ASFMRA AgNews - January 2, 2019

By ASFMRA Press posted 12-28-2018 12:12


Farmland Value Trends Across the US: Northeast

The northeast portion of the country is characterized by multiple agricultural industries from general crop farms, to timber tracts, to livestock operations including dairy, poultry hogs and horses. It also consists of widely varying areas from very rural to very developed surrounding our major cities. Farmers here are a mix of typical family-farmers tilling from 200 to several thousand acres, Plain Sect farmers operating 50-75 acres, to lifestyle farmers who own 10-30 acres.

Dairy is a major industry in the Northeast and herd sizes vary. New York ranks #4, Pennsylvania ranks #5 and Vermont ranks #17 for milk production in the US. The average Pennsylvania herd size is 80 cows with 99% of all dairy farms being family owned. The size of dairy operations varies. A typical Plain Sect farm is 40-50 cows while large operations have 1000+ cows.

Read more. 

Are You Ready for the Blockchain Bandwagon?

For those who thought blockchain technology is just another passing fad like mood rings, eight-track tapes and Rubik’s Cubes—think again.

In early October, blockchain technology took a big step toward becoming a permanent part of the daily agriculture landscape. After 18 months of testing, IBM has greenlighted the commercial availability of its food safety blockchain-based platform dubbed IBM Food Trust designed for farms, distributors and retailers.

The system digitally tracks food through the supply chain by tagging each actionable event to an audible historical record. Using the platform greatly increases traceability and accountability and allows specific batches and shipments to be rapidly isolated when foodborne illness or contamination are detected.

To date, most of mainstream agriculture in the Midwest has largely ignored blockchain’s implications, especially at the grower and retail level.  Blockchain is viewed as more concept than reality. More hype than practicality. It was and continues to be surrounded with more questions than answers. Even if production agriculture hasn’t fully jumped on the blockchain bandwagon some big names in the food chain have. The IBM Food Trust network represents the continuation of more than a year of pilot tests with major retailers and food suppliers, including Golden State Foods, McCormick and Co., Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Walmart. This group of companies formed a consortium in collaboration with IBM to use its food safety blockchain in order to protect consumers and enhance trust in the food supply.

Learn more. 

New Farm Law 'Better Than Expected'

The 2018 farm bill is the first since 1990 that was enacted within the year for which programs were authorized.
Agriculture may not have gotten all it wanted out of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, signed into law by President Trump Dec. 20, but farmers say it is comforting to know they have a safety net going into the 2019 planting season.

“Did we get all we wanted?” asks Tillar, Ark., cotton, corn and soybean farmer Steve Stevens. “No, but we got more than we expected. Under the circumstances, with budgets, we got a good bill.” He says cotton may be the biggest winner in the new law, and the support comes at a good time for the industry. “Getting cotton back into the farm bill was a big win,” he says. “We think cotton is coming back.” Cotton’s sustainability message, he says, puts cotton in a good position versus polyester and rayon. The microfiber issue with polyester and deforestation with rayon make cotton‘s sustainability a strong marketing advantage. “Having a program in the farm law to support us will help,” he says.

Stevens says passing a new farm law, which was not certain until the waning days of Congress, “is much better than an extension. This offers more certainty for farmers going into planting season.” The surety of a safety net, especially with a program that helps cotton, also supports the cotton industry infrastructure, he says — cotton harvesters, cotton gins and the ag suppliers.”

Stevens says he was pleased, but surprised, at the bi-partisan, and overwhelming support for the bill, which passed 87-13 in the Senate and 369-47 in the House.

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Farm Bill, New Illinois Law, Sets Stage for Illinois Hemp Crop

Amid talk of possibly legalizing marijuana in Illinois in the near future, farmers will soon be able to grow another type of cannabis plant thanks to a new state law. Industrial hemp has long been lauded as a wonder plant. Though a derivative of cannabis, it has almost no THC, the mind altering component of marijuana. Supporters say it can be used to make thousands of products--like paper, cloth and rope, but it hasn’t been widely used since the 1930s. That’s when the federal government clamped down on its use.

Now hemp is set to make a comeback in Illinois. Democratic state Senator Toi Hutchinson of Olympia Fields calls the new law an exciting opportunity for farmers. “There’s so many benefits and there’s so many different things that the hemp material can be used to do,” she said.

Find out more. 

How Does a Government Shutdown Affect the USDA?

