Since the first Farm Bill in 1938, the United States Congress has provided various forms of farm income protection against adverse weather conditions, crop diseases, and depressed commodity markets.
A new Farm Bill, known as the “Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002,” was signed into law last spring by President Bush. This new Farm Bill will guide government programs for the next six years and replaces the 1996 “Freedom to Farm” Farm Bill.
As with every new farm bill, there’s a learning process that needs to take place to better understand the available options. Tom Austin, the Peoria County executive director for the Farm Service Agency, conducted several informal meetings last fall to cover the details of this new farm legislation. The two that took place in the Peoria County Farm Bureau building were at full capacity, as approximately 80 farmers filled the auditorium at both the August and November meetings.
Each time a new Farm Bill is signed into law, farmers are required to visit their local Farm Service Agency (which administers the program) to sign the necessary papers once they’ve selected their options. Since October, Peoria County farmers have signed up for the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. As of mid-January, more than 33 percent of Peoria County farms were enrolled. The statewide average was at 25 percent.
If you have a farm and need to visit the Farm Service Agency, scheduled appointments are being made. There was a six-week waiting period as of mid-January. In other words, farmers calling the Peoria County Farm Service Agency January 10 would have to schedule a visit after February 20. It takes approximately 45 minutes to do the necessary paperwork to sign up a farm.
Farmers have until April 1 to make a one-time election of base acreages for their farm. There are five different options for establishing a farm’s base acreage. There are also various formulas in establishing farm yields, which also have to be selected by the April 1 deadline. Farmers will then have until June 1 to officially enroll farms into the 2002 and 2003 farm programs. Does this sound confusing? If so, you’ll probably find about 1,000 farmers in Peoria County who would agree with you.
Another aspect of the Farm Bill—besides base acreages and yields—is conservation provisions. Additional dollars have been directed to expand voluntary conservation programs over the next several years. The program encourages farmers to adopt better conservation and environmental practices. Farmers are always looking for better, more efficient ways to keep the soil in its place, as nutrient-rich topsoil is the most important component of their profitability. Rain in July and August is a close second.
A final item to take note of is the Peoria County Farm Service Agency has moved to a new location, effective January 13. Its new address is Peoria County USDA Service Center, 6715 North Smith Road, Edwards, IL, 61538. To get to their new building, take Interstate 74 west of Peoria to the Kickapoo exit. Turn south on the Kickapoo-Edwards blacktop, and cross the overpass. You’ll see a Farm Bureau Park sign on the west side of the road. Take the next road west (Smith Road), and the Farm Service Agency—along with the Peoria County Soil and Water Conservation District offices—is located in the first building on the right.
Please keep in mind the Peoria County Farm Bureau office is still located in Peoria at the intersection of Interstate 74 and University Street. IBI