ASFMRA Weekly AgNews – March 21, 2017

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President Trump Releases FY 2018 “Skinny” Budget Proposal

Last week President Trump released his FY 2018 budget request. The request is not a detailed program by program budget proposal, but rather a top line budget request or “skinny” budget with the detail to follow in May.  If you’ll recall, normally the Administration’s budget request is submitted in February. The timeline is delayed when Administrations change after an election.  Overall, the budget requests an increase in Defense spending of some $54 billion with offsets in other areas to pay for the Defense increase. The Trump FY 2018 budget requests a cut of $4.7 billion or 21% in Agriculture’s discretionary spending.

The proposal is a one-year proposal only and does not include any mandatory spending proposals. Discretionary spending for USDA includes the salaries and expenses of the USDA agencies, research, rural development, international food aid, and loan programs. Mandatory spending encompasses farm programs, most conservation spending, crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Overall, discretionary spending represents approximately 30 percent of total Federal spending. Many expect the detailed budget in May to include proposals to cut commodity programs and crop insurance.

While the skinny budget is short on details, highlights of the Agriculture request include: • Reduces funding for USDA’s statistical capabilities, while maintaining core Departmental ana¬lytical functions, such as the funding necessary to complete  the Census of Agriculture. • Eliminates the duplicative Water and Wastewater loan and grant program, a savings of $498 million from the 2017 annualized CR level. Rural communities can be  served by private sector financing or other Federal investments in rural water infrastructure, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s State Revolving Funds. • Reduces staffing in USDA’s Service Center Agencies to streamline county office operations, re¬flect reduced Rural Development workload, and encourage private sector  conservation planning.

The President’s budget request also proposes a 31% reduction in EPA spending including a $100 million cut to climate change programs, and the elimination of over 50 EPA programs for a savings of approximately $347 million. Read the President’s FY 2018 Budget Request.

NAR Releases Appraiser Trends Survey

On March 16th, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its Appraiser Trends Study, looking at issues affecting professional appraisers and the work they perform in connection with mortgage lending activity. From its study, NAR found that while most study subjects were fine with their current workload and ability to complete assignments on time, concern existed about future business growth and the impact both of AMCs and automated valuation tools on their bottom line.

Among drivers most likely to cause appraisers to leave the profession are excessive regulation, inadequate compensation for assignments, and increasing costs to do business. The study also found that appraisers are nearly twice as likely to forego VA assignments as the next most commonly declined assignment (FHA). On the issue of trainee appraisers, only one in five respondents was currently training appraisers, but that the number of trainees per supervisor was showing signs of growth. One concern, however, exists in that nearly 40% of current trainers said that clients “rarely” or “never” accept work competed by a trainee, and that non-acceptance of trainee work was most common in FHA assignments.

Of the individuals surveyed (who are existing NAR appraiser members), NAR found nearly 93 percent of subjects were either certified residential or certified general, and over 82 percent were appraising in the field as their primary function. The average years of experience among active appraisers for the study was almost 22 years.  Read the study. 

Governor Perdue’s Nomination Hearing This Week

Governor Sonny Perdue’s Nomination hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee will occur this Thursday (3/23). His paperwork has been completed. He is expected to be voted out of Committee and upon approval his nomination will be considered by the full Senate. After the Senate approves his nomination, which is widely expected, he can take over the helm at USDA. There have been no other nominations for USDA to date (Under-Secretaries and Deputy Under-Secretaries).

Judge Dismisses Des Moines Works Case

The Des Moines Register reports that a U.S. district judge in Sioux City rejected the legal underpinnings of the Des Moines Water Works’ lawsuit that sought to hold drainage districts in northwestern Iowa responsible for nutrient runoff from farms. The judge dismissed the case, ending the chances for a precedent-setting interpretation of clean-water laws. Agricultural runoff generally is exempt from the water pollution laws, but the Des Moines utility argued that the drainage districts were identifiable “point” sources of pollution and should be required to meet clean-water standards.

