ASFMRA AgNews - May 12, 2020

By ASFMRA Press posted 16 days ago


Future Returns: Farmland Can Create a Well-Balanced Portfolio

Mark Twain is credited with the quip: “Buy land, they’re not making anymore of it.” His wisdom could be updated today with the advice to buy farmland. 

The world’s population is swelling, so much that global food production needs to increase 50% by 2050, according to the World Resources Institute. Arable land is becoming more scarce, and climate change and extreme weather make it an even more precious commodity. 

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Coronavirus Concerns Fuel Drop in Farmer Sentiment

A measure of the state of farm country dropped for the second month in a row, “effectively wiping out the improvement in sentiment that took place following the 2016 election.”

The Ag Economy Barometer, a monthly measure of farmer sentiment released by Purdue University and the CME Group, dropped below 100 (to 96) in April for the first time since October 2016. The plummeting figure comes just two months after the barometer set an all-time high (168) in February.

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In A Food Shortage, Could Vermont Farms Feed The Whole State?

Jamie McKenzie of Waterbury originally asked this question in the context of climate change. But the food supply issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have given it new urgency.

Scene one: A windy day late April. Taylor Firestein moves bags of food from the back of a delivery truck to the front seat. These are for home drop-off, for members of the Intervale Food Hub in Burlington.

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2019/2020 ARC/ PLC Enrollments  

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) released the enrollment results of the 2019 election between Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC). The deadline for farmers to make their enrollment decision was March 16, 2020. The 2019 election carries forward for the 2020 crop year. Overwhelmingly farmers chose PLC. Nearly 70% of all base acres are now enrolled in PLC; 26.3% are enrolled in ARC-County, and the remaining 3.9 percent are enrolled in ARC-Individual. 

Corn base shifted the most of any commodity, moving from 7% enrolled in PLC in 2018 to 76% in 2019. Wheat base also shifted significantly moving from 44% enrolled in PLC in 2018 to 93% in 2019. Soybeans changed the least with only 14% enrolled in PLC compared to 4% in 2019. The American Farm Bureau Federation provided a summary of the all the commodity changes.

CFAP Payment Limits Changed

Last week Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated the initial planned payment limits of $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per person/ entity for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will be increased. He did not say to what levels. Recall, the CFAP includes $16 billion in direct payments to farmers to provide some relief from losses related to the disruption in markets from the Coronavirus. The CFAP implementing regulation is at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. The OMB review is the last stop before USDA can publish it. Secretary Perdue had indicated he would like CFAP direct payments to commence by the end of May.

Another Round of Emergency Payments?

House Democrats are working on another large emergency package to provide relief from the Coronavirus. This package could include additional funding for agriculture. A bipartisan effort in the House to increase Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority to $68 billion was introduced last week by Representatives Scott (R-GA) and Bishop (D-GA). House Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson (D-MN) has indicated he prefers any additional emergency agriculture funding could come with more Congressional input regarding how the money should be spent. Senate Republican leaders and the Administration so far are wary of moving another large emergency supplemental. They’d prefer to see how the existing packages perform first. The disparate approaches mean the next emergency package will take some time to come to fruition.

ASFMRA Joins Request Seeking Funding for Rural Infrastructure

Last week, ASFMRA as part of the Rebuild Rural Coalition joined more than 258 state, local and national groups sending the following letter to the bipartisan and bicameral congressional leadership, asking them to consider rural America’s infrastructure needs in any stimulus package going forward. 

RMA Finalizes Forage Rule

RMA published in the Federal Register changes to the Forage Seeding and Forage Production crop insurance programs starting with the 2021 crop year. Changes include expanding coverage to new regions and counties, expanding coverage to fall-planted forage and changing the method for loss adjustment. “These changes will expand coverage to new places, better reflect current agricultural practices and better protect forage producers from losses,” RMA Administrator Martin Barbre said in a press release last week. “This will also enable forage producers to better secure loans and provide continuity to their forage production operations.”

Specifically, the changes:

  • Establish coverage of forage seeding for producers in 186 more counties.
  • Expand coverage to fall-planted forage and align forage seeding cancellation and termination dates with the dates for other fall planted crops in each state.
  • Revise loss-adjustment procedures to rely upon the number of live alfalfa stems rather than the number of live plants for making loss determinations for forage containing more than 60 percent alfalfa.

The changes take effect for crop year 2021 with policies that have a contract change date of April 30, 2020, or later. Sales closing dates follow the contract change date and vary across the country. Crop years reflect the normal growing season and are identified by the year of harvest.

House Agriculture Committee Celebrates 200 Years of Service

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), issued a joint statement (below) commemorating the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the House Committee on Agriculture.

On April 29, 1820, Congressman Lewis Williams of North Carolina introduced a resolution to the House to create a committee to oversee the nation’s agricultural sector. The full House later approved the resolution, formally establishing the Committee on May 3, 1820. “For 200 years, the House Agriculture Committee has brought the issues facing farmers and ranchers and the rural communities they call home together with the needs of consumers in the city, to make sure all Americans have food, fiber, and fuel,” said Peterson. “The work we do has seen us through challenges on the farm and in our nation more broadly, ranging from the Civil War and Reconstruction, to two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the farm crisis in the 1980s, and now to our current challenge with this pandemic. We’ve never shied away from the tough tasks before us, and we won’t start now. Americans need policy that ensures their food is available and their communities are strong. That was our job 200 years ago, and it’s still our job today.”

“Today marks 200 years of service from the House Agriculture Committee to America’s farmers and ranchers, who have dedicated themselves to this country for far longer,” said Conaway. “American agriculture has kept this nation fed and clothed through many difficult times in our history, including the global health pandemic we are currently facing. Now more than ever, we are reminded of the important role these hardworking individuals play in our daily lives, and our duty to stand with them as Members of the House Agriculture Committee.”