Farmers in Audrain County have until Friday to sign up for the Market Facilitation Program, which offers payments to farmers to cover losses due to retaliatory tariffs on agricultural commodities, such as corn and soybeans. Sign-ups started July 29 and a good portion of Audrain County Farmers have signed up, Audrain County Farm Service Agency Executive Director Kahler Mitchell said.

For those who signed up soon after the program's announcement, a 50% payment was issued in August and another 25% payment was sent to farmers in November from the $14.5 billion pot. A third payment is planned in January, but a decision to issue the final 25% has not yet been made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The final payment depends on if trade negotiations with China result in the reduction or cessation of tariffs.

"With the 75% payment, we already have kicked out more money total on the 2019 program than we did in 2018," Mitchell said. "[Farmers] wouldn't be getting this money if we didn't have the markets that we have."

Payments are based on acres planted and vary county-to-county. Farmers in Audrain County are receiving $65 per acre, but payments can range from $15 to $150, depending on location.

Audrain County has 862 sign-ups so far, with around $13.5 million in payments issued. MFP in 2018 was based on crops per bushel and had 1,221 sign-ups and issued $13.2 million in payments. If the January payment is issued, it will be an approximate additional $3.4 million.

"Probably within the first couple of weeks, we had 80% of our sign-ups come in," Mitchell said. "We have about 20 [farmers] left that could participate. Whether or not they do, I couldn't tell you."

FSA is contacting those farmers to see if they want to participate in the program, he said.

Moving from a per bushel to a per acre payout allows FSA to provide more equitable payments between farmers who planted one crop and those who planted multiple.

Farmers who work in more than one county also must apply in the respective counties where their croplands are located. So Audrain County farmers who also own land in Montgomery County, for example, should apply in Montgomery County for that land. The Audrain County office could start the facilitation of another application, but it must be completed in the county where the majority of the land is located, Mitchell said.

Montgomery County has a $63 per acre payment. Crops had to be planted by Aug. 1 to be considered eligible for payments. Payments are capped at $250,000 per person or legal entity and no more than $500,000 can be issued in a combination of MFP crop and/or livestock payments.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com