By MATTHEW WEAVER
Growers have until June 3 to sign up for the USDA's ACRE program for 2013. It is designed to provide revenue insurance for loss of production or price decreases.
Farmers who are concerned about revenue losses of roughly 15-20 percent for their 2013 crop should consider signing up for USDA's Average Crop Revenue Election program (ACRE), said Lincoln County Washington State University Extension educator Tom Platt, based in Davenport, Wash.
ACRE intends to provide revenue insurance based on the loss of production or a drop in market prices, said Rod Hamilton, farm program chief for the USDA Farm Service Agency's office in Spokane.
To qualify for revenue protection payments, there must be a revenue loss statewide, and then a farmer must have a revenue loss on his or her farm.
"It would be someone who thinks the state revenue and their farm revenue is going to go down in 2013 compared to the last two years (who should sign up for ACRE)," Hamilton said.
"Your own farm isn't covered specifically, there has to be a state revenue loss, what you're reimbursed for that state loss has nothing to do with your farm," Platt said.
Hamilton said participation levels have not been very high, and he expects that to continue.
"It really got started at a time of improving commodity prices," he said. "The intent was in times of dropping prices or natural disasters that people would get income."
Platt said projecting revenues a year out is very difficult. It is not as obvious as it was in 2009 that farmers should look into ACRE, he said, but enough of a concern to be worth looking into.
"Grain prices have dropped quite a bit in the last month," Platt said. "If it turns out we don't get any rain in May, I think there will be people concerned about this."
Dryland farms have more risk for revenue loss in program crops because yield and price are uncontrollable sources of risk, Platt said. Irrigated farms are better able to manage yield risk because they don't rely on nature for precipitation.
Platt said farmers with farm ground that's all out of crop should not consider ACRE. Each farm is considered separately for ACRE, which only pays for planted acres, he said.
With the uncertainty of the Farm Bill, Platt hopes the program does not continue. He'd rather see insurance program funding spent on regular crop insurance.
Neither the U.S. Senate nor House of Representatives versions of the farm bill included ACRE, Hamilton said. Both included some form of a revenue protection program.
"It wouldn't be ACRE, but it would be somewhat along that line," he said.
Once the ACRE deadline is past, direct and counter-cyclical payments are a grower's only option, Hamilton said.
Farmers who are concerned should either use the USDA Farm Service Agency's worksheets or contact Platt at 509-725-4171 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a spreadsheet template to conduct analysis. E-mail requests should have "ACRE Template" in the subject line. There is a $5 charge for the template, Platt said.