Two Questions Help Determine If Updated FSA
Power of Attorney Forms Are Needed In 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009                           By Shawn Wade

      With the start of sign-up for the 2009 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP), some High Plains cotton producers are learning that they might have to obtain updated Power of Attorney forms before they can get the process started.

      According to the Farm Service Agency, changes made by the 2008 Farm Bill may require some producers and landowners (grantors) who previously executed FSA-211 or other Power of Attorney (POA), authorizing an attorney-in-fact to act on their behalf to redo this important paperwork.

      While not every producer or landowner will have to go through this process before they can complete their 2009 DCP sign-up, others will. The difference between needing to complete a new FSA-211 POA and having what you need already in place boils down to the answers you give to two simple questions.

What does your current POA authorize?

      Question one involves how the grantor checked two key boxes on the POA form that is currently on file with FSA. Many producers and landowners were asked to complete new POA forms prior to signing up for the 2008 DCP. Some of these POA's were filed just a few months ago.

      At that time FSA explained to growers and landowners updating their POA's why the POA they had on file needed to be updated and advised them to complete the new forms by checking the option granting authority to their attorney-in-fact for "All current and all future programs" and also checking the box granting that person authority to perform "All Actions" in stead of limiting their authority to only specific activities.

      Growers who can answer question one with a "Yes" that both the "All current and all future programs" and the "All Actions" options were selected are clear to act on the grantors behalf for purposes of the 2009-2012 DCP programs as well as activity related to the Commodity Credit Corporation loan program.

      Unfortunately, even though the old POA form will work fine for DCP purposes, the designated attorney-in-fact may not have the ability to act on the grantors behalf for Conservation Programs provided through the Natural Resources Conservation Service or certain other actions.

      USDA recently revised the FSA-211 form, which previously authorized action under FSA and CCC programs, to add NRCS program authority and new certification actions required by the 2008 Farm Bill to the list of covered activities.

Do you need NRCS authority?

      That brings us to the second question that a producer or landowner (grantor) needs to answer: Does the attorney-in-fact currently need authority to deal with programs administered through the NRCS? If the answer to that question is "No" then a new FSA-211 POA form is not required at this time.

      If the answer to that question is "Yes" then a new FSA-211 form needs to be filled out and put on file.

      Don't forget that if, at a future date, the grantor of the POA needs to add authority for their designee to act on their behalf with the NRCS a new FSA-211 can be executed as necessary.

      While it is clear that not every producer or landowner will need to redo their POA's, it is a good idea to double-check with the local Farm Service Agency office to verify whether or not the form currently on file allow them to do everything they need them to do. Some offices may strongly suggest that a grower go ahead and get updated POA forms completed "just to be safe," when in fact they may not be absolutely necessary.

      If the process of getting new POA's done is not too onerous a grower may choose to go this route. If however, the current forms handle everything that needs to be handled and getting new forms from far-flung landowners is difficult to accomplish in a timely manner, it may be best to deal with future needs when the time comes and on an as-needed basis.

 

USDA Announces 2008-crop Advance
CC Payment Rate For Upland Cotton

Friday, January 30, 2009                           By Shawn Wade

      Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) will make $490 million available in partial 2008 Counter-cyclical Program (CCP) payments to eligible producers with enrolled upland cotton base acres in the 2008 Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP).

      The advance CCP rate payable to eligible producers is 5.03 cents per pound or 40 percent of the projected maximum payment rate of 12.58 cents per pound based on USDA's projected Upland cotton market price.

      The projected market price is based on the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report released on January 12, 2009. In that report USDA forecast the market year average price at 48 cents per pound, well below the Upland cotton base loan rate. The Upland cotton CCP payment rate is calculated taking the Upland cotton target price 71.25 cents per pound, subtracting the direct payment rate of 6.67 cents per pound, and then subtracting the higher of the 52-cent Upland cotton loan rate for base quality or the final weighted average Market Year Average Price.

No advance partial payments for other covered commodities

      No partial counter-cyclical payments will be issued for 2008 crop wheat, barley, oats, long grain rice, medium grain rice, peanuts, corn, grain sorghum and soybeans, because market prices are above levels that would trigger CCP payments.

