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Collaboration Creates New Way for Farmers to Estimate Commodity Payments

Photograph of a soy bean row in a field

As farmers prepare to start harvest in a year of challenges from Mother Nature, they’re also sorting through farm program payment decisions based on the changes from the 2018 Farm Bill. To help with these decisions, farmers can take advantage of updated technology to make smart business decisions.

The Gardner-farmdoc Payment Calculator is an online tool that estimates basic commodity support programs payments (farm payment programs) for crop years 2019-2023, helping producers across the U.S. make more informed decisions on how they manage their farm operations.

The farmdoc project is a collaboration between the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Illinois’ Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics (ACES).

According to Christopher Navarro, a lead research programmer at NCSA, his team is working on building a framework for the analysis of different farm practices and programs, a paper on which was recently presented at the PEARC19 conference.

“The framework allows us to build workflows around scientific models and expose them as web services for which you can build custom user interfaces The Gardner-farmdoc Payment Calculator represents just one use case where it’s being applied,” he said.

Based on the changes made by the 2018 farm bill, an “alpha” (test) version of the Gardner-farmdoc Payment Calculator developed by NCSA is now available for producers to use to run payment estimate modeling for their farms for Price Loss Coverage (PLC), or a revenue-based program, Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC). This alpha version allows farmers to run the payment calculator with a “try it out” button that does not require a login and account. This trial option will be discontinued and replaced by a login and account registration tool with the final release.

The calculator runs different pricing forecast scenarios with minimal inputs by the farmer using a web-based application that works on computers, tablets and smartphones. Producers have run more than 2100 simulations since the calculator’s release at the end of August. Sample scenarios can be viewed at

“Thanks to an incredible partnership with NCSA, we have been able to develop an easy-to-use payment calculator that will help farmers navigate the farm program changes to make the best decision for their farms,” said Jonathan Coppess, director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program. “Between uncontrollable weather and trade conflicts that have damaged markets, the farm bill programs take on magnified importance for farm management. This tool will help and represents further evolution of the 20-year farmdoc project, with more to come.”

Navarro notes that his team will be extending the framework to include more tools to help farmers make informed decisions. “I believe this represents a significant leap forward in providing farmers with a digital platform that connects them to research tools and scientific models that can improve their farm practices,” he said.

Funding for this project is provided by the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program and by a cooperative agreement with the Office of the Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture; it is operated in conjunction with the farmdoc project in ACES. Software tools like the Payment Calculator are developed by NCSA.


The National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides supercomputing and advanced digital resources for the nation’s science enterprise. At NCSA, University of Illinois faculty, staff, students and collaborators from around the globe use these resources to address research challenges for the benefit of science and society. NCSA has been advancing many of the world’s industry giants for over 35 years by bringing industry, researchers and students together to solve grand challenges at rapid speed and scale.

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