USDA has extended the sign-up deadline from June 1, to Aug. 14, 2009, for both the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP) and the forthcoming Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program. This action extends the sign-up deadline by 10 weeks to give producers ample time to decide whether to participate in ACRE or remain in DCP.

You are encouraged to enroll in the DCP Program now and, if after studying the ACRE Program you find that it will benefit your farm operation, you can modify your enrollment.

Sign-up for ACRE is scheduled to begin April 27 and producers can elect ACRE at their FSA county office after the sign-up period commences.

The ACRE program, authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, provides eligible producers a state-level revenue guarantee, based on the 5-year state Olympic average yield and the 2-year national average price. ACRE payments are made when both state and farm-level triggers are met.

By participating in ACRE, producers elect to forgo counter-cyclical payments, receive a 20-percent reduction in direct payments and a 30-percent reduction in loan rates.

The decision to elect ACRE binds the farm to the program through the 2012 crop year, the last crop year covered by the 2008 Act.

As Ag economists have evaluated the ACRE program, many are finding that there might be an advantage with ACRE for crops like corn, wheat, soybeans and sorghum. However, the results for cotton were not as favorable.

ACRE is a complex program for which a new software decision tool has been developed to help producers make informed decisions.

The computer program asks for 10 years of crop yields, if available, which gives a better answer on the probability of payments under ACRE.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service of Nueces County will hold a workshop to demonstrate the ACRE tool on Thursday, May 21, 2009 at the Research and Extension Center on Hwy 44 beginning at 9 a.m.

The decision-support aid put together by the Texas A&M Agricultural and Food Policy Center is now available on the web at http://www.afpc.tamu.edu/models/acre/index.php.

The take home message is this, make an appointment with your County FSA office now and sign up for Direct and Counter-cyclical Program (DCP). You can make changes up to August 14, if you determine that ACRE works for you.

Grazing Land Stewardship: A Manual for Texas Landowners

Texas' grazing lands are a critical natural resource and managing them is both a science and an art. A new publication, available at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bookstore, will provide all the tools and information needed to be good stewards of the land.

The book has three sections: Grazing Basics (what makes land healthy, livestock nutrition, forage quality, water and fences, grazing behavior), Getting Started (setting goals, land inventories, grazing strategies), and Follow Through (record keeping, managing livestock, managing wildlife habitat). Each chapter concludes with a helpful list of actions you can take to better manage your land. (148 pp.; numerous color photos, tables, charts and graphs).

This manual can be ordered at the following web site: http://agrilifebookstore.org.

Jeffrey Stapper is the Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent for Nueces County. Readers may contact him at 767-5217.