ARC/PLC Decision Deadlines Loom

Steve Johnson, headshot

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, sdjohns@iastate.edu

Iowa producers on row crop farms have until March 15 to make a 2-year election and then enroll by commodity crop and USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) farm number. There really is no reason to delay, as no ARC-CO/PLC payments are projected for the 2019 crops. Besides, many FSA offices could be swamped as the deadline approaches.

Undecided producers should start by understanding the importance of the effective reference prices of $3.70 per bushel for corn and $8.40 per bushel for soybeans. In order to trigger a PLC payment, the final national cash for the entire marketing year must be below these levels. The national cash price projections for the 2019 crop as of January 10, 2020 are $3.85 per bushel for corn and $9.00 per bushel for soybeans, respectively. Thus, no PLC payments are expected for corn and/or soybean base acres that are elected and enrolled in the PLC program.

If there are 2019 ARC-CO or PLC payments, it will likely be in a county with exceptionally low 2019 final yields. These final county yield numbers from the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) will not be known until later this year. The 2019 Iowa yields from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) January report were estimated to be 198 bushels per acre corn and 55 bushels per acre for soybeans. Such levels indicate that most final county yields are likely too high to trigger a 2019 ARC-CO payment.

If there is a 2019 payment, it will likely be under the ARC-Individual (ARC-IC) program. The producer probably has a farm with poor 2019 yields and possibly prevented planting acres. That producer should consider electing and enrolling all crops by FSA farm number in the ARC-Individual (ARC-IC) program if a likely payment will be generated. It will require further examination and production evidence for each commodity crop produced on that farm since the 2013 crop year.

It’s actually for 2020, that an ARC/PLC payment seems more likely. Corn and soybean planted acres are expected to increase by roughly 11 to 12 million total planted acres for both crops as a result of the large prevented planting acres in 2019. Two sources of 2020 price projections released last fall are the USDA Outlook and the Food Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri. Both sources project an increase in 2020 US corn planted acres by 2.5 to 4.5 million acres and use 30-year trendline yields assuming normal production. Those 2020 crop cash price projections for corn are $3.40 and $3.53 per bushel, respectively. Thus, the likelihood of a 2020 PLC payment for corn that would be received in October 2021, as the final cash price would fall below the reference price of $3.70 per bushel.

Using those same two sources for 2020 soybean cash price projections, US soybean planted acres would increase between 7.5 and 8.5 million acres as compared to 2019.  Again, they use 30-year trendline yields and normal production. Those 2020 crop cash price projections for soybeans are $8.54 and $8.85 per bushel, respectively. Thus, no 2020 PLC payment for soybean base acres is expected as the final cash price is not below the effective reference price of $8.40 per bushel. However, the lower national cash price improves the chances of ARC-CO payments for soybean base acres depending on the final county yields.

Producers will also have a one-time chance to update their PLC Farm Yields starting with the 2020 crop. Even if a producer elects the ARC-CO or ARC-IC program option, the PLC yield can be updated and becomes the public record of the farm’s yield. Supporting evidence for the PLC Yield Update will likely come from a producer’s crop insurance records if a program crop was produced in the 2013 thru 2017 crop years. In some cases, the yields for a crop insurance unit might not match with the FSA farm number and will need to be averaged. Note the farmland owner on cash rent farms will need to approve this PLC Yield Update and sign the form CCC-867 unless a power of attorney form is on file.

Use the ISU Ag Decision Maker ARC/PLC Payment Estimator and PLC Yield Update Tools to provide your analysis. More Information on the 2018 Farm Bill, including web casts on various pieces of the program, can be found on the Ag Decision Maker Farm Bill page.

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Income Tax Changes for 2019

Charles Brown headshot

Contributed by Charles Brown, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, crbrown@iastate.edu

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed into law December 22, 2017. Among many changes, it created new tax brackets for 2018 thru 2025. It also eliminated the deduction for personal exemptions and raised the standard deduction in 2019 to $12,200 for single fliers, $24,400 for married filing jointly and $18,350 for head of households. Keep in mind that most of the changes in TCJA end in 2025 and move back to pre-2018 tax law.

Table 1. Tax Brackets and Rates, 2019

Section 179 Expense election was one of the changes that was made permanent. In 2019, this is now $1,020,000 and the phase-out starts at $2,550,000. On Iowa returns, the maximum amount is $100,000 and the phase-out starts at $400,000. In 2020, Iowa couples with the Federal amounts.

