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photo courtesy of Iowa Farmer Today
LYNNVILLE — Crunch time is here when it comes to signing up for federal farm programs.
With a March 31 deadline looming for farmers who are still deciding whether to sign up for the PLC or ARC options from the new farm bill, FSA Administrator Val Dolcini took time to visit a small group of Iowa farmers last week.
“That’s a big part of why I am here,” Dolcini said of his visit to the Midwest. “It’s really all hands on deck for us until March 31.”
Farmers face a Feb. 27 deadline to approve some coverage data and have until the end of March to decide whether to sign up for the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) program.
But Dolcini, a California native whose wife graduated from college in Iowa, says the deadlines were not the only reason for his stop in Iowa Feb. 20.
Iowa is the 24th state he has visited since taking over the reins at FSA last fall, and Dolcini says those visits aren’t just for public relations purposes. He hopes to visit FSA offices and farms in all 50 states.
“My philosophy as administrator is to get out and visit with our customers and others around the country,” he said.
It’s a philosophy that impressed some of the farmers gathered here last week.
“To me it’s a big deal,” said Bryce Engbers, who invited Dolcini into the kitchen of his home near Lynnville for a discussion with local farmers. “For him to come out here and talk to us is important.”
The third reason for Dolcini’s stop was to speak at Pheasant Fest, an event sponsored by the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, officially known as National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic. It brings leaders of the hunting and wildlife preservation community together and gave Dolcini a chance to talk about USDA conservation programs such as CRP.
The farm visit gave Dolcini a chance to see the equipment and facilities some farmers in the Midwest are using. It also gave him a chance to hear from the farmers gathered in Engber’s kitchen.
The conversation included discussions about drones, confinement hog production, the use of GPS technology and other precision agriculture equipment, and about conservation and the relationship between farmers and the non-farming public. It was a casual and free-wheeling talk.
When the farmers here talk about conservation, Engbers says he is optimistic.
“Most people are realistic,” he says, but “we’re doing everything we can to stop pollution.”
Engbers, who grows corn and soybeans and is also a partner in a hog finishing operation, said while no production system is perfect, the confinement system does contain manure which is later knifed into the ground for fertilizer. And, he pointed to solar panels on his house and outside the confinement building as evidence he is trying to reduce energy use and waste.
Doug Gruver, another area farmer, said most farmers are working to keep the environment clean, but “it’s frustrating for us. It only takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone.”
Dolcini agreed, saying the effort by government officials and by farmers around the country must be a constant one. The hope is federal farm programs can be of help in keeping the environment safe and farmers profitable.
Meanwhile, he says, farmers need to remember that March 31 deadline and make sure they get into their county FSA office soon.
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