ASFMRA AgNews - August 8, 2019

By ASFMRA Press posted 08-08-2019 08:59


9 Things Every Landowner Must Do Before Renting Land

It’s almost time for farmers and landlords to begin negotiating their leases for the 2020 growing season. With 40% of U.S. farmland rented, this market is worth $32 billion.

As you begin to consider the next growing season, you have the opportunity to make adjustments and gain new insight into the health of your land. To help you make the most of this time leading up to farmland lease termination dates, here are nine things you need to address ahead of the 2020 growing season:

Read More Here.

California Farmers are Planting Solar Panels as Water Supplies Dry Up

Jon Reiter banked the four-seat Cessna aircraft hard to the right, angling to get a better look at the solar panels glinting in the afternoon sun far below.

The silvery panels looked like an interloper amid a patchwork landscape of lush almond groves, barren brown dirt and saltbush scrub, framed by the blue-green strip of the California Aqueduct bringing water from the north. Reiter, a renewable energy developer and farmer, built these solar panels and is working to add a lot more to the San Joaquin Valley landscape.

Read More Here.

How Farm Robots are Revolutionizing Agriculture

"High-tech farming” is no oxymoron. A contemporary agricultural operation is more likely to resemble Silicon Valley than American Gothic, what with apps that control irrigation, GPS systems that steer tractors and RFID-chipped ear tags that monitor livestock.

And robotics is an increasingly key part of that technological stable.

Robots pick apples, gather strawberries, harvest lettuce and strip away weeds. Drones gather aerial images that help farmers quickly assess crop health. And robotic greenhouses are sprouting up thousands of miles away from traditional farmland regions, growing vegetables in the backyards of high-consumption urban markets.

Read More Here.

Senate Passes Budget Deal, President to Sign

Last week, before starting its August recess, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act by a vote of 67-28. As reported last week, the Budget deal sets the overall budget numbers for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021, allowing appropriators to mark-up the 12 appropriation bills to those totals. The budget deal also suspends the U.S. debt ceiling until July 2021, avoiding a possible default by the U.S. Treasury on U.S. obligations. President Trump has indicated he will sign the budget agreement.
Both the House and Senate are now in their respective August recess periods and will return to Washington on September 9. They will have 3 legislative weeks to complete the 12 appropriations bills, which isn’t likely. So, expect a Continuing Resolution (CR) to be passed before October 1 to avoid a government or partial government shutdown.

Congressman Conaway to Retire

Ranking member and former Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Mike Conaway announced last week that he will not seek reelection in 2020. He will serve the remainder of his current term. Chairman Conaway successfully completed the 2018 farm bill last year. Three Republicans most likely will vie for the top spot on the Agriculture Committee after the 2020 election, Representative Thompson (PA), Scott (GA) and Crawford (AR).

Chapter 12 Debt Limit Increased

Both the House and Senate passed a bill, H.R. 2336, to ease the process of reorganizing debt under Chapter 12. The previous limit was $3.237 million. The bill raises the limit to 10 million. The changes reflect the increase in land values, as well as the growth over time in the average size of U.S. farming operations and is meant to provide farmers additional options to manage keep their doors open during downturns in the farm economy.

Market Facilitation Payments Detail Announced

USDA announced that signup for Market Facilitation Payments (MFP) will start today and run through December 6, 2019. Payments will come in up to 3 tranches. The 1st tranche will be the higher of either 50 percent of a producer’s calculated payment or $15 per acre. The 1st tranche will start to be paid in mid-to-late August. The second in November and the 3rd in January. Payments are based on planted acres and acreage reports must be processed in order to receive a payment.

USDA also announced the per county payment rates for planted acres. Rates range from $15 per acre to $150 per acre depending on location and county crop mix. Producers who filed a prevented planting claim and plant an FSA-certified cover crop, with the potential to be harvested qualify for a $15 per acre payment. Acres that were never planted in 2019 are not eligible. Cover crops must be planted by August 1st, nor the disposition of double cropped acres.

Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1, 2019, will receive a per hundredweight payment on production history, and hog producers will receive a payment based on the number of live hogs owned on a day selected by the producer between April 1 and May 15, 2019. MFP payments will also be made to producers of almonds, cranberries, cultivated ginseng, fresh grapes, fresh sweet cherries, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. Each specialty crop will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of fruit or nut bearing plants, or in the case of ginseng, based on harvested acres in 2019.

MFP payments are limited to a combined $250,000 for non-specialty crops per person or legal entity. MFP payments are also limited to a combined $250,000 for dairy and hog producers and a combined $250,000 for specialty crop producers. However, no applicant can receive more than $500,000. Eligible applicants must also have an average adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016 of less than $900,000 or, 75 percent of the person’s or legal entity’s average AGI for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016 must have been derived from farming and ranching. Applicants must also comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.
USDA is making Market Facilitation Payments to offset farmers loss of income from the ongoing trade war. The disaster payments authorized by Congress are a separate program and those details have not yet been announced by USDA. Expect those details to be announced in August. Additionally, ARC/PLC signup will start in September.

Senate Agriculture Committee Reviews Progress on Hemp Implementation

The 2018 Farm Bill legalized, promotes, and allows insurance of the production of hemp in the U.S. The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing to review the progress of the hemp oversight agencies. USDA is working to publish an implementing rule this fall, the EPA is examining pesticides that may be used on hemp, and the FDA is working on the safety of the use of hemp in foods and other products. There are a myriad of State and Federal rules and regulations that must be put in place to allow the production and trade of hemp and its by-products. By statute RMA will start hemp insurance coverage for the 2020 crop, most likely via Whole Farm Revenue Insurance.
You can watch the archived copy of the hearing and read the testimony here.