Computer program benefits farmers

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 24, 2002

Faced with major choices stemming from the new federal farm bill, Louisiana farmers may be able to improve their decision-making with a computerized spreadsheet from the LSU AgCenter.

Under the new farm bill recently passed by Congress, farmers have an opportunity to update their base acres and program yields, according to Dr. Mike Salassi with the LSU AgCenter. Under previous farm bills, base acres and program yields were based on averages from 1981-85, Salassi said, explaining that the U.S. Department of Agriculture uses these values to calculate farm payments.

The new farm bill will give farmers a one-time opportunity to change their base acres and program yields based on the averages of their 1998-2001 production, he said.

Salassi said farmers will have four options in deciding whether or not to update acreage and yield. “If they do choose to update, they must update base acreage and program yield for every crop on their farms,” he said.

Salassi developed a computer program that allows producers to evaluate each option they have available and choose the one for the best situation.

“It’s a spreadsheet that shows farmers what their estimated program benefits would be under each update option,” Salassi said of the Excel spreadsheet program which analyzes farm base acreage and program yields.

“It’s important for farmers to look at the whole farm,” the economist added. “Changes in base acreage as well as yield impact program payments. For example, a farmer may not choose to update if the reduction in base acreage – from lower plantings – would offset any gain in payment yield.”

Salassi said farmers have to work with three sets of information – their crop base acreages and program yield, the estimated program payments per acre for each option and the estimated total program payments per farm.

Salassi said “whole farm” means each individual farm number identified by the Farm Service Administration.

The spreadsheet is available on the Web site at Visitors should click on “Subject and Commodities” in the “Features” section at the left of the page, then “Farm Management” and then on “Farm Update Excel Worksheet” to download the program.