Summer is almost coming to an end, school will be starting soon and before too long, ag producers will be preparing for fall harvest.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, staff at local offices are busy answering producers’ questions about the Conservation Reserve Program, emergency grazing and haying, and finalizing actions before FY2018 starts on Oct. 1.

Drought assistance

As conditions deteriorate and drought expands across much of the Northern Plains, USDA is offering assistance to farmers and ranchers through several federal farm program provisions, while continuing to monitor the situation to ensure all viable program flexibilities.

In June, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue authorized emergency grazing on CRP lands for counties in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota designated as D2 or in greater drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Grazing is authorized through Sept. 30 unless conditions improve.

Perdue then authorized emergency haying on CRP lands from July 16-Aug. 31. Since July 16, the D2 designation has reached a few northern Nebraska counties.

Both authorizations include any county with any part of its border within 150 miles of a county eligible for emergency grazing and haying acres based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Therefore, a number of counties in Nebraska are included in designation areas.

Interested landowners should contact their local FSA offices and meet with Natural Resources Conservation Service staff to get modified conservation plans that include emergency haying of CRP acres.

Not all CRP practices qualify for emergency haying. Individual conservation plans take into consideration wildlife needs.

Eligible CRP participants can graze or hay their acres for their own use or grant another producer use of the land for grazing or haying. There will be no annual rental payment reductions assessed for such practices under emergency authority.

Haying is limited to one cutting, and grazing and haying cannot occur on the same acreage. Participants also must agree to certain grazing height limitations.

2016 PLC, ARC rates

and prices

The Agricultural Act of 2014 provides for covered commodity payments through the Price Loss Coverage program when the market year average price is below the reference price. Agricultural Risk Coverage program payments are triggered when the actual revenue is below the established guarantee.

The 2016 marketing year average prices for wheat, barley and oats were announced June 29, resulting in PLC per-bushel payment rates of $1.61 for wheat and 34 cents for oats. There is no payment on 2016 barley.

For ALC-County, actual crop revenue is calculated by multiplying the actual average yield for your county by the marketing year average price or national loan rate, whichever is higher.

For 2016, the following per-bushel prices have been set: wheat, $3.89; barley, $4.96; and oats, $2.06. County yields won’t be available until this fall.

ALC-Individual Option will use the same prices. However, actual crop revenue for a farm cannot be calculated until participating producers report all production for all covered commodities planted on their farms and all market year average prices for all covered commodities planted are known.

The 2016 ARC and PLC payments cannot be made until after Oct. 1 or the announcement of the final 2016 average prices for a covered commodity.

Information release dates for those prices, county yields, and projected and final PLC payment rates, can be found at www.fsa.usda.gov/arc-plc. Click on the ARC/PLC Program Data link.

FSA elections

FSA county committee elections are underway in most Nebraska offices. It’s important that all eligible producers participate because these committees are a link between the ag community and USDA.

Committees should be comprised of members reflecting the diversity of ag producers within the county, including representatives of under-served groups or communities.

Under-served producers are defined as beginning, women and other minority farmers, and ranchers and landowners and/or operators who have limited resources. Other minority groups include Native Americans and Alaska natives, people below the poverty level, and people with disabilities.

County committee election ballots will be mailed to eligible voters on Nov. 6. The ballots must be completed and returned to the local FSA office by Dec. 4.

Randa May is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency’s Kearney office, which serves Buffalo and Sherman counties.