LaVonne Wegner spent weeks trying to make sure local farmers and ranchers found out crucial information about the changes to the 2018 Farm Bill which could impact them.
The county executive of the Bowman/Slope office of the FSA (Farm Service Agency) decided to hold a series of eight meetings with small groups in the Bowman office and two others in Amidon in the holiday-shortened week after Martin Luther King Day.
According to Wegner, the decision to go small to get the word out of an upcoming March 15 deadline was the right one.
“I feel the small group meetings were really good,” she explained after the final meeting of the week concluded. “I think the producers liked the small groups and were comfortable asking questions.
“I felt there was a good exchange of information. Different questions posed made other people think about things differently,” she added. “We averaged about seven or eight at the meetings.
“The small groups provided an opportunity for discussions and questions to be raised and answered.
Among the information provided at the sessions was how the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 reauthorized the ARC and PLC programs with changes for the 2019 through 2023 crop years. There are certain commodity crops and eligibility requirements the operators need to know about and how the income support payments would be impacted as well as whether or not the land was idle.
“I think the most important thing I got across were the (2019) changes in the (2018) Farm Bill to the agricultural risk coverage programs and the price loss coverage. I hope I got the deadlines across … so they don’t miss out on the opportunity for 2019,” she said.
For Wegner, going small was a success in getting out the information. “In my mind, it was a more comfortable way to present the information in an informal more than a formal meeting. I think there was more of a comfort level. We discussed a lot of variants to the program, but most of the questions were the same in all of the meetings. I think the attendees got (enough) information to make some decisions. There are resources available at NDSU to help them make their decisions.
“I think we got the information across that we were hoping to,” she added.
The sessions were focusing on the need for owners covered by the farm bill to make sure they met the mid-March deadline, but also notify them of a second deadline coming up in June.
The March deadline is for participating in the 2019 farm program, while the June deadline is for enrolling for the 2020 program, she explained. “The deadline is June 30,” Wegner stressed when it comes to the 2020 farm program.
She also explained that the FSA website has information about the programs as well. “NDSU has put together spreadsheets and information to help you make a program election,” noting that people should contact the local extension agent if they have questions about the NDSU information. “They (NDSU) have actually simplified those spreadsheets this year,” she added.
“This (the deadlines) is our big push right now.... our main focus this time of year. The March 15 deadline is what we are shooting for,” she said.
In addition to focusing on the deadlines to Price Loss Coverage/Agricultural Risk Programs, she also was trying to tell local operators that most programs will not be changing, but some could impact the southwest region of North Dakota.
Wegner also provided local operators with information about the WHIP+ program and its possible effect locally.
“People need to watch the newsletter for more information (about the changes),” she explained. We are getting information about the changes that were made in December (to the WHIP+ program.) As that information comes, we will get it out to our producers. There will be more information coming out about excess moisture and quality losses and its impact on the program.”