An important new partnership is preparing agricultural producers for decisions that need to be made soon so farmers can participate in safety-net programs that were created by the 2014 Farm Bill. Congress gave USDA and the Cooperative Extension System a mandate to educate America’s farmers and ranchers to help them prepare for managing their annual risks. USDA’s Farm Service Agency and the Cooperative Extension System teamed up to host joint meetings all over rural America, offering details on the new programs contained in the farm bill. There are more than 2,900 Extension offices throughout the United States, perfect settings at which educational forums could prepare producers for the decisions ahead of them.
“Farm bill outreach and education has been a rigorous exercise for all of us,” said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini as he praised employees and educators on the recent rollout of the Dairy Margin Protection Program, the first of the risk management programs. “In addition to enrolling more than half of the dairy operations around the country, we learned the value of partnership between the nation’s Cooperative Extension System and employees at the Farm Service Agency.”
Up next for the FSA-Cooperative Extension team is educating crop producers about the complex choice between Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC).
“From the Cooperative Extension perspective, we are so pleased with the way this significant effort is coming together,” said Jane Schuchardt, Executive Director of Cooperative Extension/Extension Committee on Organization and Policy. “Our partnership is resulting in tremendous benefit for producers and local economies.”
Through mid-January, the partnership had conducted nearly 3,900 events at which training or producer education on farm bill programs took place in front of more than 208,000 participants. At more than half of the events, trainers demonstrated online tools that producers could use to calculate what-if options. The tools enable producers to examine various scenarios that they might face between now and 2018 when the 2014 Farm Bill expires.
“We have more work ahead of us,” said Dolcini, “but we’re confident in our partners around the country and grateful for the knowledge that Cooperative Extension adds to our team. I know that our employees and our customers, many of them already familiar with their local Extension offices, are equally grateful to have that familiar face in the room and knowing they have a resource to help them through the learning process.”
Dolcini encouraged farmers who are ready to make their decisions about ARC and PLC to visit their local FSA offices sooner rather than later. “Avoid the long lines in your county office by making an appointment and taking care of these important decisions now.”