Farmers planning to update their crop base and yield history under the new farm bill can make their own benefit calculations on interactive website developed by the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri.

Farmers can enter the records from their farm and get a quick economic comparison of financial benefits for the various crop options, said Peter Zimmel, of the MU FAPRI representative farm unit.

The calculations can be done on the website, without downloading the program to their own computers. The tool is available at http://www.fapri.missouri.edu/ by clicking on a button for the "Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002: Base & Yield Update Tool."

Under the new farm bill, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, crop farmers have several options on updating their crop base acres and historic yields used in calculating government payments. These changes must be filed with the local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The previous down-load version of the spreadsheet was limited to use on Excel software. The new version requires no accounting software programs for the user. More than 5,000 farmers have downloaded the spreadsheet, which was limited to Missouri users.

The new version, with the larger capacity of the FAPRI server, has databanks for each county in the 48 continental states. Users are asked to enter their state and the county of the farm location.

The spreadsheet offers slots for analysis of nine crops covered by the farm bill: Wheat, corn, sorghum, oats, barley, cotton, rice, soybeans and oilseeds. Producers are asked to fill in their acreage and yield for each crop. Separate analysis can be done for different farms owned by the same individual.

The loan rates for all crops for each year of the life of the farm bill are already included. Those rates vary by county.

If a producer fills in a yield that falls below 75 percent of the county average yield, the program will automatically "plug in" 75 percent of the county average yield, as allowed under the farm bill rules.

By making the calculations and deciding on which options are desired, producers can save time during visits to county FSA office. The official calculations will be completed on USDA software programs.

"FAPRI answers will give advance guidance on decision making," Zimmel said. "The FAPRI spreadsheet is intended as a tool to help producers analyze their options, it is not a recommendation."

The crop price projections for the life of the farm bill, used in the calculations, come from an updated FAPRI baseline released in Washington, D.C. July 15.

Before using the web-based spreadsheet, farmers must have their history of yields and crop acreage, in addition to total farm acreage. They must also know their acreage in Conservation Reserve Program and Wetland Reserve Program.

The software has safeguards for helping prevent errors, such as accumulating more crop acres than are in the farm.