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Now come the details; Krauter: Farm bill is done, now USDA goes to work

Passing a new farm bill took more than two years. Working out details, particularly ones involving livestock disaster programs, won’t take as long, said Aaron Krauter, the executive state director of the North Dakota Farm Service Agency.

President Barack Obama has directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement the livestock disaster programs in the farm bill within 60 days, rather than the usual six to eight months. The programs are expected to provide more than $1 billion nationwide, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The decision to speed up the disaster assistance was undoubtedly made to address the severe drought in California, but Vilsack said the implementation of the disaster aid programs would be nationwide.

Still, farmers and ranchers will need patience, Krauter said.

“It’s going to take a period of time to get all those rules and regulations written,” he said. “The ones that will happen the fastest are the livestock disaster programs. We’re going to see those enacted really quick. I hate to put a date to it.”

Though Obama has signed the farm bill into law, USDA must work out the details. That process has begun, Krauter said.

Among the livestock disaster programs are the livestock indemnity program, or LIP; the livestock forage disaster program, or LFP; and the emergency assistance for livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish program, or ELAP.

LIP compensates ranchers for weather-related livestock losses. LFP compensates ranchers for grazing losses. ELAP provides emergency assistance to cover losses from adverse weather, including blizzards.

A devastating blizzard in October 2013 hammered livestock in the western Dakotas, focusing even more attention on the federal livestock disaster programs.

The programs, which expired on Oct. 1, 2011, need to be updated.

“But for the most part, those things are written already,” which should boost their enactment, Krauter said.

Beginning in April, producers will be able to sign up for the livestock disaster programs for losses not only for 2014 but for losses they experienced in 2012 and 2013, according to a White House fact sheet.

The program will pay ranchers and farmers for lost animals and provide money for them to purchase feed. The farmers should be paid “shortly” after they sign up, Vilsack said.

Virtually all farmers and ranchers on the Northern Plains have dealt with the Farm Service Agency, an arm of USDA that’s involved in disaster, commodity, conservation and farm loan programs, among many other things.

Krauter, once a farmer and Democratic state legislator from Regent, had led the North Dakota FSA since August 2009. Obama picked him for the job, which is filled by political appointment.

Most farmers on the Northern Plains also have dealings with the Risk Management Agency, an arm of USDA that administers the federal crop insurance program.

The RMA regional office in Billings, Mont., referred questions to RMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. John Shea, an RMA spokesman, said his agency doesn’t have any comment yet on implementation of the new farm bill.

March 15 is the deadline for buying or modifying crop insurance for most spring-planted crops.

Farmers need to remember the deadline again this year, Krauter said.

ARC, PLC

Many farmers have questions about a new farm bill provision designed to help producers cope with low prices or low revenue.

Under the provision, farmers will need to make a one-time decision between agricultural risk coverage, which protects against falling revenue, and price loss coverage, which provides payments when crop prices fall below levels set in the farm bill. The two options generally are known in ag circles by their acronyms, ARC and PLC

“People are confused by how that’s going to work. Honestly, I’m confused about how that’s going to work,” said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

As Goehring said, “Once you sign into it (choice between the two), you’re stuck. They’re not giving you an opportunity to back out.”

Farmers need to follow details of the two options as they’re released by USDA. Farmers also will need to consult with specialists when deciding which option to choose, Goehring said.

Krauter said his agency understands that farmers have questions about the two options and that information concerning them will be announced when it becomes available.

Following developments

USDA will publish its proposed farm bill regulations in the Federal Register, and ag producers will be able to comment on the proposals, Krauter said.

The Federal Register, sometimes described as the “daily newspaper of the federal government,” is a legal newspaper published every business day. It contains federal agency regulation and proposed rules and public notices, among other things.

More information: www.federalreg-ister.gov.

Ag producers who want to learn about implementation of the new farm bill can sign up for FSA’s electronic newsletters, Krauter said.

The newsletters come from the county, state and federal levels.

For more information or to register for the newsletters, visit www.fsa.usda.gov.

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