•Do you intend to clear timber areas or house lots to create or expand existing cropland?
•Are you converting a pasture field into a cropland?
•Are there areas on your farm(s) you are considering cropping that have not been cropped in recent years?
•Are you planning any drainage projects such as installing new tile or grading wet-spots in a field?
•Are you planning on clearing a fence row in order to bring new land into production? (It’s OK to clean brush from fence rows as long as it is not increasing cropland.)
These are highly erodible and wetland provision questions that need to be considered each year by farm owners and operators to ensure you remain eligible for all USDA benefits. Prior to taking any of these actions you will need to file an AD-1026 for a HEL/Wetland determination.
In some cases, landowners do not receive government payments as they rent their farm(s) out to an operator who receives the government payments. In this case, if compliance violations occur on your farm, your farm operator would be penalized. Your operator could be penalized not only on your farm but on every farm he owns and operates even across county and state lines.
All land operators need to communicate with their landowners and make sure the necessary paperwork and steps are followed before any of the above mentioned work is started. As an operator, you need to know if a wetland or HEL determination already exists on the land you wish to clear, fill and farm.
The penalties for HEL/Wetland violations can be very severe. Violations are found by your crop certifications, our GIS maps, FSA/NRCS field employees or by a whistle blowing neighbor. If the area involved in the violation was cropped, all government payments on this farm and all other farms operated by the violator/operator will need to be refunded.
Example, if we determine the violation occurred three years ago, all payments the individual or entity received within that time period will need to be refunded from all farms.
Any penalties not paid can be forwarded to the IRS for collection. A simple phone call or a visit to the FSA/NRCS office can avoid costly penalties.
NAP COVERAGE DEADLINE
March 17 is the last day for producers to apply for the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program coverage using Form CCC-471. Apply for coverage and pay the service fee at the FSA county office.
The application and service fee must be filed by March 17, the deadline date for 2014 spring planted crops which include: forage sorghum oats, potatoes, soybeans, sunflowers and all spring planted specialty crops grown for food. The service fee is $250 per crop per county or $750 per producer per county.
The fee cannot exceed a total of $1,875 per producer with farming interest in multiple counties. Limited resource producers may request a waiver of service fees.
To qualify, a producer must be a landowner, tenant or sharecropper who shares in the risk of producing an eligible crop.
HONEY LOANS AVAILABLE
Marketing assistance loans and loan deficiency payments for 2013 honey crop are available through March 31.
The national loan rate for honey is 60 cents per pound. Market prices currently exceed the loan rate so LDPs are not available right now.
To be eligible for a loan: the producer must have produced honey in the United States during the calendar year for which the loan is requested and extracted the honey on or before Dec. 31 of the applicable crop year; have continuous beneficial interest in the honey through date of repayment of the loan; and been responsible for the financial risk of keeping the honey.
Producers are responsible for maintaining the quality of farm-stored honey during the term of the loan. The honey must be produced in the United States by an eligible producer — from an approved floral source — and stored in approved containers. The containers must be marked with the producer’s name, type of honey, number of container and net weight.
Pre-loan inspections are required before the loans can be disbursed. Honey used as collateral may not be disposed of without approval of the county office staff.
FARM LOAN PROGRAMS
The Farm Service Agency is committed to providing family farmers with loans to meet their farm credit needs. If you are having trouble getting the credit you need for your farm — or regularly borrow from FSA — direct and guaranteed loans are currently available.
Ask your lender about an FSA loan guarantee if you’ve had a setback and your lender is reluctant to extend or renew your loan. Farm ownership loans or farm operating loans may be obtained as direct loans for a maximum of up to $300,000.
Guaranteed loans have a maximum limit of $1,355,000. This makes the maximum combination of direct and guaranteed loan indebtedness $1,655,000. For detailed information, contact the Huron/Erie County FSA office to set up an appointment with a Loan Approval Official.
COUNTY COMMITTEE MEETINGS
The six-member Huron/Erie County Farm Service Agency Committee (COC) tentatively meets once a quarter at 8 a.m. at the Huron/Erie FSA office on the first Tuesday of the first month of the quarter. The next meeting of the COC is tentatively scheduled for April 1. Additional meetings will be scheduled as needed. We will post a notice on the county office bulletin board if the committee must reschedule the time or place of its next meeting.
The public is welcome to attend the regular session of the COC meetings but will not be allowed to attend the executive portion of the meetings. County committee members are:
•Richard Ruess: Chairman representing LAA 2 in Huron County
•Jake Otto: Vice-Chair representing LAA 5 in Erie County
•Gerald Martin: Member representing LAA1 in Huron County
•Chad Lortcher: Member representing LAA 3 in Huron County
•Donald Schaffer: Member representing LAA 4 in Erie County
•Heather Kromer: Minority Advisor, Erie County
Contact your local FSA for more information.