USDA announces farm program sign-up details

Kent Thiesse
Farm Management Analyst and Vice President, MinnStar Bank

USDA has announced sign-up details for the 2019 and 2020 commodity farm program, which is being implemented as part of the “Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018” (the 2018 Farm Bill). The farm programs under the 2018 Farm Bill will function very similarly to the farm programs for the 2014-2018 crop years; however, there were some significant changes in certain aspects of the farm program. Following are details for the 2019 and 2020 farm program sign-up:

• Enrollment dates for the 2019 farm program began on September 3 and will continue until March 15, 2020 at local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. Farm program sign-up dates in subsequent years are:

- 2020: October 7, 2019 to June 30, 2020.

- 2021-2023: October (the previous year) through March 15 (program year).

• Eligible cops include: Corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, grain sorghum, long grain rice, medium/short grain rice, temperate japonica rice, seed cotton, dry peas, lentils, large and small chickpeas, peanuts, sunflower seed, canola, flaxseed, mustard seed, rapeseed, safflower, crambe, and sesame seed.

• Eligible Producers will be able to choose between the price-only “Price Loss Coverage” (PLC) and revenue-based “Ag Risk Coverage” (ARC) program choices for the 2019 and 2020 crop production years. Beginning with the 2021 crop year, producers will be able to make an annual election between the ARC and PLC program choices. The ARC program choice includes both the county-yield based ARC-CO program choice and the ARC-IC program, which is based on farm-level yields.

• The farm program choice between the PLC and ARC-CO farm program choices will be specific to each eligible crop, and the choice can vary from farm unit to farm unit for the same crop. The ARC-IC program applies to all covered commodities on a given farm unit.

• Crop base acres will remain at current levels for all crops on most farms. The only adjustments in base acres will be for crop acres that were added via land purchases or land rental agreements, for unassigned generic base acres from the last Farm Bill, or for acres that are no longer eligible for farm program payments.

• Producers will have the opportunity to update their FSA farm program payment yields beginning with the 2020 crop year. Yield updates will be based on the average farm yields for the 2013 to 2017 crop years on planted acres for eligible crops, which will be factored down to 81 percent (.81) for corn and soybeans, and 90 percent (.90) for wheat. If the updated yields are lower than current levels, producers can choose to keep their current FSA program yields. The farm program yields are used to calculate PLC payments on individual FSA farm units.

• Risk Management Agency (RMA) yields that are used for crop insurance yield calculations, which will be calculated at the county-level, will now be used for determining ARC-CO benchmark and actual county yields for ARC-CO payments. The National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) yields, which were the primary yield source for ARC-CO in the last Farm Bill, will now be used as a secondary yield data source.

• ARC-CO payments will now be based on the county where an FSA farm unit is located, rather than the county of the FSA administrative office of the producer (as existed in the last Farm Bill). For producers with FSA administrative farm units in multiple counties, ARC-CO revenues will be “weighted” according to the base acres that are physically located in a county.

• The reference prices for PLC and ARC-CO programs will be established at the greater of the current reference prices or 85 percent (.85) of the market year average (MYA) price for the most recent five years, excluding the high and low year. The reference price can not exceed 115% of the current reference price. The current minimum reference prices (and new maximum prices) are:

- Corn = $3.70/bu. (max. = $4.26/Bu.)

- Soybeans = $8.40/bu. (max. = $9.66/Bu.)

- Wheat = $5.50/bu. (max. = $6.33/Bu.)

Note: Due to lower MYA price levels in recent years, the reference prices for corn, soybeans and wheat for the PLC program will likely stay at the current levels for 2019 and 2020. However, the 2019 ARC-CO and ARC-IC benchmark prices for corn, soybeans, and wheat will likely increase from 2018 benchmark price levels.

• Commodity (CCC) national loan rates were increased beginning with the 2019 crop year as follows (with previous loan rates also listed):

- Corn = $2.20 per bushel (previously $1.95/bu.)

- Soybeans = $6.20 per bushel (previously $5.00/bu.)

- Wheat = $3.38 per bushel (previously $2.94/bu.)

Note: County loan rates are adjusted, based on geographical price differences.

• Calculation formulas, etc. for the PLC, ARC-CO and ARC-IC programs will remain similar to the farm programs in the last Farm Bill. PLC payments are made when the final market year average MYA) price falls below the reference price for a crop. ARC-CO payments are made when the final county revenue (county yield x MYA price) falls below the benchmark revenue for a given crop. ARC-IC is the same as ARC-CO except it uses farm-level yield data and considers all crops on a farm unit together. PLC and ARC-CO payments are paid on 85 percent of crop base acres, and ARC-IC payments are paid on 65 percent of base acres.

• For more information on the PLC and ARC programs, and other farm program details, go to the FSA farm program website at:


Producers have several months to make their farm program choices for 2019 and 2020. There will likely be several farm program informational meetings later this fall and early winter, as well as many farm program decision resources available, to assist farmers in the coming months. Farm program scenarios may change slightly in future months, as we have a better handle on final 2019 crop yields, as well as MYA price estimates for the 2019 and 2020 marketing years. There is likely to be a wide variation from crop-to-crop and county-to-county. Producers should take time between now and early 2020 to analyze the farm program choices for the 2019 and 2020 crop years.