Digital Acreage Reporting is Here

USDA Modernizes FSA, RMA Acreage Reporting by Allowing Electronic Submissions in 2024

Katie Micik Dehlinger
By  Katie Micik Dehlinger , Farm Business Editor
By filing his mandatory acreage reports for crop insurance and the Farm Services Agency electronically, Nebraska farmer Quentin Connealy can finally separate dryland corners from his irrigated field, an efficiency that's resulted in time and cost savings. (Image by Quentin Connealy, illustration by MyAgData)

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (DTN) -- Nebraska farmer Quentin Connealy put his crayons and field maps away for good last spring, and instead submitted crop insurance acreage planted reports electronically. This spring, he'll file his Farm Services Agency acreage reports that way, too.

He spent an hour connecting his MyAgData account to his John Deere Operations Center last spring. He also used it to submit the required harvest reports for crop insurance last fall.

Using his actual planting and harvest data to complete the reports did more than simplify the paperwork: It improved the accuracy of his reporting, lowered his crop insurance premiums and will result in a higher, more accurate APH yield.

"If you look back over the years, we could have saved thousands upon thousands of dollars," he said, adding that his initial savings on crop insurance premiums was between $3,000 and $4,000. "It's one of those eye-opening experiences, like why didn't we start doing it sooner?"

Connealy was part of a test of USDA's electronic reporting system, allowing him to file digitally sooner than most. This year, every FSA office must accept electronic submissions of acreage data. Farmers must file their acreage reports for FSA by July 15 in most growing areas.

Connealy, who was part of his county's FSA advisory committee for nine years, leaned on those connections to help educate his local leaders on the process. Now, he has partnered with MyAgData to help spread the news to other farmers.

The 2012 farm bill mandated that USDA ease the burden of the reporting requirements for Risk Management Agency (RMA) and Farm Services Agency (FSA) programs. Twelve years later, the agency has built, tested and approved an electronic clearinghouse that will enable electronic submission of required acreage reports.

Farmers can submit RMA data through their crop insurance providers or through approved third-party companies. FSA data can be entered directly or through an approved third-party provider.

The only approved provider for submitting FSA data in 2024 is MyAgData, although MyAgData CEO Michelle Tressel expects there will be more approved providers in the future.

Over the past 12 years, MyAgData has worked alongside USDA to build and test the clearinghouse through pilot projects. Tressel expects farmers will begin filing electronically in greater numbers as they become aware of the time and cost-saving benefits. USDA is doing very little to no outreach on this at a national level this year.

Tressel said a 1,500-acre grower spends about 12 hours compiling the data they need before going into their local FSA office to file and complete the paperwork.

Like most other software programs, there is some up-front time required to get the account set up. But for most, connecting MyAgData to their cloud-based precision planting software -- which includes John Deere, Cash IH, Climate Fieldview, Topcon and FieldAlytics -- takes about an hour or so. From there, the annual process becomes fairly turn-key, pulling your data from the cloud into the required reports, similar to the experience with filing federal taxes through software like TurboTax.

Aside from saving time, filing reports with precision planting data allows farmers to report actual planted acreage rather than using FSA's Common Land Units (CLUs).

"Most of the CLUs in use today were created in the early 2000s by technicians hand drawing boundaries from the best imagery available at the time. In the effort to capture all the tillable acres possible with this process, the result was these CLU field boundaries are overstated by 3% to as much as 10%," Tressel said. "The unintended consequence of that is growers are overpaying crop insurance based on their excess acres."

The result is that switching to actual planted acreage saves about $3,000 on a 1,500-acre farmer's premium for crop insurance.

What's more, "when your base acres are larger than what you're actually farming, you're diluting your APH yield," Tressel said. A higher actual production history (APH) yield results in a better insurance guarantee.

For Connealy, whose farm has 35 center pivots, electronic reporting finally allowed him to report accurate irrigated acreage. Before, he reported entire fields as either irrigated or dryland, which lowered the field's overall APH yield because it included the dryland corners. Now, he can prove the different yields for crops under irrigation and those in dryland corners.

He had to take the county average yields on those corners initially while he builds up the separate yield history needed to generate an APH yield, but over the long term, it should result in a guarantee that's more likely to reflect field conditions.

Connealy likes to use Agrimatic's Libra system to overlay yield data onto the harvest maps in his John Deere Operations Center.

"It sounds like a lot, but now that these systems are talking to each other, it's a lot easier than it used to be," he said. "And it hopefully should get easier with time as we break down these data silos."

Connealy considers himself an early adopter of a lot of technology. He expects the majority of growers to file digitally within three or four years as farmers become more comfortable with disclosing their data under certain conditions.

Tressel stressed MyAgData won't use farmers' information for anything else. "We're here to solely help them transact in a regulatory manner moving from manual to digital," she said. The company is also working on projects to help farmers with compliance reporting for carbon programs that are in the works.

In addition, MyAgData supports local FSA offices as they also navigate the new frontier of digital filing.

"The farmer has spent the time to have all their data input correctly, and we want to make sure that those benefits are actually executed in that third step, which is at the FSA," Tressel said.

She expects farmers to switch to digital reporting as they see the efficiencies but adds that accurate data saves the government money too.

USDA subsidizes crop insurance by paying 60% or more of the premium. In North Dakota, for example, the subsidy rate is 68%. North Dakota growers spent $1.5 billion on crop insurance last year. If they all adopted electronic reporting and reduced their CLUs by 3%, it would result in $45 million of total annual savings, with $30 million accruing to the federal government and $15 million staying in farmers' pockets.

"It doesn't happen very often that you can be in a situation where everyone is winning," Tressel said.

To learn more about filing your acreage reports electronically visit….

Editor's Note: DTN is working in cooperation with MyAgData to promote electronic filing.

Katie Dehlinger can be reached at

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Katie Dehlinger