When it’s completed, a crop policy decision aid instrument will be a “powerful tool” to assist farmers in determining which new farm program option makes the most sense for a particular farm or crop. The decision aid also will analyze crop insurance options to show where insurance coverage and Title 1 of the Agriculture Act of 2014 overlap.
“It’s not finished yet,” says Joe Outlaw, co-director, Agricultural and Food Policy Center and professor and Extension economist, Texas A&M University. “A lot still depends on decisions from the Farm Service Agency (FSA).”
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Outlaw demonstrated how the aid will work during the recent Texas Ag Forum in Austin. He credited Extension economist Henry Bryant for developing the decision aid.
“He’s been working on it for close to two years,” Outlaw said. “It’s still under construction but is mostly finished. “
As more information about the new farm law comes in, “we can move pretty fast,” Outlaw said. “We’re working in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Center (FAPRI)” at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Funding to complete the project may be available from USDA as part of educational efforts to help farmers and ranchers adjust to the many changes included in the new farm law. “But we will finish this with or without USDA, funding, at least for Texas,” Outlaw said.”
If they do expand it beyond Texas borders they will have to plug in yield and other data from other states.
“This tool has evolved over time”’ Outlaw added.
Bryant said they started out with a Risk Management Agency insurance tool since they “knew Title 1 would be insurance-based.”
The program, they said, will be relatively simple to operate. A farmer creates an account with an email address and a password, which he can save if he wants to preserve the data entered. With that information saved, he will get updates through email every time a rule changes is implemented. “Farmers can then go back in and change things if needed.”
Outlaw said factors involving “Generic base” will be included in the final decision aid. ‘”that’s not finished yet. Farmers can also use the program for crop insurance decisions but they will need to put the data in a little differently.”
He said farmers will have “simple boxes” to enter FSA farm numbers, crop, county crop yield averages, practices (irrigated or non-irrigated), base, average production history and other data. Producers will have to have that information at hand as they work through the program to determine if Price Loss Coverage (PLC) or Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) will work best for a specific crop or farm.
“When we know the rules, we will make it better,” Outlaw said. “We’ll also add individual yield option to ARC analysis.”
He demonstrated how the program will work, running through several possible farm, crop and acreage scenarios. The analysis was quick, typically a matter of only a few seconds.
He said generic base allocation will be a crucial issue for cotton producers. “We will have data on covered crops, and there are a lot of them, 21. Many will not be grown but price forecasting will be included. This is important because a lot of people with generic base will be making decisions on crops they’ve never planted before.”
Outlaw said decision aid tools also will be available for STAX and the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO), including premium costs.
He said producers “can turn SCO on and off to see how it works. It’s not part of Title 1, but it influences what producers will do with Title 1. They can find the overlaps in insurance and Title 1. In Texas, we can’t afford overlaps.”
Outlaw said final rules will further clarify the program and help fill in data in the decision aid. “We have to be patient.”