Congressional leaders and the White House were unable to strike a budget deal on Friday, resulting in a partial government shutdown on Saturday. While some programs are still funded through September 30, 2019, other departments – including the USDA – funding expired at midnight.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue detailed which functions of the USDA will remain available in the event of a lapse in government funding. “There may be a lapse in funding for the federal government, but that will not relieve USDA of its responsibilities for safeguarding life and property through the critical services we provide,” said Secretary Perdue. “Our employees work hard every day to benefit our customers and the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our programs. During a shutdown, we will leverage our existing resources as best we can to continue to provide the top-notch service people expect.”

Read more. 

China Unveils Tariff Adjustments For Next Year to Boost Foreign Trade

China announced on Monday adjustments to some import and export tariffs for 2019, removing import duties on alternatives to soymeal for animal feeds and tariffs on fertilizers and iron ore exports, to boost foreign trade as the economy slows.

Import tariffs on so-called alternative meals, including rapeseed meal, cotton meal, sunflower meal and palm meal, will be removed from Jan. 1, 2019, along with those for the materials of some pharmaceutical goods, the finance ministry said in a statement on its website.

China will levy temporary tariffs on more than 700 items next year and maintain relatively low import tariffs for aircraft engines, the ministry added.

Learn more. 

Using Tiny Sensors to Communicate With Plants

Building incredibly small sensors that allow them to accurately monitor the health of plants.
Imagine a corn plant wearing a tiny sensor that monitors the movement of water from soil to roots to leaves. Then imagine yet another sensor that offers real-time measurement of nitrates, allowing farmers to apply just the amount of nitrogen fertilizer the plant needs.

This technology is becoming a reality at Iowa State University under the direction of Dr. Liang Dong, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Ames campus. Dong is an internationally known expert in the development of sensors, biochips and micro-electro-mechanical systems and their applications for sustainable agriculture, plant science and health care.

Learn more. 

Top 10 Agricultural Law Issues in 2018

Attorneys at the National Agricultural Law Center have complied the top legal and policy developments that affected agriculture in 2018.
In the world of agricultural law, 2018 was a year for significant developments and changes. In summary below, attorneys at the National Agricultural Law Center have identified and compiled the top legal and policy developments that affected agriculture in 2018, including many that will continue to do so in years to come.

See what made the list. 

10 Things to Know About the 2018 Farm Bill

Producers will gain farm program flexibility and modestly larger support from the federal safety net in the 2018 Farm Bill, which takes effect with 2019 crops. It will be easier to switch between ARC and PLC, marketing loan rates are higher, and there's the possibility of a 15% increase in PLC reference prices. Congress delivered on the top priority of farm groups: maintenance of a strong crop insurance program. Provisions would remove crop insurance barriers to
cover crops.

See the 10 major points of the five-year farm bill. 

Hemp Gets Another Legal Boost

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2008 was kin to hemp enthusiasts and includes language to bolster the crop's production.
Mitch McConnell used his hemp pen to sign the 2018 House and Senate Farm Bill Conference Report, which recently passed both chambers. It was reported McConnell offered use of his hemp pen to President Donald Trump when he signed the legislation into official law Dec. 20.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was kind to hemp enthusiasts and included language championed by McConnell, the U.S. Senate majority leader and Kentucky’s senior senator, to bolster the crop’s production and to officially remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which means it will no longer be an illegal substance under federal law.

What does Kentucky have in mind? 

Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler Highlights WOTUS Proposal

New EPS proposal would redefine Obama WOTUS regulations.
Andrew Wheeler, acting administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, addressed over 400 Tennessee farmers, ranchers, small business owners, and other guests recently at the Wilson County Exposition Center in Lebanon, Tenn., where he highlighted the new Trump administration’s proposal which would redefine the “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

Wheeler told the crowd the main driver behind the new proposal was to create certainty for the American people. “One goal of our new proposed definition is to help landowners understand whether or not a project on their property will require a federal permit without having to hire outside professionals,” said Wheeler. “This proposal would replace the Obama EPA’s 2015 definition with one that respects the limits of the Clean Water Act and provides Tennessee and its landowners the certainty they need to manage their natural resources and grow local economies.

Learn more. 

USDA NRCS Provides Access to Tools

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has a new Soil Tools Web page, a one-stop source for new, leading-edge tools and technologies to help farmers, ranchers, and other land users understand, evaluate, and conserve soils. The new web page offers single-site access to soil data and maps, soil databases, digital soil applications, climate data, official series descriptions, ecological sites, statistical packages, and soil-property calculators.

Access the tool.