Some of the most common misconceptions regarding farm programs and incentives
With the popularity of social media, misconceptions about agriculture run rampant these days. It can be difficult to tell fact from fiction, even for producers in their own industry. One topic within the field of agriculture that has its own share of myths is participation in federal farm programs.
Federally funded programs are “farmer welfare”
While many farm programs and subsidies offered though the Farm Bill can aid a producer in a time of need, they are not intended to be “farmer welfare.”
Government programs are essentially a form of insurance. Most people insure their homes, cars, health, businesses, etc. Why shouldn’t a farmer insure his or her business against unpredictable weather, invasive pests, disease, drought or flooding?
Risk mitigation through participation in one of the USDA’s programs can provide protection and peace of mind to producers. According to the USDA, some of their most popular risk management programs include: the Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs (protects farm revenue from changes in market conditions and provides a safety net to farmers and ranchers when there is a substantial drop in revenue or prices for covered commodities), the Dairy Margin Coverage Program (replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy and offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost (the margin) falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer, Federal Crop Insurance (offers hundreds of different insurance products – product offerings include coverage for production loss, revenue loss, and price decline. The insurance covers row crops, livestock, specialty crops, organics, dairy, grazing land and more) and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (provides financial assistance to producers of certain eligible crops for which catastrophic risk protection plan of insurance is not available when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to an eligible cause of loss).
Producers Have No Control
Another common myth when it comes to farm programs is that once a producer is approved to participate, the government “takes over” a farm.
The USDA and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Service Center employees are all about building relationships with the farmers and landowners they serve.
“We always encourage people to stop in and visit,” Curt McDaniel, USDA/NRCS Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations, said. “We want to give people the best experience we can, and it starts with a conversation.”
Once producers have selected a program, applied and been approved, they can utilize an online portal called the Conservation Client Gateway. This tool allows producers to request technical assistance, apply for financial assistance, view, sign and submit applications and other documents, and track payments.
“Big” Farmers Get Preference
When it comes to programs like those offered through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), applications that have been submitted are reviewed to determine which requested projects will have the largest positive impact on the environment. McDaniel said these programs and initiatives are aimed at producers who have environmental needs with livestock, landscape and headquarters, and are not necessarily related to the amount of acreage, number of animals, etc.
Farm programs can be incredibly beneficial to producers, despite the myths that surround them. Visiting a local USDA/NRCS Service Center or going online to www.usda.gov can help further dispel misconceptions and inspire producers to apply.