Look to Nebraska: The USDA is About to Make Your Life Easier

You know the line, “I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help”? In 20 Nebraska counties, work the USDA is doing this season has the potential to positively impact 95% of American producers within five years, based on USDA’s estimates. The USDA is conducting its fourth pilot program in four years paving the way for producers to choose how they interact with the agency.

Crop acreage reporting has been a necessary component of the USDA’s delivery of programs and services to producers. The USDA Acreage Crop Reporting Streamlining Initiative (ACRSI) established a framework for agricultural producers to submit acreage reports to USDA. This electronic process was an important step taken by the USDA, but the pilot in Nebraska takes things to another level.
Producers can now report their common crop acreage information just once, either to their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office, or to their participating crop insurance agent on behalf of the Risk Management Agency (RMA). ACRSI reduces the reporting burden on farmers and ranchers by eliminating the need to report the same information multiple times to multiple locations, while supporting efficient, secure and more accurate data sharing across participating USDA agencies.

ACRSI was an important “first step” that paves the way for meaningful change that saves producers time and money and makes life easier. Utilizing technologies and relationships producers already have in place in their operations, the Nebraska pilot demonstrates how producers can report their crop planting information in a new way, using electronic systems. In this new reporting method, producers only provided the USDA a geo-spatial description of their planted area (i.e., field). Producers have been reporting this data for years at their local FSA office by marking up grayscale maps.

However, instead of relying on paper, colored ink pens and markers, producers can now use the latest innovations at their disposal to accurately and efficiently report to the government what was planted; where it was planted; and when it was planted. In must be understood that the USDA is receiving the same information as if producers spent hours in FSA offices marking on these paper maps; nothing more, nothing less. So, producers can participate in these new reporting processes in a private and secure way plus the knowledge the USDA is getting only what it needs to administer farm programs.

The Nebraska pilot represents a final step for the USDA to test its internal systems as it prepares for a time when acreage reports can not only be electronically reported, but also be done through multiple channels, utilizing the investments made at the USDA to implement ACRSI.

What does this have to do with the Agricultural Data Coalition (ADC) and the ag industry who work with technologies, data systems, and partner with producers in some way to help add value? Simple: The arrival of electronic acreage reporting in the U.S. represents the newest and arguably the single-most widely applicable situation of how farm data can be used to create value, save money and increase convenience.

How many innovations in agriculture can you think of that have seen adoption go from zero usage to 95% adoption in only five years? There’s not been many. Since this change will influence all producers to some degree, anyone who has a relationship with a producer will also be influenced.

Put another way, if you are a trusted advisor or providing precision ag services to producers today and you understand that 95% of your customers are going to be using a new digital reporting method that none are using today, this new option is a big deal. As a result, most companies offering data management services to producers will want to understand how they can help bring this value to their customers.

Due to this USDA work that is being refined in Nebraska this spring, it’s easy to imagine these scenarios becoming reality in the near future. A producer:

  • reviews and submits information about an individual field just planted right from the cab of the planter tractor,
  • arranges to have planting information that’s uploaded to their equipment manufacturer cloud environment automatically shared with a crop insurance agent. The agent then completes the acreage report and sends it back to the producer for final electronic signature,
  • decides to complete their acreage report using an app on their tablet or smartphone, or
  • remains content and still goes into the local FSA office to manually complete an acreage report.

Regardless of how producers decide to file acreage reports in the future, one thing that can be certain is that producers will become reliant on the electronic information from their operations to complete these reports. Many of them will also come to rely on the value of partnering with others to help them in this process, and those partnerships will require them to share their data with these trusted advisors. This translates into a greater opportunity for producers and their trusted advisors to benefit from a process where data collection and sharing can be done effectively, efficiently and set in the firm control of the producer.

Electronic acreage reporting, is but one example of how companies like the ADC are enabling producers to collect data from multiple sources into a single place that they alone control. From that one place, the producer decides with whom they will share their data. He or she could also choose to not share any of it and instead complete acreage reports all on their own.

Regardless of the path chosen, the freedom and independence ADC gives to producers to collect, store and share their data as they see fit, is powerful. This represents a real value to agriculture at a time when it is very sorely needed, especially as the USDA continues to work through its processes leading to a time when all producers will benefit from electronic acreage reporting.