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Mikkel Pates, Forum News Service, Published July 18 2013

Software problems slow Farm Service Agency reporting

FARGO – The Farm Service Agency extended the crop reporting deadline from July 15 to Aug. 2, but agency officials in North Dakota say computer slowdowns may even make that deadline hard to meet.

Kim Kyllo, an FSA state program specialist in Fargo, says the extra three weeks will be welcome to counties that have fallen behind because of computer slowdowns and a compressed reporting season as a result of late planting.

Brian Olschlager, another state FSA specialist, says a new software initiative – Modernize, Innovate the Delivery of Agricultural Systems – launched in 2012, is eventually supposed to provide more seamless reporting for FSA offices but is not yet fully functional. Parts of the program are working.

Olschlager confirms that workers in some counties in the state using the Crop Acreage Reporting System in the past week have experienced three-minute waits while uploading farm records, while normally those uploads would occur with a “snap of the finger.”

Before the extension, announced July 12, he expected that every county in the state would have to set up registers, to put names on lists for people to come in after the deadline to complete the reports.

Some counties were roughly half done as of July 11, primarily because of the internal computer issues. Some of the delays are worsened by the fact that more people have been on the system all at once because of a late spring planting and a late, piled up reporting season.

“Some producers went straight from seeding into spraying, and never had a break to come in and report their acreage, while in a normal year they would,” Olschlager said.

When fully implemented, MIDAS is designed so that once the system is opened by an FSA employee, various databases can be accessed without going in and out of the system. “Our name-and-address records and our farm records are the two primary phases we have available now,” Olschlager says. “We’ve had the major issues with the farm records in terms of slowness and have been encountering some unexpected errors.”

He says this is the third or fourth season with the CARS part of the program, and this kind of “latency” or slowness wasn’t expected.

The annual crop reporting provides an accurate acreage report for crops and land uses – including failed and prevented planting acreage. Reports must be filed for farmers to receive benefits of some federal programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program.

Separately, Olschlager says FSA offices are also working to provide county-by-county estimates of prevented planting acres. North Dakota prevented planting acreage is thought to be more than 2 million in 2013, which accounts for about 10 percent of the state’s 22 million cropped acres.