SURE is another program that has a great length of time between the crop and the payment, since the payment is based on the marketing year, which does not start until the crop is harvested. Add 12 months to that time, plus a couple more months for calculations and processing, and any 2011 disaster will not be compensated until late in 2012. Schnitkey says the USDA is now soliciting sign-up for the SURE program based on the 2009 crop, since the marketing year is now complete. One of the benefits – at least for those who have crop insurance, which is one of the requirements – is that crop insurance data is used to determine the eligibility for a SURE payment.

Other requirements for SURE include an adjusted gross income of less than $2.5 million, and being in or adjacent to a county where a disaster was declared for the 2009 crop. Another requirement is a minimum 10% yield loss on one economically significant crop, which would be less than 90% of your APH yield. Finally, your SURE revenue must be under a SURE guarantee, which requires multiple calculations. Those will throw out many Illinois farms, says Schnitkey, but many farms in many other states may qualify.

Remember, you are signing up for a payment based on your 2009 yield and the market prices associated with the marketing year from September 2009 to August 2010. FSA offices will have a formula for determining eligibility, and the sign-up period for the payment ends on July 29. To sign up for SURE, you are not sacrificing any other farm program benefits; however, signing up for crop insurance is required. If you typically take crop insurance, signing up for SURE may put icing on that cake. Schnitkey says, “In addition, farmers may wish to consider their coverage level choice’s impact on potential SURE payments and choose 80% or higher coverage levels to maximize potential SURE payments.”

Summary

Farm programs are more complicated than those your father signed up for, but two programs that currently may provide benefits are ACRE and SURE. Both utilize complex formulas that determine benefits, and there is no way to predict now if they will provide benefits. Both use marketing-year price averages, following the harvest of the crop. ACRE may not provide any benefits based on prospective prices for the current year, but it does provide some downside revenue risk should prices drop unexpectedly. SURE is the permanent disaster program and supplements crop insurance, which is a requirement for those who sign up.