COBDEN, Ill. — Like nearly every other American, Jeff Flamm is uncertain about how the Affordable Care Act will affect him. But he’s convinced of one thing: It won’t be a positive experience.

Flamm, who operates one of the largest orchards in Illinois, is among a number of farmers who will be doing some extensive math to figure out how to manage his business now that the national healthcare act — often referred to as Obamacare — is being rolled out.

“I can already see how it’s shaping up. It’s not going to be good,” he said. “It’s going to be a nightmare. There will be tons of paperwork. I can see the whole thing blowing up in their face.”

President Obama’s signature legislation, designed to provide health insurance for all Americans, has gotten off to a rocky start, with website problems greeting those attempting to sign up for the program. Those without employer-provided insurance must purchase policies from a network of providers, so-called health insurance marketplaces.

Since many farmers are self-employed, they may be more likely to deal directly with the provisions of ACA. Others, such as Flamm, who have 50 or more employees, also must decide how to follow the law from the employer side.

Margaret Vaughn, executive director of the Illinois Rural Health Association, said the impact of the legislation is still uncertain. Many people who will be most affected are in a holding pattern.

“Most farmers purchase their own private insurance, with the exception of those whose spouses work outside the farm in positions in which their employers provide health insurance which covers their family,” she said.

“There has not been an immediate impact has far as the ACA, but everyone is apprehensive about their future coverage and taking a wait-and-see approach at this point.”

Adam Nielsen, Illinois Farm Bureau’s director of national legislation, agreed that it is too early to tell how Obamacare will affect farmers.

“Many people are calling their congressmen right now, and telling them they’ve been canceled,” he said. “I’m not aware of what the situation is with Illinois farmers. A lot of them have off-the-farm jobs or a spouse who works off the farm and is covered by somebody’s plan.

“Thousands, probably, have individual polices. How is it affecting them? I don’t know. I wish I did.”

ACA also will have major implications for Frey Produce in Keenes, one of the state’s largest producers of fresh-market pumpkins. The Wayne County farm employs as many as 400 workers during the peak season, and though many are migrants with government guest worker permits, they are still counted as employees for purposes of the ACA.

That means that the business would have to pay fines of $2,800 per employee unless they are all offered a company policy. And because the new law requires a minimum coverage threshold, it would drastically increase costs for the company and the employees, according to owner Sarah Talley-Frey.

“It would bankrupt our company to send that money for these workers working six months and less,” she said

That may result in reducing hours for seasonal employees and hiring more, so that all fall under the 30-hour workweek that — under the law — is considered full time.

“What we’re trying to do now is reduce the contract time period that they’re here for, bringing in a higher number of workers and rotating them out more quickly so that they stay under the threshold of being a part-time employee,” Talley-Frey said. “Most of these guys during the season are used to getting 60 hours a week. It cuts the amount of time you can give them to less than half.”

Flamm has considered the same thing, but there is a problem: the available workforce.

“I would consider that, but we’re short-handed all the time anyway,” he said. “When you’ve got somebody willing to come to work, you want them there. We hardly have enough help to get the job done anyway.”

Talley-Frey said the law may make it more difficult to get good workers.

“I think that they’re going to be discouraged because they expect to work the hours that are necessary in our industry,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that this law exists. You’re faced with taking time and energy and productivity away from what you’re doing for a living.”

The full-time, domestic employees at Frey Farms have employer-sponsored health insurance now, but probably won’t a year from now.

“We’ll have to drop all our domestic employees because we will be faced with the fines for guest workers,” Talley-Frey said.

One thing going for Flamm, Talley-Frey and other ag employers is that they have a year to figure out how to deal with the law. That’s because the Obama administration granted a year’s delay before the employer mandate takes effect.

“We dodged the bullet for one year,” Talley-Frey said. “But we’re going to have to figure out a way to make it work.”