It's time for growers to sign up for assistance under the direct and counter-cyclical payment program (DCP).

Martin Nguyen, executive director of the Umatilla County Farm Service Agency, said although changes in the program are scheduled to start in October, growers should sign up before Sept. 30 to receive their payments for 2008.

Darcy Vial, the new county executive director of the Morrow County FSA, said that, although a number of changes are planned under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (also known as the 2008 Farm Bill), she is not sure how it will impact area growers.

If a grower wants to remain in the program they may, Vial said, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture also is implementing a new program known as Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) in 2009. It will provide growers with assistance when the actual revenue for a commodity is less than the revenue guarantee.

"Regulations have not been published for the ACRE program, so I am unclear as to what this program is going to look like," Vial said.

The program will reduce direct payments 20 percent and reduce marketing-assistance loans 30 percent, among other things.

Vial said she understands the ACRE program has the potential to be very beneficial to wheat producers.

Another feature of the 2008 Farm Bill that affects growers' eligibility for the program will change significantly in 2009, she said. Although the new income guidelines will make fewer farmers eligible, Vial said only 1 percent of Oregon growers who were in the program would be bumped off.

Changes in the Conservation Reserve Program also are in the works, Vial said. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will reduce the cap on the number of acres enrolled in the program to 32 million in 2009. This could make it difficult for farmers to enroll new acres, she said, although she did not think it would impact area growers negatively in the short term.

And under the new farm bill, disaster relief programs for crops will be available every year rather than intermittently, Vial said, although producers must have federal crop insurance or be enrolled in the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Last year, program payments totaled $15 million to Umatilla County and $9.4 million to Morrow County.

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