ASFMRA Weekly AgNews – March 28, 2017

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2018 Farm Bill Update: HIGH STAKES

The US House Committee on Agriculture continues its series of hearings for lawmakers to gather information that will help them develop the nations next farm bill. Today, dairy producers and processors testified before the House Agriculture Committee marking their 11th farm bill hearing. Previous hearings have included testimony from a total of nearly 30 advocacy interests like the livestock industry, nutrition advocates, specialty crop interests, international market development, conservation, rural development, and energy interests. Two additional hearings have been scheduled for next week on (Title I) Commodities and Credit. The House Agriculture Committee is expected to schedule multiple listening sessions and hearings on the next farm bill in several locations throughout the U.S. in coming months.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture has held one field hearing in Manhattan, KS in February. The Senate Agriculture Committee has dedicated its attention to the confirmation of (former GA) Governor George “Sonny” Perdue as the next Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture. The first confirmation hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, March 23 at 10 am.

To review highlights of the House farm bill hearings and our current conclusions.

EGRPRA Report Sent to Congress; No Increase in Residential Threshold Proposed

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has sent to Congress the final report arising from the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act (EGRPRA) review process. Based on “considerations of safety and soundness and consumer protection, [FFIEC does] not currently believe that a change to the current $250,000 threshold for residential mortgage loans would be appropriate.” Numerous appraisal organizations, including ASFMRA, the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers, and the American Society of Appraisers had opposed any increased in the threshold in a December 2015 letter to FFIEC as part of the EGRPRA process.

It was also noted in the report that FFIEC had consulted the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for its views on the residential real estate threshold, and that CFPB responded that it had “concerns about potential risks to consumers resulting from an expansion of the number of residential mortgage transactions that would be exempt from the Title XI appraisal requirement.” FFIEC did, as part of the process, increase the threshold for commercial real estate loans from $250,000 to $400,000, but also chose not to change the current $1 million threshold on business loans secured by real estate.

Read the original letter from numerous appraisal organizations opposing an increase in the threshold.

Read the full EGRPRA report.

Sonny Perdue Gets Friendly Reception During Agriculture Secretary Hearing

WASHINGTON — Former Georgia governor George “Sonny” Perdue sought to assure farm-state senators on Thursday that he understands the importance of trade for farmers and supports many of the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs targeted in last week’s proposed 21% budget cut.

President Trump’s nominee to head the department, named just the day before the president took office, said he was not consulted on the proposed $4.7 billion cut over this year’s funding level that would eliminate water and wastewater loan programs, the department’s statistical capabilities and foreign food aid.

Asked by the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, whether he supported clean water for rural communities, access to research tools, and the USDA organic program — programs she said are “zeroed out” in the president’s budget — Perdue said he did. Asked if he had been consulted during preparation of the budget blueprint, Perdue was clear he had not.  Read more about what Sonny had to say.

USDA Announces $6 Million to Aid Fire-Affected Farmers and Ranchers in Midwest

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing the availability of more than $6 million in funding to implement practices that will help private farmers, ranchers and forest landowners affected by the wildfires blazing in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

“We have seen the devastating effects of these wildfires on agricultural operations and the funding announced today can help communities of farmers and ranchers start the process of recovery,” said Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Young. “USDA is here to offer assistance, and I encourage producers who experienced losses to take full advantage of our financial and technical assistance to aid in their recovery efforts and alleviate part of the financial burden caused by these tragic events.”

The funding, made available by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), will assist local producers as they begin to restore scorched grazing land, rebuild fencing, protect damaged watersheds, and implement various conservation measures to mitigate losses.

EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to help plan and implement conservation practices that address priority local and state resource concerns. Producers must submit a complete program application, establish “farm records”, and other documentation to support eligibility to be considered for financial assistance through EQIP. Get step-by-step assistance.

States will begin accepting applications in the near future. Producers in the affected counties are encouraged to check with their local NRCS service centers for additional information.

Large Family Farms: Few in Number, Big Output

A quarter-century ago, small farms generated 46% of U.S. agricultural production. Today, the powerhouse of production is the large family farm with more than $1 million a year in gross cash farm income (GCFI). They represented 2.9% of the U.S. farm total in 2015 but were responsible for 42% of ag output, say USDA economists James MacDonald and Robert Hoppe.

When all types of ownership are considered, there were 65,000 farms with $1 million or more GCFI. Some 90% were family owned. The remaining 6,300 farms included 1,760 corporations. Almost all of the rest were partnerships, cooperatives, or operated by managers on behalf of trusts, estates, families, or institutions. Most of the corporate farms had 10 or fewer shareholders.

“Large corporations play important roles in setting procurement standards and organizing supply chains for farm products, but they directly operate very few U.S. farms,” say MacDonald and Hoppe. They total a few hundred farms out of more than 2 million.  Learn more.

Growers Still Plan to Push Soybeans

Penton Ag’s Farm Futures releases its latest producer survey that shows acreage shifts in play in challenging a year.
Growers hope to plant another record soybean crop this spring while scaling back corn acres, according to Farm Futures latest survey of intentions for 2017.

Producers said they expect to plant nearly 89 million acres to soybeans, up 6.6% from the all-time high set in 2016. Corn ground would fall 3.9% to 90.3 million acres.

In addition to switching some corn fields, more wheat and sorghum ground could see soybeans this spring if weather permits. The survey found all-wheat acreage could be down 8.7% to just 45.8 million, the lowest since at least World War I. Growers confirmed the cut in winter wheat acres reported in January by USDA, and also said they will cut spring seeded classes too. The survey put spring wheat acreage at 11.3 million, down 3%, with durum off 10.5% to 2.2 million.  Learn more.

Data is the Currency Driving Everything, Security is the Issue

How big is data in U.S. agriculture? Consider that one acre of corn can generate seven gigabytes of data. With approximately 93 million acres of the crop currently in production, that’s 145 million DVDs filled with information—from just one crop.

The amount of data in the industry has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to precision agriculture and advances in equipment and computer technology.

“From an agricultural standpoint, data is our currency today,” said Steve Taylor, associate dean for research in Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering. “It’s really the new currency across all industrial sectors of our economy. Data is driving everything.”  Learn more.

Appraiser Qualifications Board News

Now Available: 3rd AQB Exposure Draft of Proposed Changes to the Real Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria

The Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) would like your input on the 3rd AQB Exposure Draft of Proposed Changes to the Real Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria. The Deadline to submit a comment is May 12, 2017. Please e-mail to submit a comment.

Read the Exposure Draft.

In Memory

John P. Fredrickson, ARA

Walla Walla, Washington

ASFMRA was honored and pleased to welcome John P. Fredrickson, ARA into the membership in 1978. John obtained his Accredited Rural Appraiser (ARA) designation and maintained his Accredited membership with the Society. We have just learned that John passed away on March 11, 2017. He made many friends through his association who will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.