Date: For the week of December 13, 2014
By Mark Watson, Panhandle No-till Educator
I recently attended a workshop on the new farm bill. The workshop was hosted by UNL Extension and our local FSA office. I truly appreciate the effort by these organizations to attempt to educate local producers on the decisions producers will need to make concerning the new farm bill.
It was obvious to me after attending the workshop and visiting with other producers that this is an extremely complicated farm bill. There are several options producers can choose from and it doesn’t appear there are any clear cut options that will be the best. It seems to be a guessing game as to what markets and weather will do over the next 5 years.
One aspect of the new farm bill that I thought was going to be a real benefit to continuous no-till producers was the updating of our base acres. I assumed that since we had been producing mainly program crops on all our dry land acres over the past twenty five years that I would be able to increase the number of base acres on our farm. As it turns out the only change to base acres are moving crops within the old base acre program. There is no increasing of base acres on your farm.
The reason this increase in base acres is so important is that the safety net that this farm bill is supposed to provide is tied directly to the base acres on your farm. The entire program is going to be executed off the base acres that are established on your farm.
The base acres on our farm were established in the 1985 farm bill according to our local FSA office. These base acres reflect the traditional winter wheat/summer fallow production model that was prevalent during this establishment period.
Many producers across the High Plains region have moved from the winter wheat/summer fallow production system into a continuous no-till crop production system. With the moisture savings the no-till crop production system provides we have been able to utilize this moisture to produce crops every year on all our production acres as opposed to leaving half our land resource idle as was the case in the old winter wheat/summer fallow system.
Our legislators have failed to recognize this change in production practices since the initial base acres were established. I think we need to contact our congressmen and senators and make them aware of this problem. I’m certain there are millions of acres across the High Plains that are lacking a safety net on all their acres due to this oversight.
Producers in the corn/soybean region to the east of us have an advantage over producers in our region with this discrepancy in base acres. Producers in the corn/soybean region were growing crops on all their acres when the base acres were established. They have a safety net on all their acres they produce crops on.
It only seems fair to me that if producers in our region have been growing crops on all our acres because of our adoption of no-till crop production practices we should also have a safety net on all of our acres we produce crops on. As it stands now with the lack of updating base acres, we have a safety net on only one half the acres we produce crops on.
As I visit with producers across the High Plains this winter at the various conferences I attend, I’ll be asking for input from these producers about the lack of updating our base acres to reflect our modern production practices. I would encourage you to contact me if you also share my concern.
Even more importantly, I would suggest each grower contact your congressman or senator and let them know we need an update of our base acres to reflect our production practices. I think it is only fair that we have a level playing field with producers in other regions that have established base acres on all the acres they farm.