FSA quickly implemented crucial programs amid challenging year



SIDNEY — USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) helped farmers, livestock producers and foresters weather a tough 2020, marked with a pandemic and natural disasters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, FSA continued to deliver farm programs to producers through phone and online tools, using social distancing guidelines. The agency also provided extra flexibilities to its programs, adjusting reporting dates and loan processing timelines, and continued to expand technology and streamline services to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

“Shelby County has over of 200,000 cropland acres with the top three commodities being soybeans, corn and wheat. We serve over 3,000 farm operators and owners,” said Annette Purkey, the Shelby County executive director (CED) for the Farm Service Agency (FSA). She also serves as the Acting CED for the Miami County FSA office.

Her report continues:

Key highlights from 2020 include:

Support amid COVID-19 Pandemic: FSA worked with economists and commodity specialist across USDA to quickly build and deliver two rounds of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides financial assistance to help producers absorb some of the increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline to apply was Dec. 11, 2020, and so far, the two rounds of funding have provided nearly $23 billion in relief. Shelby County FSA has provided over $15.9 million in financial assistance.

Disaster Assistance: Natural disasters, including wildfires in the West, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, the derecho in the Midwest and widespread severe drought, took a toll on U.S. agriculture in 2020. Additionally, FSA added drought and excess moisture as eligible causes of loss for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus program, which provided much-needed assistance to help producers impacted by 2018 and 2019 natural disasters. In total, the program provided $1.24 billion in relief. Shelby County FSA has provided over $1.4 million in financial assistance.

Farm Credit: FSA provided low-interest financing to producers to build or upgrade storage facilities and to purchase portable structures, equipment and storage and handling trucks through the Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) program. FSA obligated a record $340 million in fiscal year 2020. Shelby County FSA has provided over $346,000 in FSFL financing to Shelby County producers. Finally, FSA provided producers with more than $600 million in interim financing in fiscal year 2020 through marketing assistance loans, which help producers meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are low. Shelby County producers have received over $3.1 million in MAL financing through FSA.

Safety Net Programs: FSA held 2020 enrollment for the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs, where producers signed more than 1.7 million contracts. Election and enrollment for 2021 ARC and PLC is underway, and those enrolled for the 2019 crop year received more than $5 billion in payments earlier this fall. Shelby County FSA has provided over $2.6M in financial assistance in 2019 to producers.

By mid-December, FSA wrapped up the 2021 signup for the Dairy Margin Coverage program, where more than 17,000 dairy operations enrolled in the risk management program. Operations that enrolled for coverage in 2019 and 2020 have received more than $500 million. Shelby County FSA has provided over $469,000 in financial assistance to dairy farmers in Shelby County.

Conservation: FSA is holding its 55th general signup for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), that started on Jan. 4, 2021, through Feb. 12. CRP Grasslands signup begins March 15, 2021. Currently, Shelby County FSA has over 3,632 acres enrolled in CRP with 2020 annual rental payments totaling more than $683,000.