USDA officials announced they have begun signup for the 2008 Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment Program, one of the actions required under the 2008 Food, Conservation and Energy Act.

Contracts for direct and counter-cyclical payments became available at USDA Farm Service Agency county offices Wednesday (June 25). Signup for the program will continue through Sept. 30.

“Within weeks of its becoming law, we began to put a farm bill into the field and into the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer in announcing the signup under the new farm bill. “USDA does what its employees do best: putting policy into action and delivering results.”

Producers can fill out their 2008 DCP contract at any USDA Service Center. Producers can also sign-up online. They can choose payment options, assign crop shares and sign and submit their contracts from any computer with Internet access. They can also view and print submitted contract options.

USDA computes DCP payments using base acres and payment yields established for each farm. Eligible producers receive direct payments at rates established by statute regardless of market prices.

For 2008, eligible producers may request to receive an advance payment of 22 percent of the direct payment for each commodity associated with the farm. USDA will issue advance direct payments as soon as practical after enrollment. Final direct payments will be issued after Oct. 1, 2008. Counter-cyclical payments vary depending on market prices, and are issued only when the effective price for a commodity is below its target price (which takes into account the direct payment rate, market price and loan rate).

Since 2002, USDA has issued approximately $40 billion in DCP payments to America’s agricultural producers. Participants must submit the completed DCP contract by Sept. 30, 2008. Applications filed after this date will not be approved.

The online, electronic DCP (or eDCP) service saves producers time, reduces paperwork and speeds contract processing at USDA Farm Service Agency offices. It is available to all producers who are eligible to participate in DCP and who obtain eAuthentication accounts.

The electronic service is available by going to http://www.fsa.usda.gov and clicking on "Access eDCP Service." To access the service, producers must have an active USDA eAuthentication Level 2 account. To get a Level 2 account, producers must complete an online registration form at http://www.eauth.egov.usda.gov and then visit the local USDA Service Center to verify their identity.

The service has strict security measures to protect participants' private information. Only authorized federal employees have access to information producers submit electronically. For more information about DCP, which will include a fact sheet, go to the DCP Web page at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, commended USDA’s announcement that enrollment in the farm commodity programs is now open. The new farm bill, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, called for the implementation of the programs, which include direct and counter-cyclical as well as the marketing loan program.

He also applauded Secretary Schafer’s comments that farmers will not be required to report crop acreage until Aug. 15th, an extension of the usual June 30 reporting date, without facing a late fee.

“It is welcome news that the farm bill we worked so hard to craft is now being implemented in a way that benefits farmers,” said Harkin. “Even though signup is later than usual this year, farmers will not face a late fee to enroll. This is good news for all farmers, but especially those in the Midwest states like Iowa, where flooding and excessive rainfall have devastated agriculture.”