Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture learned at a recent farm bill field hearing in Lubbock, Texas, what Southwest farmers and ranchers think of the ACRE and SURE programs created in the 2008 farm law.

Not much.

Committee chairman Collin Peterson conceded that problems exist. “ACRE does not work for the entire country,” he said. “We will need differences in the program between different crops. This is why we’re starting field hearings early.”

Panelists representing the major Southwest commodities explained the problems.

“The ACRE program has not been very attractive for cotton producers as evidenced by the signup,” said Doyle Schniers, a cotton producer from San Angelo. “If a revenue-based approach is to gain support from cotton producers, it will need a more realistic revenue target.”

“From available data on the ACRE program it is clear that in its current form the program is not an attractive alternative for cotton farmers and many other crop producers across the nation,” said Brad Heffington, a Lamb County, Texas, farmer. He said the program does not provide an adequate safety net for cotton farmers compared to the marketing loan and DCP programs. He agrees that the target is too low to attract participation.

Concerns with ACRE

“Cotton is working to evaluate our concerns with ACRE so that a constructive dialogue on its future can be held at the appropriate time,” he said. “Unfortunately, ACRE’s experience so far is clear evidence that a different safety net structure, revenue-based or otherwise, will have to demonstrate clear superiority over the current combination of programs before it could be considered a viable alternative for cotton and other commodities.”

“ACRE has proven to be a very complicated program,” said Dee Vaughan, Dumas, Texas, corn grower. “It is difficult to explain to absentee land owners. In a state as large and diverse as Texas the statewide loss requirement trigger is a tremendous negative. The loss trigger for a geographic area must be localized, at least to the county level.”

He said ACRE is even less appealing to irrigated and diversified producers. “ACRE requires that all crops on a FSA farm number be enrolled for the duration of the farm bill. Since ACRE does not work for cotton, this automatically precludes many producers from choosing this option.”

He said the season average market price for determining eligibility also poses problems. “Producers making the decision on whether to enroll in ACRE by June 1 of the current year are speculating on what the markets will do for the next 15 months.”