For producers, the best advice is to enter the process with the best data they can gather plus a little patience and understanding for the folks that are trying to get the program delivered.

One of the hardest parts of the puzzle to put together is the tremendous amount of data required from both FSA and the producer.

While FSA offices will have access to a full range of data on the 2001 and 2002 crops from sources such as the Risk Management Agency and regional cooperatives, there are still data gaps that can cause consternation and extra work unless steps are taken to head off potential problems.

One of the best ways for producers to avoid problems is to do your homework beforehand. Pulling together copies of the type of information needed for the sign-up will provide a quick double-check of the data FSA receives via other entities, and can also be used to fill in the missing pieces that could hold-up the process.

Taking the following steps should make everything move a little quicker:

  • Identify specific production units that meet the minimum eligibility requirement of having a 35 percent or greater yield loss.

    Due to the large number of applications that are expected, it will be difficult for FSA personnel to run data on every single unit to determine basic eligibility for the Crop Loss portion of the Disaster program.

    Knowing which units to apply for beforehand is the best way to keep the process from getting sidetracked.

    A separate Quality Loss program is available on a bale-by-bale basis for producers who incurred quality, but not yield, losses in 2001 and 2002.

    Producers wanting to apply for the quality loss portion of the program should provide a complete bale-by-bale listing of their production, preferably in an acceptable electronic format (county FSA offices will be the best source of information on what formats they can handle) so that each bale can be assigned an appropriate quality loss level.

  • Identify the appropriate FSA Farm Number for each qualifying unit.

    One of the most time intensive areas of the sign-up process is making sure each unit qualifying for disaster assistance is associated with an appropriate FSA farm serial number. By providing a Summary of Insurance Coverage sheet or by marking down which crop insurance unit goes with which FSA farm serial number will keep the process going smoothly and ensure that each unit is matched with the correct FSN

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  • A recap sheet with the average quality of the bales produced on the unit and a listing of each bale's loan value.

    One of the provisions of the new bill that can increase disaster benefit payments is the ability to look at quality losses in two different ways. The first is to compare the overall quality of any cotton produced on a disaster unit against the County average quality to compute a yield factor.

    This factor can increase the eligible payment pounds for the unit. The second is a bale-by-bale Quality Loss Program that will require a complete listing of all bales produced and the average loan value for each bale.

One other important piece of information to remember about the new program is that anyone receiving benefits will be required to carry federal crop insurance in both 2004 and 2005. CDP Participants who fail to fail to comply with this provision could have to refund the full amount of CDP assistance they received plus interest.

That makes it especially important that operators with a Power of Attorney that sign-up their landlord for CDP assistance make sure they know about the insurance requirement.

Shawn Wade is with Lubbock, Texas-based Plains Cotton Growers Association

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com