As we begin a new crop year, it’s difficult not to reflect on the devastating toll that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have on our country. As a nation, we should be doing whatever we can to help protect the health and safety of our agriculture workers. Unfortunately, when it comes to how the industry is expected to report acreage to the USDA, we are not.
Any farmer who has gone through the process of submitting acreage reports to the USDA can tell you that it’s time consuming. At best, you can look forward to mountains of documents and forms, a trip to your local FSA office, and hours-long waits in cloistered offices. It’s not the place anyone wants to be, especially when we know social distancing is one of the most effective ways to halt the spread of COVID-19.
But there is real hope for the future, and it’s coming sooner than you think.
Mark your calendars: In less than 65 days, history is going to be made in the agriculture industry. In the recently signed FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, Congress set a deadline of April 26th, 2021 for the USDA to implement Acreage Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI) technology, enabling farmers, insurance agencies and service providers to communicate reporting data electronically with the USDA.
Here’s the language that gives us so much optimism:
“The agreement recognizes the significant potential of the Acreage Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI) to reduce the time and burden of Federal reporting requirements on farmers. The Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (is directed) to allocate all necessary resources to identify the software options necessary to ensure that ACRSI technology is adopted and deployed by the Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency within 120 days of enactment of this Act.” Omnibus Managers Report, BILLS-116RCP68-JES-DIVISION-A.pdf, page 30 (house.gov)
For several years, agriculture workers across America have been using GPS technology and advanced software to accurately calculate acreage and compile data from their fields. Not only is the data far more accurate than traditional methods, it saves time and money. Best yet, submitting this data to the USDA electronically would eliminate any need to do business in person, reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Now is the time to complete and submit acreage reports from the comfort and safety of home. This is an easy win. The technology is already being used. The bill is already law. All our agriculture workers need is implementation.
I urge the Biden administration to not ignore this issue. The health and safety of the men and women who make up the American agriculture industry is far too valuable to ignore this common sense solution.
Deb Casurella is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of MyAgData®, an ag software firm based in Effingham, Illinois. Her goal is to simplify reporting for crop insurance and government farm programs for everybody in the ag industry.
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