Friday, April 16, 2010

Farm Program Deadline Draws Near

While most Americans were focused on meeting the April 15 income tax deadline, more than half of the nation's farmers are currently at risk of falling out of USDA’s farm programs unless they drive over to their Farm Service Agency office by June 1 to sign up for 2010.

Filling out forms for FSA is an annual chore. But this year the deadline comes earlier than it did the previous two years. The deadline last year was August 14, when USDA launched the new ACRE (Average Crop Revenue Election) program. Sign up was delayed in 2008, too, to allow FSA to adjust to the new farm bill.

FSA officials acknowledge that the red tape and information required at sign up are increasingly unpopular. This year farmers have to sign a form authorizing the IRS to notify USDA if a producer doesn't meet the income guideline to qualify for farm programs. For farmers that income test is quite high -- $750,000, not in gross sales, but the adjusted gross income reported on your tax return. Producers have also been worried that their tax records might become public somehow at the FSA office.

According to FSA, they don’t want the tax records, so the USDA worked out an agreement with the IRS where they would run a report for FSA.

Another reason producers may be procrastinating signing up early, is that in a previous farm bill, if they were late in signing up, they could pay a $100 late fee and then file. That option is no longer available. If farmers don't sign up by June 1,they’re out of the program.

Confusion with a later, June 30, deadline for reporting planted acres for farm programs is another reason producers have procrastinated this year. Producers like to do the one-stop shop. They want to do their reporting and sign up at the same time. This year they’re not going to have that option.

If farmers don't sign up by June 1, they won't receive direct payments, or any other payments that might be triggered under either the DCP or ACRE programs. Once a farm is enrolled in ACRE, it can't be switched back to the DCP program under the current farm bill. But, just like the DCP program, farms in ACRE have to be signed up annually.

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