Farmers have until June 1 to complete sign-up for the 2005-crop direct and counter-cyclical payment program. Failure to meet the June 1 deadline could prove to be expensive in more ways than one, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said.

“I encourage producers to visit any USDA Farm Service Agency office or to use our efficient online DCP service to meet the June 1 application deadline,” said Johanns in a press release issued by USDA.

Noting that USDA has issued nearly $19 billion in direct and counter-cyclical payments since the program began in October 2002, Johanns said it’s important for eligible growers to participate in the program authorized by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.

USDA will accept late-filed DCP applications through Sept. 30, if accompanied by a $100 late fee. Producers will be unable to apply for 2005 DCP payments after Sept. 30, 2005. Sign-up for the 2005 DCP began last Oct. 1.

The 2002 farm bill requires producers sign annual contracts through 2007 to participate in the DCP. Producers may opt out of participating in the program in any year if they choose.

Producers may sign-up online for DCP at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/egov/edcp_default.htm. To access the service, producers must have an active USDA eAuthentication Level 2 account, which requires filling out an online registration form at http://www.eauth.egov.usda.gov, followed by a visit to the local FSA office for identity verification.

The online service allows producers to choose 2005 DCP payment options, assign crop shares and sign and submit their contracts electronically from any computer with Internet access. The user-friendly service saves producers time, reduces paperwork and speeds up contract processing at FSA offices.

In addition to the electronic DCP service, USDA is expanding producers’ options for completing their 2005 DCP contracts at an FSA office. Producers now have the option to visit any local FSA office, in addition to their administratively assigned center as required in previous years.

DCP payments are computed using the base acres and payment yields established for each farm, which are effective through 2007. Producers receive direct payments at rates established by statute regardless of market prices. Counter-cyclical payment rates vary depending on market prices.

For all years, refunds to USDA will be due from producers if there is a violation of eligibility requirements or, in the case of counter-cyclical payments, if the total of the advance payments exceed the amount actually earned.

The schedule of payments for the 2005 DCP is as follows:

· Beginning December 2004: 50 percent advance direct payment;

· October 2005: 50 percent final direct payment;

· October 2005: first advance counter-cyclical payment (up to 35 percent of projected payment);

· February 2006: second advance counter-cyclical payment (up to 70 percent of projected payment less first advance);

· Dates vary by crop (in general, 30 days following the end of the marketing year): Final counter-cyclical payment (100 percent of actual payment, less any advances received).

Johanns also announced that sign-up for the General Tree Assistance Program, Timber TAP and Pecan TAP is May 31, 2005.

FSA’s TAP provides financial relief to owners of eligible trees, bushes, vines and forestland damaged by natural disasters that occurred during the period beginning Dec. 1, 2003, and ending Dec. 31, 2004.

Funding for TAP was authorized by the Military Construction and Emergency Hurricane Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2005 (2005 Appropriations Act). TAP payments are expected to begin in June 2005.

More information on DCP and TAP is available at local FSA offices and on FSA’s Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov/

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