Farm bill educational meetings to be held across Georgia

A free series of educational meetings to teach farmers and landowners about the 2014 Farm Bill have been set for December.

Don Shurley and Nathan Smith, University of Georgia agricultural economists based on the UGA Tifton Campus, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency, will conduct the meetings throughout Georgia, beginning on Friday, Dec. 12, in Fort Valley.

“The farm bill has changes that are going to require producers and owners to make decisions over the next two or three months. There are a lot of options and flexibility in terms of this farm bill and decisions for people to make. It’s somewhat complicated and there are a lot of questions out there,” Smith said. “We’re trying to provide these educational programs to help them understand what those decisions are and provide some information that people can use.”

Meetings are also set for Tifton and Bainbridge on Monday, Dec. 15, Dawson and Quitman on Tuesday, Dec. 16, Vidalia and Waynesboro on Wednesday, Dec. 17, Cartersville and Hull on Thursday, Dec. 18, and Alma on Friday, Dec. 19. Registration is required, but there is no cost for participants.

A similar set of meetings was held last spring after the farm bill was initially announced. Those meetings focused on the bill’s contents. According to Shurley, this month’s meetings are aimed at helping producers and landowners make key decisions regarding their respective farming operations.

“We’re going to be talking about what choices the farmer and the landowner have to make, presenting information to help them understand what’s in the farm bill and giving them information to help them understand how to make decisions,” Shurley said.

Topics to be covered include timelines for decision-making and who has to make the decisions; how payment yields can be updated; crop history and how the reallocation of base acres works; the Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX), the new crop insurance safety net for cotton; and resources and other tools that are available to assist in decision-making.

Who makes the decisions may sound like an easy question to answer, but Shurley explains this isn’t always the case.

“If I’m the farmer, but you own the farm, and I’m renting the farm from you, a lot of these decisions you have to make, but you can’t make them without information from the producer about the crop history and yield history,” Shurley said. “A farmer that may be farming two dozen serial numbers is not unusual. A total farm may be 1,500 acres, but it may be 100 acres here, 121 acres there, 300 acres here. The decisions have to be made on each of those farms independently.”

The times of the meetings vary at each location. Contact the local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 for specific times and registration details. The meetings that begin at 9:30 a.m. will conclude with lunch at noon. Meetings with a 4 p.m. starting time will conclude with dinner at 6:30 p.m.

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