ASFMRA AgNews - February 4, 2020

By ASFMRA Press posted 20 days ago


Hemp Takes Hold

Broad-shouldered and barefoot, Brian Lyda trots into a rain-softened 6-acre hemp field near Hendersonville, in mountainous western North Carolina. Mud is splattered up his calves as he turns back a fourth of the way into the rows.

“This plant loves attention but not too much attention, if that makes sense,” says Lyda, gesturing to the 2-foot-high hemp plants growing under plastic in rows 6 feet apart. After all, hemp – and its cousin, marijuana – can grow and thrive on their own in road ditches.

Read the Full Story Here.

Report: Ag Conditions Not as Bad Now as in 1980s

The overall U.S. agricultural economy has slumped in recent years, but several key measurements show that current conditions are better in important ways than they were in the rocky ag sector during the 1980s, a federal government report says.

Relatively low interest rates and the rising value of farm assets, particularly farmland, help to prop up today's ag economy, according to “Financial Conditions in the U.S. Agricultural Sector: Historical Comparisons,” a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, or ERS.

Read the Full Story Here.

What Does the Future of Farming in Pennsylvania Look Like?

Hundreds of high school students, all wearing blue corduroy jackets, packed the main arena at this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show.

State officers for the Pennsylvania Future Farmers of America danced onstage to Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” in between introducing guests of honor and announcing various awards for the organization’s members.

The club’s mid-winter convention celebrated the overall theme of the Farm Show: Imagine the Opportunities.

Read the Full Story Here.

A Freeze on Cropland Rental Rates?

It may seem obvious: Crop prices are poor, profit margins are tight and much of the Upper Midwest suffered through horrible harvest conditions in the fall of 2019. So area farmers naturally will pay less to rent cropland in 2020, right?

But that’s not what’s happening, area farmers, agricultural bankers, real estate agents and Extension officials say.

Read the Full Story Here.

ASFMRA Joins Appraisal Groups Letters to CFPB and NCUA

Last month, ASFMRA worked with other national appraisal organizations in a letter campaign to the Administration, one opposing the National Credit Union Association’s (NCUA) proposal to increase its appraisal threshold for residential appraisals to $400,000 and, the second, to the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) as it assesses the TILA-RESPA Integrated Mortgage Disclosures (TRID) under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“Regulation X”). Both letters were prompted in response to regulatory actions taken by the respective agencies.

You can read the NCUA cover letter here and the CFPB letter here.

EPA Releases Navigable Waters Protection Rule

On January 23, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) finalized the Navigable Waters Protection Rule to define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The rule, once published, is a final rule and replaces the rule published on October 22, 2019 that repealed the Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule.

The Navigable Waters Protection rule streamlines definitions so that it includes four simple categories of jurisdictional waters, provides clear exclusions for many water features that traditionally have not been regulated as well as some that had been previously regulated, and defines terms in the regulatory text that have never been defined before. Congress, in the Clean Water Act, explicitly directed the Agencies to protect “navigable waters.” The Navigable Waters Protection Rule regulates these waters and the core tributary systems that provide perennial or intermittent flow into them. An overview fact sheet and a Rural America fact sheet are provided by the EPA and Army Corp as well.

Although the new rule is welcomed by many groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, you can expect the new rule to be subject to several lawsuits with the courts ultimately deciding the fate of the regulation, similar to what happened after the Obama Administration’s WOTUS rule release.

President Trump Signs USMCA, Canada to Unveil its Implementing Bill

President Trump held a signing ceremony at the White House last Wednesday as he signed the U.S., Mexico, Canada Agreement on Trade (USMCA). Canada is expected to unveil its version of the USMCA agreement for its upcoming legislative session. The trade agreement will go into effect 90 days after Canadian approval.

Congressional Budget Office Releases Budget Deficit Projections, Preliminary Agriculture Baseline

Last week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) kicked off the annual Federal budget process with its annual January forecast of Federal spending and receipts. The CBO projects trillion dollars deficits starting in FY 2020 and continuing for the next ten years. Because of those large deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow from 79 percent of GDP in 2019 to 98 percent of GDP in 2030. By 2050, debt would be 180 percent of GDP—far higher than it has ever been.

The January report includes CBO’s preliminary baseline forecast for the U.S. government. The CBO sets the baseline, which is used to determine the budgetary impact of congressional legislation for the year, in March. The preliminary baseline for the mandatory programs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects Price Loss Coverage (PLC) costs to rise and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) costs to decline as CBO expects farmers to shift from ARC to PLC under the new election. The 5-year average PLC costs are estimated to increase from $3.8 billion to $5.8 billion while ARC declines from $1 billion to a half a billion dollars. Dairy’s safety net 5-year average costs are projected to increase from $356 million to $420 million. The crop insurance baseline is slightly lower than the previous forecast largely due to lower commodity prices.

RMA Reminds Producers Who Received 2019 Prevent Plant “Top-Up” Payments about Two Year Purchase Requirement

With sales closing dates coming soon across the country, last week the Risk Management Agency (RMA) reminded producers who received a 2019 prevent plant “top-up” payment that it carries a two-year crop insurance purchase requirement. The “top-up” payment was authorized by the disaster bill last year and was automatically paid by the crop insurance companies during the fall of 2019 to those farmers who qualified. You can find more information about the purchase requirement here. Scroll down the page to find the Q&A related to the purchase requirement.

Economists Assess Trade War Impact on Farm Economy

Five economists published an assessment of the trade war impacts on agricultural exports in a publication of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (Choices). In the report, the authors state: “Retaliatory tariffs imposed by China have resulted in the largest decline in U.S. agricultural product exports. On a monthly product-by-product basis, U.S. agricultural exports subject to China’s retaliatory tariffs were down by 71% on average, compared to the same product–month periods in the 2016/2017 benchmark.” Additionally, year-to-year analyses showed that U.S. soybean exports to China were $11.2 billion from July 2017 to June 2018, before falling 72%, to $3.1 billion between July 2018 to July 2019, when retaliatory tariffs were in place.