      Also, no final 2007 CCP payments will be made to producers with rice base acres enrolled in the DCP, because market prices for rice exceed the target price of $10.50 per hundredweight.

 

FIVE Public Comment Periods Provide Farmers
An Opportunity To Influence NRCS Programs

Friday, January 30, 2009                           By Shawn Wade

      Following passage of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 Farm Bill) it was quickly recognized by farmers and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel that a lot of work had to be done before Congresses substantial new investments in conservation could begin filtering their way into new conservation projects.

      Among the more challenging obstacles to overcome was the shear volume of new rules that needed to be analyzed, re-worked or developed from scratch to implement the new and/or improved programs.

      A lot of that work is now completed and the NRCS has published a total of five interim final rules in the Federal Register upon which they would like to receive feedback and comment from interested producers and other stakeholders.

Comments On Interim Rules for EQIP, GRP, WHIP, FRPP

      The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), and the Grassland Reserve Program are the first programs for which rules were published.

      The interim rules for these four programs have been published in the Federal Register and are open for public comment through March 16 for EQIP, March 17 for WHIP and FRPP, and March 23 for GRP. Federal Register publication dates for the interim rules were: January 15 for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; January 16 for the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program; January 16 for the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program; and, January 22 for the Grassland Reserve Program.

      The interim final rules incorporate statutory changes and establishes the program's proposed policy for the life of the 2008 Farm Bill. Public comments on this rule will be used to develop final rules.

      The interim final rules for each of these programs can be accessed via the Federal Register at www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/ or viewed and printed in PDF format through the NRCS Web site at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2008/interim-rules.html

NRCS Seeks Comments on WRP

      The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) was another popular conservation program reauthorized and amended in the 2008 Farm Bill. The USDA NRCS is also seeking public comments on the interim final rule for the WRP that was published in the Federal Register on January 15.

      NRCS encourages written comments on the WRP interim final rule from individuals as well as governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations during the 60-day comment period. The period for public comments will close March 16, 2009.

      The WRP interim final rule can be accessed at www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/ or viewed and printed from the NRCS website at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/2008/interim-rules.html

      For more information on NRCS, WRP, and conservation programs available in your community, visit your local USDA service center, or visit NRCS online at www.nrcs.usda.gov or www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/wrp/.

 

NRCS Seeking Proposals For New Agricultural
Water Enhancement Program (AWEP)

Friday, January 30, 2009                           By Shawn Wade

      Up to $58.4 million in financial assistance is available to agricultural producers identified in partnership proposals through the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), established in the new farm bill to promote ground and surface water conservation and water quality improvement.

      The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking project proposals from potential partners through this program. A Request for Proposals has been published in the Federal Register. Proposals must be submitted by March 2, 2009. Potential partners may submit proposals online at: www.grants.gov/applicants/apply_for_grants.jsp

      AWEP is designed to address water quality and quantity issues on a regional level by leveraging federal funds with the efforts of local and regional partners, and encouraging a collective approach to addressing specific concerns."

      The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, or 2008 Farm Bill, established AWEP as a component of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), USDA's largest conservation program on working agricultural lands. All EQIP requirements and policies will apply to AWEP.

      The new farm bill expanded EQIP to include AWEP. AWEP offers financial and technical assistance through regional partner organizations to help farmers and ranchers carry out water enhancement activities that conserve ground and surface water and improve water quality on agricultural lands such as cropland, pasture, grassland and rangeland.

      Under this new program, NRCS can contract directly with agricultural producers who are included in approved partner proposals. Eligible partners include federally recognized tribes, states, units of local government, or agricultural or silvicultural associations.

      Producers who apply for AWEP assistance must meet EQIP eligibility requirements. All AWEP funding must go to producers. Like EQIP, contract terms for producers under AWEP run from one year to 10 years.

      Agricultural producers in selected project areas can apply for available AWEP funds at their local USDA service center.

      For additional information about AWEP, please visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/EQIP or visit your local NRCS office.

 

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