When working in farmland, many become quite familiar with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for program enrollment and compliance. USDA is the federal agency that oversees public policy and study on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, and nutrition.
In terms of farmland ownership, we tend to focus on two (of the 29) agencies: Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). FSA implements and administers the programs while NRCS helps with the planning and implementation of protecting our natural resources.
There are a handful of dates Peoples Company Land Managers take note of throughout the year. Many landowners who live a distance from their farmland find reassurance in the fact that Land Managers can be their boots on the ground to ensure their best interests are represented in the local FSA and NRCS offices.
For many of the USDA programs, the level of action needed from the landowner depends on the type of tenant contract. If a landowner has a cash rent agreement, he/she is a more passive landowner (in the eyes of the agencies) than a custom or crop share agreement. Landowners who have a more active role in the growing crop have more paperwork to complete.
PHOTO 1: Each county has a FSA and NRCS office. While there still may be snow on the ground, there are tasks to complete in the next few months in preparation.
Here are three USDA dates to consider for 2020:
February 28, 2020 - General Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Sign-Up
CRP is a 35-year-old program that removes private lands out of production and into permanent grass/forbes plantings for improved conservation. The various programs within CRP typically focus on reducing soil erosion, improving water quality, and addressing wildlife habitat. There is currently a general sign-up and a continuous sign-up, with various stipulations for each. The sign-up deadline for general is February 28 while the continuous is ongoing.
If landowners are interested in taking marginal ground out of production, they should visit their local FSA office as soon as possible to see what opportunities are available.
March 15, 2020 – 2019 ARC/PLC Election and Enrollment
The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs as an income support tool that factors in yield and commodity prices. Producers (those defined with an active interest in the crop) must elect which program to use on their farmed acres prior to March 15th. Once the 2019 enrollment contract is signed, producers can also sign the 2020 enrollment contract since elections can not be updated/changed for the 2020 year.
Non-farming landowners could ask their tenants about the enrollment process and have a general conversation about the deciding factors that went into choosing the election. This is an easy segway into learning more about their tenant’s operation and business planning. Open dialogue between landowner and tenant allows opportunity to problem solve and do what’s best for each piece of land.
July 15, 2020 – 2020 Crop Certification
All insurable crops must be reported in the FSA office on the FSA Form 578: Report of Farm Commodities Farm Summary. This annual certification is the foundation for all other work as it classifies what crop(s) have been planted and their intended use. Eligibility and compliance for programs depends on the numbers reported on this form.
Non-farming landowners could ask for a copy of the FSA 578 on an annual basis. Peoples Company tenants have an annual reporting requirement that includes this form as well as yield documentation and fertilizer/chemical data.
PHOTO 2: Example of the first page of the FSA Form 578.
Along with representing landowners on these issues, Peoples Company Land Managers also work closely with county offices on cost share programs that help landowners put conservation infrastructure and practices on their land. Having a local connection to FSA and NRCS offices is incredibly valuable when it comes to knowing about funding opportunities when they become available.
To learn more how about Peoples Company Land Management, email LandManagement@PeoplesCompany.com or call 855.800.5263 (LAND).