Minnesota ranked second in the nation in safety-net payments to crop farmers for the 2014 harvest, according to a report issued this week. As of Nov. 5, Minnesota producers had received a total of nearly $602 million from the program during the past couple of weeks, administered by the Farm Service Agency of USDA. Iowa ranked first at $865 million in payments. Others rounding out the top five included Nebraska with $551 million, Kansas at $260 million and South Dakota at $224 million.
The money is the first under a new program authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill that replaces the previous direct payments system. Under the older system, farmers received payments in good years and bad, whether or not they needed them. Proponents of the new system say it is based on need, and pays farmers only when the combination of yields and prices falls below federal guarantees. But critics have said the guarantees are too high, and the new more complicated system still pays out roughly the same amount of taxpayer money as previous farm programs. This week’s report listed the total national payments for 2014 crops at $4.5 billion.
Minnesota and Iowa received the highest payments largely because the late spring in early 2014 resulted in below-average yields, and corn and soybean prices were low. Payments were triggered in all Minnesota counties where corn is grown, about one-third of the counties where soybeans are produced and in about one-fifth of the counties that grow wheat.