Comparison of 2016 ARC-CO and PLC Payments

October 14, 2017

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The United States Department of Agriculture will issue farm safety net payments this month. Todd Gleason has more on the payments for this year, and projections for next year with University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey. You may listen to that conversation.

Schnitkey, his University of Illinois colleagues Nick Paulson & Jonathan Coppess, and Ohio State’s Carl Zulauf also explored how the 2016 ARC County payments would compare to those from its counterpart USDA safety net program, PLC. This exploration is a head to head look at how each program performed.

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The four academics compared PLC and ARC-CO payment levels per base acre in 2016. They looked at corn and wheat and then did a simple calculation for each to illustrate which USDA farm safety net program made the largest payments for 2016. They calculated by county, for the whole of the United States, the average county-wide ARC payment and then subtracted from it the calculated average county-wide PLC payment. The differences where mapped.

2016 Corn Payments | ARC-CO minus PLC

For corn, it shows ARC-CO payments per base acre exceed those from PLC in most of the counties in the western, Great Plains, and southeastern regions of the US. In more than 60% of counties where the ARC and PLC programs are available for corn base, the ARC-CO payment is at least $10 per base acre larger than the average PLC payment. The ARC-CO payment per base acre is more than $20 larger than the average PLC payment per base acre in more than 50% of counties.

The exception to this is in the Midwest. Many counties in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota would receive larger payments from PLC for the 2016 corn crop. Despite low prices, high yields in this region had an offsetting effect on ARC-CO payments. Average PLC payments exceed ARC-CO payments for corn by more than $10 per base acre in 27% of counties across the United States, and by more than $20 per base acre in 17% of counties. Most of those counties are in the corn belt.

This is not an unexpected outcome as ARC was projected to make much larger payments in the first years of the program, and then to taper off with PLC expected to make larger payments in the closing years of the current farm bill. It did this more evenly across the United States for the 2016 wheat base.

The vast majority of counties trigger larger PLC payments per base acre for 2016 wheat. The average PLC payment is more than $10 larger than the ARC-CO payment in nearly 92% of counties with ARC and PLC programs for wheat base. The average PLC payment is more than $20 per base acre larger than the ARC-CO payment in more than 57% of the counties. This large payment difference of more than $20 per base acre captures the main wheat producing areas of the country.

2016 Wheat Payments | ARC-CO minus PLC

Again, while low wheat prices had the effect of triggering PLC and ARC-CO payments, most wheat producing areas experienced high yield levels, offsetting the price effect for ARC-CO payments. Less than 1% of counties triggered an ARC-CO payment per wheat base acre larger than the average PLC payment.

In summary, the farmdoc team finds low commodity price levels led to PLC payments being triggered for a number of program crops in 2016, including corn and wheat. Their models show the size of PLC payments per base acre vary regionally by the size of PLC program yields for those crops, with larger payments being triggered in areas with larger program yields. This includes the Midwest region for corn, and the Midwest, Great Plains, and Western regions for wheat.