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We have a number of important deadlines approaching for most of us in farming. Our deadline for choosing our risk management or crop insurance plans is on March 15. By the end of March, we have to decide whether to reallocate our farms’ program base acres; whether to update our program crop yields for the 2014 Farm Bill and choose one of the 2014 Farm Bill program elections.

Having just finished signing up for the 2014 Farm Bill at my local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office, I have to say it was pretty quick, in fact quicker than I expected. I used the University of Illinois “farmdoc Farm Bill Toolbox” (available at: for assisting me in making my decisions on whether to reallocate base acres and updating program yields. It was a real surprise to me, just how accurate the “Farm Bill Tools” spreadsheet was in predicting my updated program yields and my readjusted program acres.  This spreadsheet accurately predicted the same totals that my FSA office determined.

If you collect all your information that you need, the process as outlined in the “Farm Bill Toolbox” is simple. First, you need the letter sent to you by your FSA office back in early August of 2014, which give you your farm’s program base acres and program yields. In addition, you will also need your crop yield history for the years 2008-2012. If you have purchased crop insurance or revenue insurance, then your insurance agent can easily give you this information.

This is all the information you need to make your 2014 Farm Bill election decisions. The only bad part about this whole process is that you have to do this for each FSA farm that you have interest in and that is what takes the time. This should be time well spent, especially if the forecasts for continued low grain prices for the next few years actually turn out to be true.

The other good news is that, the 2015 “iFarmTools for Crop Insurance” are now available at the University of Illinois “farmdoc” site under the Crop Insurance tab. By the end of February when the USDA Risk Management Agency releases the final figures to be used in calculating this year’s premium, you will be able to use these Tools to accurately predict your insurance coverage and premiums for various policies and options.  With farm incomes projected to be tight this year, crop insurance is going to be a valuable tool in your risk management strategy.

I know all these decisions require a lot of paperwork and I know very few farmers that enjoy doing office work, but this year it is critical.

Another thing to remember, you are signing up in 2015 for the 2014 Farm Bill which will last until at least 2018, so you already know the outcome of 2014 and what each program election will or will not do for each of your FSA farms. How often has that happened?

If you questions about this or something else, you can contact me at or (217) 877-6042.