One of the other major changes in the TCJA was the repeal of like-kind exchange treatment for traded personal property. Under old law when a farmer traded machinery, the farmer depreciated the difference paid plus any remaining basis on the item traded in and no taxes were due. Under TCJA when a farmer trades machinery, the trade is considered a sale in the amount the dealer allowed for the trade-in, triggering ordinary taxable gain, and the farmer gets to depreciate the full purchase price of the machinery received. If the farmer does not want to pay tax on the gain of the trade-in, they are forced to use Section 179 or bonus depreciation to offset the taxable gain. Iowa did not couple with the Federal change in 2018, but maintained the old like-kind exchange rules. In 2019, for Iowa returns, farmers may use the old rule for like-kind exchanges or use the new Federal rule. In 2020, Iowa will couple with the Federal rule.

If farmers are forced to use Section 179 or bonus depreciation to offset gains from trading machinery, there can be other consequences. Excessive accelerated methods of depreciation reduce net Schedule F income, possibly taking it down to $0 or maybe even a negative situation. IRA and other retirement plan contributions are based on earned income (Schedule F). The deduction for self-employed health insurance is based on Schedule F net income. Contributions for self-employment tax are based on Schedule F net income. Reducing Schedule F income affects money available for retirement planning and other “above the line” deductions taken on the 1040. Also new in 2018 was the new “post card” 1040 Form that also had multiple schedules attached to it. After numerous complaints, there is another new 1040 Form for 2019. This one is a combination of the old 1040 and the 1040 from 2018. Maybe eventually they will get it right. I am not sure I can stand more simplification in our tax code.

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Pricing drought damaged silage

Contributed by William Edwards, extension economist

Corn that has suffered severe drought damage is sometimes harvested as silage instead of as grain. It can still have significant feed value if harvested at the right stage. See the article “Alternatives for Drought-damaged Corn—Grain Crop or Forage” for harvesting recommendations. Any damaged acres that are covered by crop insurance should be viewed by an adjuster and released by the insurance company before harvesting takes place.

Grain producers may be willing to sell to the corn standing in the field, to be harvested by the livestock producer or a custom operator. The buyer and the seller must agree on a selling price.  The seller would need to receive a price that would give at least as good a return as could be received from harvesting the corn as grain. The buyer would need to pay a price that would not exceed the feeding value of the corn.  Within that range the price can be negotiated.

One ton of normal, mature standing corn silage at 60% to 70% moisture can be valued at about 10 times the price of a bushel of corn. For a $3.50 corn price, a ton of silage would be worth about $35 per ton. However, drought stressed corn may have only 5 bushels of grain per ton of silage instead of the normal 6 to 7 bushels. A value of about 9 times the price of corn would more appropriate. For silage with little grain content, a factor of 8 times the price of corn can be used.

If the crop is sold after being harvested and transported, those costs must be added to that value, typically $5 to $10 per ton, depending on whether it is done by a custom operator or the buyer, and the distance it is hauled. A buyer would only consider the variable costs for harvesting and hauling, whereas a custom operator would need to recover fixed costs, as well.

More information on valuing forage in the field, including an electronic spreadsheet for estimating a value for corn silage, for both the buyer and the seller, is available from Ag Decision Maker.

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Videos provide financial tips, explain mediation

Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, highlights new Iowa State University Extension and Outreach videos for today’s current farm financial situation.

With commodity prices low and projected to stay that way over the next couple years, farmers have begun to feel the pinch in their pocketbooks. This has made managing the finances of the farm that much more important. With this in mind, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has released two videos that deal with the current farm financial situation and what can be done to alleviate financial pressure.

I host the first video, titled Tips for Managing Margins. It offers ideas for how to weather the next few years of low crop prices like protecting capital, reviewing production costs and renegotiating loans.

The second video, called Understanding Farm Mediation, was created in partnership with Iowa Mediation Service and is about the process of mediation. Mediation is an option available to farmers as they work with their creditors to find a mutually beneficial solution to a delinquent secured agricultural debt of $20,000 or more.

This short video provides tips to help farmers better understand what mediation is and when it may be necessary. It describes the process and provides a step-by-step guide on how to prepare for mediation.

While mediation is available should it be needed, ISU Extension and Outreach also provides these financial resources to help farmers create a financial plan for their operation:

  • The Iowa Concern Hotline provides free legal information to both rural and urban Iowans. Services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-447-1985.
  • The Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation provides information about the application of developments in agricultural law and taxation.
  • Farm Financial Associates are available to provide a no-cost look at a farm’s complete financial situation.
  • The Beginning Farmer Center helps inform and support those who are getting started in farming. It also works with established farmers on succession planning for when they leave the industry.
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