Now that the details of the Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Payment program have been announced, USDA is moving quickly to disburse the money to dairy farmers.

If you have production records on file at your local Farm Service Agency office, direct deposits may arrive as early as Thursday. No application is needed to receive benefits if you have participated in a fiscal year 2009 dairy program administered by FSA. The agency will use existing production data for the months of February through July 2009 to calculate and issue payment.

Based on current information, FSA estimates that 875 million hundredweights of milk production will be eligible for payment. The expected payment rate is approximately 32 cents per hundredweight. 

To get a sense of what your payment will be, multiply your dairy’s milk production for the six months of February through July 2009 — in hundredweights — by two. (You multiply by two, in this case, because production from six months will be used to estimate a full year's production for an operation.) Then, multiply that figure by 32 cents.

Using the program’s payment formula, a 100-cow dairy farm that produced one million pounds of milk for the six month period from February to July, would receive a total DELAP payment of $6,400 in one lump sum. The maximum payment under the program is about $19,200.

It would appear that the protestations by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) were largely ignored last fall. Sen. Boxer argued for a payment system that would not penalize larger dairies. But the final formula appears to favor small- to medium-sized dairies with fewer than 300 cows.

If you do not have production records on file at your FSA county office, and have not been contacted to obtain this data, you have until Jan. 19 to submit a request for DELAP program benefits.

More information from FSA.

Reaction to USDA’s big announcement last week of the release of the Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Payment Program funds went a lot like this: “We’re grateful for the help, but it’s not going make a big dent in my dairy’s debts.” If you’re like me, you probably have a million places to apply any extra cash that you receive. So where will you apply the “Christmas bonus” DELAP funds that are slated to arrive in your bank account this week? Whatever you do, be sure to take a minute to share a moment of appreciation with your family and business partners for surviving 2009. May next year be a better year for all. Merry Christmas. -- Shannon Linderoth, associate editor