes, the ACRE program would:

»Be crop-specific.

»Use harvest prices rather than the season-average price.

»Provide guarantee and payment based on crop reporting districts, rather than state.

»Guarantee olympic average of five years of revenue, rather than the five-year olympic average yield multiplied by the two-year average of the season-average price.

»Guarantee 95 percent of the five-year olympic average of revenue, rather than 90 percent.

»Offer payments limited to 15 percent of the guarantee, rather than 25 percent.

»Keep year-to-year movement limited to no more than a 5 percent increase or a 10 percent decrease.

»Base payments on planted acres, rather than 0.833 of planted acres.

“It was definitely informational,” said Artie Elmquist, a Longmont area corn producer who also farms alfalfa, barley and sugar beets.

Elmquist said after the meeting that he agrees newer concepts of safety nets are needed in the agriculture industry, and further noted that he was in favor of the industry “migrating to the type of safety net that was discussed” July 25.

“I’d be very in favor of us moving toward a program that gets the money to the farmer faster. It’s an important part of surviving.”