WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer said Friday that enrollment for the 2009 Direct and Counter-cyclical Payment (DCP) Program for farms with base acres will begin Dec. 22 both online and at local USDA service centers and will continue until June 1, 2009.

Producers are urged to make use of the eDCP automated website to sign up; however, producers can visit any USDA Service Center or their administratively assigned center to complete their 2009 DCP contract.

The June 1, 2009 deadline is mandatory for all participants. USDA will not accept any late-filed applications.

The electronic DCP (or eDCP) service saves producers time, reduces paperwork and speeds up contract processing at USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. It is available to all producers who are eligible to participate in the DCP Program and can be accessed at www.fsa.usda.gov/dcp. To access the service, producers must have an active USDA eAuthentication Level 2 account, which requires filling out an online registration form at www.eauth.egov.usda.gov followed by a visit to the local USDA Service Center for identity verification.

USDA computes DCP Program payments using base acres and payment yields established for each farm. Eligible producers receive direct payments at rates established by statute regardless of market prices. For 2009, eligible producers may request to receive advance direct payments based on 22 percent of the direct payment for each commodity associated with the farm. USDA will issue advance direct payments beginning Dec. 2008. Counter-cyclical payment rates vary depending on market prices. Counter-cyclical payments are issued only when the effective price for a commodity is below its target price. The effective price for each covered commodity and peanuts equals the direct payment rate plus the higher of the national average market price received by farmers during the 12-month marketing year or the national average loan rate.

Producers who are eligible for the DCP Program will also be eligible to enroll in the Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) Program. The enrollment period for the ACRE Program will begin in the spring. Producers may first enroll in the DCP Program, elect to receive advance direct payments and then later modify their enrollment to include the ACRE program or they may wait and elect to enroll in DCP and ACRE at the same time in Spring 2009.

The optional ACRE Program provides a safety net based on State revenue losses and acts in place of the price-based safety net of counter-cyclical payments under DCP. A farm's payment is based on a revenue guarantee calculated using a 5-year average state yield and the most recent 2-year national price for each eligible commodity. For the 2009 crop, the 2-year price average will be based on the 2007 and 2008 crop years.

An ACRE payment is issued when both the State and the farm have incurred a revenue loss. The payment is based on 83.3 percent (85 percent in 2012) of the farm's planted acres times the difference between the State ACRE guarantee and the State revenue times the ratio of the farm's yield divided by the State expected yield. The total number of planted acres for which a producer may receive ACRE payments may not exceed the total base on the farm. In exchange for participating in ACRE, in addition to not receiving counter-cyclical payments, a farm's direct payment is reduced by 20 percent, and marketing assistance loan rates are reduced by 30 percent.

The decision to enroll in the ACRE Program is irrevocable. The owner of the farm and all producers on the farm must agree to enroll in ACRE. Once enrolled, the farm shall be enrolled for that initial crop year and will remain in ACRE through the 2012 crop year.