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POLICY WATCH

USMCA Trade Deal Effective July 1

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will go into effect July 1. The USMCA deal is critical to Nebraska agriculture as purchases by Mexico and Canada account for more than 21 percent of Nebraska’s total agricultural exports. The trade relationship with the two countries is also vital to the state’s economy as agriculture trade with the two nations supports nearly 54,000 Nebraska jobs. The new deal maintains market access for Nebraska commodities like corn, soybeans, beef, and pork, while improving access for Nebraska wheat and dairy products. The deal also updates the former agreement to address agriculture biotechnology to support innovation and reduce trade-distorting policies. In addition, USMCA creates a more rigorous process for establishing trade distorting geological indicators for agricultural products and strengthens science-based measures to protect human, animal, and plant health while improving the flow of trade.

June 30 ARC/PLC Deadline

June 30 is the deadline for producers to enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2020 crop year. ARC and PLC are the main commodity crop safety net programs of the 2018 Farm Bill. *NOTE – failure to return their signed contracts (including all producer signatures) by the deadline forfeit any 2020 program payments, should they trigger.

Market Facilitation Program – Change to Adjusted Gross Income

Applications for the 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) were accepted by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) through December 20, 2019. The 2019 MFP provided direct payments to producers who were negatively impacted by foreign trade disruptions. One component of eligibility for 2019 MFP payments was the $900,000 average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) threshold. In order to be eligible, an applicant’s average AGI could not exceed $900,000, unless at least 75 percent of their income was derived from farming, ranching, or forestry. FSA recently issued an important change to the guidelines regarding the AGI provisions. Dividends earned through an “Income Derived from Interest Charge Domestic International Sales Corporation” or IC-DISC, may now be considered farm income for 2019 MFP purposes, if attributed from farming, ranching, or forestry activities. Persons and legal entities affected by this change have until June 30, 2020, to apply for 2019 MFP benefits. Those who fall under the IC-DISC category should recognize the terminology and if applicable to them, should contact their county FSA office immediately. The primary commodities eligible for 2019 MFP in Nebraska included alfalfa, corn, dried beans, dry peas, millet, small and large chickpeas, popcorn, seed corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, triticale, wheat, dairy, and hogs.

Spring Crop Acreage Reporting

Farm Service Agency spring crop acreage certification is underway. The deadline for producers to complete this process is July 15. Crop acreage certification is an annual process and is required to maintain eligibility for federal farm program assistance. In addition to crop acres, producers also must certify their perennial forage and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres by the deadline. Producers who have yet to complete their acreage certification are encouraged to contact their county FSA office as soon as possible.

FSA County Committee Elections

FSA County Committee (COC) election season has begun, with county FSA offices now receiving candidate nominations. The deadline to submit a nomination is Aug. 3. County Committees oversee the functions of county FSA offices and provide input on programming and local agricultural issues. Producers can nominate themselves or others for election to the County Committee; among the eligibility requirements, nominees must reside in the Local Administrative Area that is up for election and be a participant in an FSA program. Members serve a three-year term. More information on FSA County Committees and the election process can be found by clicking HERE. The best contact for COC elections is the FSA County Executive Director in the respective county office.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Update

Nebraska FSA is reporting steady traffic for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) across the state, with Nebraska being in the top five states for assistance levels. The farmers.gov/cfap website remains the starting point for the producer application process. The online payment calculator and application generator tool provide a good starting point for producer applications to FSA offices. For those not comfortable with such technology, producers still can call their county FSA office to schedule an appointment for assistance or call the toll-free CFAP producer hotline at (877)508-8364. 

WHIP+ Program Applications Still Being Accepted

Applications for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus (WHIP+) are still being accepted at offices across Nebraska. WHIP+ is an ad hoc disaster program that was rolled out last year to assist producers with crop, tree, bush, and vine losses due to natural disasters in 2018 and 2019. Excessive moisture was added to the program earlier this year as a qualifying disaster event, and applications for losses associated with excessive moisture opened in late March. WHIP+ is a somewhat complex program, so producers who had losses are encouraged to review the farmers.gov WHIP+ page for more information. Producers who contact their county FSA office for more information should be prepared to identify: the disaster event that caused the loss and the approximate date of the event, what crops on their farm where impacted, and field location of the impacted crops. The program also is supposed to be applicable to crop quality losses associated with eligible natural disasters, but USDA has not yet announced the details associated with this program addition. An application deadline has not yet been established for this program.

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