MFP rates higher than expected

(Photo by Catrina Rawson)

(Photo by Catrina Rawson)

By Joanie Stiers

The sign-up period for Market Facilitation Program (MFP) 2.0 begins Monday at USDA Farm Service Agency offices.

In its first round of payments scheduled for mid to late August, the agency will pay 50% of the per-acre rate set for each county or a minimum of $15 per acre, whichever is greater.

In Illinois, the county payment rate averages $69 per acre, ranging from a low of $50 per acre in Jo Daviess County to a high of $87 per acre in Piatt County. Across the United States, county rates range from $15 to $150 per acre, depending on the USDA’s estimated impact of unjustified trade retaliation in that county.

“There is less variation from county to county in Illinois than I feared at one time,” said Doug Yoder, COUNTRY Financial’s crop agency manager. “The overall payment rates are higher than I anticipated, so that is a good thing. This year is one of the most challenging growing seasons our customers have experienced, not only with weather but with trade, which this intends to help compensate for.”

The program provides direct payments to eligible producers who planted MFP-eligible crops, including major Illinois commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat. Dairy farmers can receive 20 cents per hundredweight of milk production and pork producers, $11 per hog. The program also allows a minimum $15-per-acre payment for cover crops if planted by Thursday (Aug. 1), a tough deadline to meet in areas with limited seed availability and poor growing conditions.

“What we know today is that prevented plant acres left idle won’t qualify for MFP,” Yoder said. “USDA said the disaster assistance bill will have some extra assistance for idle acres, but we don’t know what that is yet.”

RelatedRegional cover crop experts offer advice on prevented planted acresRead more here.

Conservation compliance and an adjusted gross income limitation of $900,000 again applies to this round of MFP. Yet, USDA this time announced it will grant funds to farmers in that income bracket if at least 75% of the $900,000 adjusted gross income derives from farming. Yoder said this new rule backdates to the first program, allowing release of 2018 payments in those scenarios.

A farmer’s total acres eligible for payment in 2019 cannot exceed acreage totals in 2018, prompting questions for farmers who this year added land to their operations or just starting farming, Yoder said.

Gross payments are capped at $500,000 per producer per entity, and the MFP 2.0 sign-up period ends Dec. 6. If warranted, USDA would issue a second and third round of payments in November and January, subject to trade conditions at the time, said Bill Northey, USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a situation where we are back to a full trading arrangement…,” Northey said during a press call to announce MFP details. “If that’s the case, then we have what folks want and that’s back to full access and opportunities for folks to be able to trade, and we will not need those payments. Absent that, we will plan a second and third payment, likely the remaining half split between those two times for those who still have payments due to their situation.”

Related: USDA announces MFP details. Read more here.

President Donald Trump authorized USDA to provide up to $14.5 billion in direct payments to farmers with commodities directly impacted by tariffs. USDA paid nearly $8.6 billion to producers who applied for MFP in 2018, a payment made on a per-commodity rather than per-county basis.

“While this second round of payments will help farmers recover damages caused by lost markets and the worst planting season in memory, this is not a long-term solution,” said Richard Guebert Jr., Illinois Farm Bureau president. “We would much rather have our trade agreements back in place and solutions to our challenges with China, Japan, the European Union, and particularly, our neighbors to the North and South.”

IFB has posted a USDA/IDOA Farm Program Dates & Rules document outlining MFP details, including MFP county payment rates. Members can visit or contact their county Farm Bureau to read the document.

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