ARC/PLC Sign-up Deadline Just Days Away

Producers have until March 15th to make their sign-up elections (agriculture risk coverage (ARC) or price loss coverage (PLC)) with FSA and enroll for the 2023 crop year. Based on the number of calls we have been receiving, relatively high but volatile commodity prices for many of the covered commodities have at least a few producers confused as to what would be the best choice to make. Unlike in many previous years, based on price forecasts for the 2023 marketing year average prices, there appears to be very little chance that the safety net for many of the major Southern commodities will trigger support based on price alone. Except for peanuts, marketing year average prices are projected to be well above reference prices used to calculate PLC payments. In other words, if the price projections come true, there would be no payments for the 2023 crop (Table 1).  

This is the reason for many of the calls we receive. The caller usually says they are going to select ARC since it covers both price and yield. While this makes sense, it just isn’t that easy. With respect to price, ARC and PLC are counter-cyclical safety net programs. They were developed to provide little to no support when marketing year average prices are high, with support increasing as prices move lower year to year. Since ARC is a revenue program, there is protection against both low prices and low yields or some combination of low prices and low yields. 

It is easy to see that a projected $6.80/bushel price for corn for the 2023 crop, for example, is well above the $3.70/bushel reference price, which means there is almost no way a PLC payment would be triggered for corn. But the same holds for ARC as well. Under ARC, the 2023 benchmark price for corn is $3.98/bushel. This is calculated taking the last 5 years of prices from the 2017 marketing year to the 2021 marketing year and calculating an Olympic average (dropping the high ($6.00) and low ($3.70) and averaging the remaining three years ($3.70, $3.70 and $4.53). Using yield data for Autauga County, Alabama, indicates a 2023 benchmark yield for corn of 174.70 bushels. That means the benchmark revenue is $3.98 * 174.70 or $695.31 per acre. Multiplying by 0.86 gets you to a guaranteed revenue for 2023 of $597.97. Without a yield loss, 2023 corn marketing year average prices would have to fall below $3.42/bushel for ARC to trigger payments for Autauga County, Alabama, corn producers. Using a 25% yield reduction (131 bushels/acre instead of 174.7) would require a corn price lower than $4.56/bushel to trigger an ARC payment for this year. That is still well below the $6.80/bushel that is projected for this crop year. 

So, what should you do?  We aren’t in the business of telling you exactly what to do because frankly we don’t know what will end up being the best choice. We do have a decision aid available at where you can input your info, and it will show you expected payments under as many different price scenarios as you want to look at. We also have students who will input your information for you and call you to discuss results. All you need to do is call (979) 845-5913 and ask for decision aid help.   

With ARC and PLC unlikely to trigger, your crop insurance decisions take on even more importance. You may also want to look at tools like the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) or the new Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO), both of which provide area-wide coverage for part of the deductible not covered by your underlying policy. Importantly, you must choose between ARC and SCO – you can’t have both.

Hopefully we have given you something to think about as you consider your signup decisions.  We wish you luck, and don’t hesitate to call for assistance. 

Table 1.  USDA 2023 Effective Reference Prices and Marketing Year Average Price Forecasts for Select Southern Commodities. 

Commodity2023 Effective
Reference Price
2023 Marketing Year
Average Price
Wheat ($/bu)$5.50$9.20
Peanuts ($/lb)$0.2675$0.265
Corn ($/bu)$3.70$6.80
Grain Sorghum ($/bu)$3.95$6.65
Soybeans ($/bu)$8.40$14.00
Seed Cotton ($/lb)$0.3670$0.4645
Long Grain Rice ($/cwt)$14.00$16.50