Top New Year’s resolutions typically include pledges to lose weight, exercise more, get organized or quit smoking.

But one New Year’s resolution farmers and farmland owners may want to include on their list is to make sure they understand all of the factors they should consider before making decisions about crop programs offered as part of the 2014 farm bill, according to a farm policy expert with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

That’s especially true this year, because farm bill commodity programs have the potential to make significant payments for the first time in several years due to low prices and revenue for corn, soybeans and wheat, says Carl Zulauf, an agricultural economics professor and farm policy expert in the college.

While these payments are not a given, if they materialize they could help farmers and land owners transition during this period of low crop prices and revenues by the standard of the past eight years, Zulauf said.

“Understanding the questions one should ask is always important, as it is hard to get to the best answer if the question is wrong,” he said. “But the questions are even more important when uncertainty is sizable, such as with the farm bill commodity program choice decision.

“You’ve got to think about the programs, what they offer, and what matches your farm. Every farm is unique, so you have to really think about how the decisions will impact your individual farm needs.”

To help frame their decisions, Zulauf offers a series of questions landowners and farmers should ask online at http://go.osu.edu/farmbillquestions. They’re based on the following topics:

  • Farm-yield update
  • Base-acre reallocation
  • Farm program choices
  • Insurance decisions

Some of the questions Zulauf discusses include:

  • What is the difference between your current program (base) acres and reallocated program acres?
  • Should the reasonably well-known 2014 crop year payments have a higher weight in your decision than uncertain payments for later years?
  • If you have multiple Farm Service Agency (FSA) farms, should program choice be diversified across FSA farms?
  • Does the Agriculture Risk Coverage-Individual (ARC-I) farm coverage program fit my farm? 

Zulauf spoke on this issue during the Dec. 1 meeting of the 2014-2015 Agricultural Policy and Outlook Conference Series.

The event kicked off the statewide agriculture policy and outlook meetings, which will go on through Jan. 29 at numerous locations across Ohio. The meetings will feature presentations by CFAES experts on key issues in the agricultural community for 2015, including policy changes and market behavior with respect to farm, food and energy resources, and the environment.  

The county meetings are open to the public. A meal is provided with each meeting and is included in the registration cost. More information on the meetings, including policy briefs and presentation files from each of the presenters, is available ataede.osu.edu/policy-outlook.