The new computer-based tool, called the Base and Yield Update Option Analyzer (BYA), helps producers analyze the economic consequences of selecting different base and yield options. It was developed to help farmers make informed decisions from five base options and four yield options offered by the 2002 Farm Bill.

“This innovative, web-based software will provide landowners with options for estimating farm bill program payments and help them make informed decisions.” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M Veneman.

Texas A&M University’s Agricultural Food and Policy Center (AFPC) developed the BYA software in conjunction with USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

To use the tool, producers must first enter specific data about their farming operations, such as planted acres and yields for each type of crop grown. Producers can then enter projected crop prices. The tool will calculate a combination of seven base and yield options and six years of projected payments for each crop covered under the 2002 Farm Bill.

“Updating bases and yields is a complex decision that involves several different combinations of acreage, types of commodities and varying market conditions,” said Jim Little, administrator of the Farm Service Agency during a demonstration of the BYA tool in College Station, Texas.

“We are excited to be partnering with Texas A&M to help producers better understand each of their options,” he said.

USDA began signup for the farm bill’s direct and counter-cyclical payments on Oct. 1. Producers have until April 1, 2003, to select base and yield options and until June 2, 2003, to sign up for the direct and counter-cyclical program.

Payments will be made to eligible producers after they make their base and yield selections and enter into a contract to participate. Covered commodities include wheat, corn, sorghum, barley, oats, upland cotton, rice, soybeans, sunflower seeds, canola, flaxseed, mustard, safflower and rapeseed, USDA officials said.

Direct payments for covered commodities are made, regardless of market prices, to producers who have established crop bases and payment yields. Counter-cyclical payments are issued only if effective prices are less than the target prices set in the 2002 Farm Bill.

The Department has announced a projected advance payment of 4.8 cents per pound and 57 cents per hundredweight for eligible cotton and rice producers following signup. The balance of the payments would be made in January and in October of 2003. No payments are projected for grains and oilseeds because of higher prices for those commodities.

The Texas A&M University’s BYA tool is available online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/farmbill/tools.asp.

Producers who have technical questions about operating the new computerized tool should contact Texas A&M University by e-mail at Bya@tamu.edu. Suggestions and comments are encouraged to help make modifications that could be more useful for the new system.

Producers who do not have access to the Web or have questions about the direct and counter-cyclical program and their options should contact their local USDA Service Center or county FSA office. Producers are also advised to consult with their local FSA office before reaching any final conclusions about their choices. More information about the 2002 farm bill is available at http://www.usda.gov.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com