NAWG Weekly Update: August 11, 2016

NAWG Releases Farm Bill Survey to Receive Input From Wheat Growers

This week, NAWG launched a Farm Bill Survey intended to gather feedback from growers about what policies are most important to them as NAWG begins planning for the next Farm Bill. The survey, distributed through NAWG’s state association executives and NAWG board members, asks farmers to describe their experiences with their crop insurance coverage, Title 1 programs like ARC and PLC, and Title 2 conservation programs. Input from wheat growers helps NAWG as a grassroots, membership-based organization work to actively address issues that growers face every day. The information gathered through this survey will guide discussions by NAWG policy committees and support the development of policy recommendations from NAWG state associations. The planning and implementation of a functional 2018 Farm Bill depends on the active and insightful input from wheat growers, to clarify the successes and miss-steps from previous Farm Bills, improve programs that are not as effective as they could be, and maintain and improve the programs that benefit wheat growers. NAWG looks forward to reviewing the results of the survey to learn how we can move forward in benefitting wheat growers through the planning of the next Farm Bill.

NASS Production Surveys Serve as Basis of Farm Program Payments

Just as NAWG needs to hear from wheat farmers about the effectiveness of Farm Bill programs, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) needs to hear from you about your production.  NASS conducts a number of surveys each year and data gathered through crop production surveys like the County Agricultural Production Survey (CAPS) and the September Agricultural Survey are used to establish payment rates for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, as well as many other USDA-administered programs.

Accurate and fair ARC and PLC payments are absolutely dependent upon accurate data.  If NASS hasn’t received at least 30 survey responses (or surveys covering 25% of the acreage) in a county, then NASS is unable to publish production data for that county.  When that happens, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) will then use production data from the Risk Management Agency (RMA) and then regional NASS data to establish that county’s yield.  If the historical yield for that county was based on NASS data, then FSA would not have to resort to comparing data from potentially different sources.  That situation, or if NASS doesn’t have accurate data, can lead to fluctuations in ARC payment rates between counties.

The 2016 small grains CAPS survey has been mailed out, and the September Agricultural Survey will be mailed out in the next two weeks.  These surveys are not sent to all farmers; if you received either survey in the mail, please respond, either via the paper survey itself or there are options to respond electronically, by phone, or in person.  All information NASS collects in these surveys will be kept strictly confidential, as required by federal law.  The results of these surveys will be available in aggregate form only, ensuring that no individual operation or producer can be identified.

USDA Report Shows Decline in Production Costs in 2015

A report released last week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Services (NASS) shows that after several years of steady increases in production costs, farm production expenditures declined in 2015 by 8.8 percent on average from 2014.  The report, based on data obtained through NASS’s annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), broke down farmer-reported production costs based on type of operation, economic classification, and production region, among other subsets.  For crop farmers, production expenses were $180.3 billion in aggregate, which was 10.9 percent lower than 2014.  On average, an individual crop farm spent $189,710 in 2015, which was down from $213,150 in 2014.

Similar to other NASS surveys, this report provides estimated input costs based on information received through producer surveys.  NAWG staff would be interested to hear the degree to which this information reflects the experience of wheat farmers.

NAWG Environmental Staff Attends Monarch Collaborative Meetings

NAWG’s environmental policy adviser was in St. Louis, MO this week to attend a conference of the Monarch Collaborative, which is a coalition of growers, scientists, industry stakeholders, and other private sector representatives to recognize and promote the role of agriculture in monarch conservation. The coalition works to facilitate discussion about what growers can do to conserve monarch populations without sacrificing production, and develop partnership opportunities to increase monarch habitats in rural landscapes. At this meeting, there were panels of growers discussing their perspectives and experiences with monarch habitat, as well as updates from organizations such as Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). NAWG’s environmental policy adviser participated in a panel so far that included other commodity growers and a Missouri state conservation agency representative. The goals of these panels and program overviews is to foster new and innovative efforts that growers and scientists can implement to develop pollinator plans across several states, develop more effective partnerships between entities, explore the costs of monarch conservation, and to explore other environmental concerns.