After more than a year of work, the final rule implementing the Supplemental Revenue Assistance (SURE) program has finally been published by the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA). According to Lubbock-based Plains Cotton Growers, Inc. (PCG) and the Southwest Council of Agribusiness it appears that the final rule incorporates most of the modifications the two groups worked with USDA to implement.

One of the most critical of these modifications was allowing a producer to reduce the revenues received from crop insurance indemnities by the amount of crop insurance premium they paid for their coverage.

"FSA's publication of the final rule governing implementation of the SURE program is a welcome Christmas present for farmers who have been dealing with the economic impact of failed crops from the 2008 growing season," says PCG Executive Vice President Steve Verett. "Of equal importance, however, is the fact that growers will be able to begin applying for SURE program benefits on Jan. 4, 2010 and that FSA will begin issuing payments soon thereafter."

The SURE program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill as one part of Congresses effort to establish a permanent program to provide economic disaster assistance to America's farmers and ranchers when they suffer economic harm as a result of weather-related production losses.

Since initial passage of the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress passed legislation (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) that significantly modifies implementation of SURE for losses that occurred in 2008.

Now that the rules have been published, producers who suffered 2008 crop year production losses, and have satisfied the program's risk-management purchase requirement for eligibility, will be able to begin signing up for the program at local FSA offices on Jan. 4, 2010. Initial program payments are expected to be issued soon after sign-up. Producers are encouraged to contact their local FSA office to set up an appointment to apply for the program.

Growers interested in getting a head start on the process can download the latest version of the Texas AgriLife Extension SURE Benefit Estimator.

Updated to version 2.1 in late October, the Texas AgriLife Extension SURE Benefit Estimator was developed with assistance from Plains Cotton Growers to help answer producer questions about the program. A revised version of the estimator, incorporating any differences from the final rule and previous assumptions, will be issued as soon as the final rule is fully analyzed.

In the meantime, it is important to note that while most of the assumptions used in the SURE Benefit Estimator appear to have been included in the final rule, there is the possibility for subtle differences to exist. It is important to be aware that there will most likely be a slight difference in the Estimator's results and the initial benefit calculated by FSA.

One difference that currently exists is that the SURE benefit estimator utilizes Direct and Counter-cyclical Program data and Federal Crop Insurance information provided by the producer to estimate the possible benefits that might be available through the SURE program. The FSA sign-up process will utilize a direct data download from the USDA Risk Management Agency to provide relevant crop insurance coverage, premium and indemnity information.

The Texas AgriLife Extension SURE Benefit Estimator is a Microsoft Excel-based spreadsheet. The file is currently available for download from Plains Cotton Growers and from South Plains Profitability Project. Microsoft Excel is required to view and use the estimator.