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More than 90k Indiana farms in federal crop lose safety net

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — More than 90,000 Indiana farms are sharing close to $300 million in federal funds to help recover from 2016 being a down year financially for crops.

Matt Schafer, a corn and soybean grower from La Crosse, said the safety net from Uncle Sam is enough to lift some farmers out of red ink, but doesn’t measure up to profits when yields and grain markets are more favorable.

“It doesn’t get you back to where you would like to be in a good year, but it makes the down years from a financial standpoint a little more tolerable,” he explained.

Nancy Best, recently acting state executive director for USDA’s Indiana Farm Service Agency, announced Oct. 28 about 95,000 Indiana farms enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs established in the 2014 farm bill received financial assistance for the 2016 crop year.

Total payments in the state exceeded $287 million, with corn taking up much of the monetary distribution. Payments were also made for barley, oats, grain, sorghum, soybeans and wheat crops.

“These safety-net programs provide help when price and revenue fall below normal,” said Best.

The federal payments kick in whenever producers experience a significant drop in prices or revenues below the benchmark established by the ARC and PLC programs. She said unfavorable growing conditions and low grain prices are to blame for the financial struggles of recipients.

Schafer did not mention the amount of his stipend but said farmers struggling to stay afloat receive enough to take care of equipment needs and pay some of the other costs required to stay in business. “That’s the difference between keeping your bills paid or potentially being able to upgrade a piece of machinery that needs it. Things like that. So, it definitely matters.”

He said private crop insurance is probably more effective for withstanding difficult times and he would prefer not to need help from the government, but it’s nice to have some backup since farming can be so financially unpredictable.

“Nobody is getting extremely wealthy off of this or taking an early retirement because of this, but it does help. It fills in some of the holes,’’ said Schafer.

Open enrollment for farm bill safety net programs for 2018 began Nov. 1 and runs until August 1, 2018. According to the USDA, more than $9 billion in ARC and PLC payments were made to more than 750,000 farmers for 2016 crops nationwide.

“Many of these payments will be made to landowners and producers in rural communities that have recently been ravaged by drought, wildfires and deadly hurricanes,” said USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. “I am hopeful this financial assistance will help those experiencing losses with immediate cash flow needs as we head toward the end of the year.”