Federal Judge Leonard Strand dismissed all of Water Works’ claims against drainage districts in Sac, Buena Vista and Calhoun counties, determining that Iowa’s water quality problems are an issue for the Iowa legislature to resolve.  Learn more.

Congress Sends Resolution to Halt BLM Planning Rule to President

The Senate earlier this week joined the House in approving a Farm Bureau-supported resolution (H.J. Res. 44) to stop an Obama administration rule that would weaken the influence of local and regional input on Bureau of Land Management decisions.  The resolution now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Known as “Planning 2.0,” the far-reaching rule incorporated numerous Obama-era presidential and secretarial orders, along with internal agency guidance and policy documents. By reducing the opportunity for public comment, minimizing federal requirements to coordinate with state and local governments and imposing new mitigation requirements, Planning 2.0 would have caused significant problems in the federal land use planning processes.  Read more.

Trump Appointees Can Roll Back Bank Rules, Pence Economist Says

The Trump administration’s initial efforts to attack financial regulations will include directing federal agencies to reverse changes that have been made through guidance rather than formal rule-making, a key aide to Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday.

The White House is trying to fill vacancies at the banking-industry watchdogs “in short order,” Mark Calabria, Pence’s chief economist, said at a National Association for Business Economics conference in Washington. Once President Donald Trump’s people are in place, he said, they can quickly roll back supervisory efforts they think aren’t appropriate.

“Since so much of the Obama-era financial regulation was by guidance — and, I would say, regulation by enforcement — that part of the Obama era can be easily erased once we have new regulators in place,” Calabria said. He specifically referenced the Federal Reserve and other bank regulators, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.  Read the entire article.

The U.S. Has More Solar Potential Than We Realized

According to a new study, if the top U.S. cities identified as having the most solar rooftop potential were utilized, the country could produce enough to power 8 million homes across the country. This statistic was released by Project Sunroof, which uses data from Google Maps and Google Earth, as well as 3D modeling and machine learning, to determine the potential impact of consistent adoption of solar power.  Learn more.

What History Can Teach us About Today’s Farm Recession

U.S. agriculture is experiencing its fourth distinct recession in the last century. A modern look at the historical paths downturns took can provide insight, and useful reference points, to what the economic landscape might be down the road. U.S. agriculture is experiencing its fourth distinct recession in the last century. A modern look at the historical paths downturns took can provide insight, and useful reference points, to what the economic landscape might be down the road.

“We just gotta get through the swamp to get to the horizon. But the question is how do we survive now and at the same time position for a bright future?” said Jason Henderson, the director of Purdue Extension and former vice-president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, during a standing-room-only session at the 2017 Commodity Classic in San Antonio March 2.  Read the entire story.

NCGA Study Shows Crop Insurance Returns Have Decreased

Private crop insurance company returns have decreased significantly since the 2010 renegotiation of the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) between the insurance companies and the federal government, and are in line with benchmarks established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, according to a new study released this week by the National Corn Growers Association.  Read the study.

In Memory

C. Brent Kerns, ARA –  Danville, Indiana

ASFMRA was honored and pleased to welcome C. Brent Kerns, ARA into the membership in 1990. Brent obtained his Accredited Rural Appraiser (ARA) designation and maintained his Accredited membership. He was active on the local level with the Indiana Chapter serving as the Chapter’s Ethics Committee Chair and Government Relations Committee Chair for both the appraisal and management sides. Brent passed away on March 10, 2017. Brent made many friends through his years of membership with the Society who will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.  Get more information on Brent.

Dr. Ivan W. Schmedemann –  Kerrville, Texas

ASFMRA was pleased and honored to welcome Ivan W. Schmedemann, Ph.D. into the membership in 1978. ‘Doc’ was an Honorary member. He was previously a professor at Texas A&M and one of his students in the 1970’s was Paul Bierschwale, ARA. Doc influenced countless lives with his wisdom and knowledge. We have been informed that Doc and his wife, Luanne, led a life full of adventures that took them from Kansas, Ethiopia, and ended in Texas. Doc made many friends through his association with the Society over the years who will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Luanne, and his family.