Corn sits in piles at the Sarah Hardy Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday in Traverse City.

By Stan Moore

No, the “2018” in the headline isn’t a mistake, so don’t send a letter to the editor. A year in the making, we finally have the field crop commodity section of the national farm bill program ready for producer participation.

A normal farm bill process would have had producers signing up for the 2019 year in March 2019. But because of the delay in implementation, farms will be signing up for the 2019 and 2020 crop year almost concurrently. This delay benefits farmers in that it does make the 2019 crop year decision much more informed and has a direct impact on your choice between the Agricultural Risk Coverage program (ARC) versus they Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program.

The ARC program provides revenue-based payments for revenue less than a “Coverage Guarantee” level. The PLC program provides price-based payments for prices less than the “Reference Price” level and uses an individual farm’s PLC yields to determine the payment rate.

This five-year farm bill provides a one-time opportunity to update a farm’s PLC yields (to be used for the 2020-23 program years). Updates to yields will be based on the farm’s average yield for 2013-2017. Livestock producers will need to work with their local FSA office to estimate yields for 2013-17. If the 2013-2017 yield updates are lower than a farms previous PLC yields, farms can stay with their previous yields. When choosing the PLC program for a particular crop, a few bushels yield increase in your farm’s PLC yields can make a significant difference if there is a payment made because of depressed prices.

Another change in this farm bill is that producers will be able to make a yearly choice between ARC and PLC (after the initial sign-ups for the 2019, 2020 year). The 2018 Farm Bill also makes payments on the county where the farm is located. The choice between ARC and PLC is made by each farm number and by crop base acres associated with each farm number. Current price and yield data would suggest that your decision between ARC and PLC may very well be different for different crops and farms.

In addition, a producer’s risk tolerance will factor into their choice of ARC vs. PLC, and what other crop insurance tools they may be using for their farm.

Roger Betz, MSU Farm Business Management Educator, has developed a spreadsheet to help producers make the decision between ARC and PLC by crop and farm. The decision tool has built-in information from each county and can help farmers make decisions for each individual farm for corn, wheat and soybeans.

The ARC/PLC calculator can be found at

Michigan State University Extension is providing multiple Farm Bill Meetings across the state. These meetings will begin in early December 2019 and go through January 2020. Speakers include both MSU specialists/educators as well as your local FSA staff. For the north region, meetings will be held in Cadillac (Dec. 6), West Branch (Jan. 21), Ellsworth (Jan. 22), and Millersburg (Jan. 22). For a complete listing of locations, dates and times, please visit our MSU Events page at

Final decisions on ARC vs. PLC must be completed by March 15, 2020, but producers should sign-up, update their yields, and make their initial election decisions now. Farmers will want to visit their local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) to sign up their farms that have historically produced corn, wheat, soybeans, other oilseed crops, oats, barley and grain sorghum, and have an established base for these crops.

You can change your decision choice until March 15. If you miss this date, you will not be able to enroll and will not receive any potential payments for the 2019 crop year and will be defaulted to the previous 2014 decision for the 2020 year.

Stan Moore is a Michigan State University Extension senior extension educator.

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