ASFMRA AgNews - August 18, 2020

By ASFMRA Press posted 08-18-2020 07:03


Michigan Mandates COVID-19 Testing for All Farm and Food Processor Employees

Last week, Michigan became the first state in America to require farmers and food processors to routinely screen and test all employees for COVID-19. The emergency order, issued by the state’s health department, also applies to operators of migrant housing, where the virus has spread in close quarters.

Robert Gordon, the state’s director of health and human services, cited 11 outbreaks in recent weeks in farm and food plants in Michigan, as well as the sizable impact on Latinos in the agriculture workforce.

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Powerful Derecho Damages 10M Acres of Cropland in Iowa

Iowa's agricultural industry has suffered a severe blow: Governor Kim Reynolds estimated on Tuesday that up to 43 per cent of the state’s cropland was hit by the storm. Economists are still trying to determine what all of this will cost the state’s farm industry.

“It is still too early to put a value to the damages caused by the derecho in Iowa,” said Alejandro Plastina, an Iowa State University economist and ASFMRA member. “We have a big network of people trying to collect reports from all corners of the state to come up with an aggregate estimate.”

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Indiana Farmers Experience Soaring Sales at Farmers Markets During Pandemic

Scottsburg-based farmer Doug Krieger said that in more than two decades of selling at southern Indiana farmers markets, he’s never had a year like this one.

“It will go down record-breaking,” he said. “We’re way over triple, probably four times (the usual business). I can pack that truck just as full as I can get it and just have a few essential things to take back home.

The family’s booming business could be a result of inaccessibility this year to some foods due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially early in the season when staples such as meat and eggs were scarce in groceries as shoppers stocked up for the unknown and supply chains were disrupted at times. Although some businesses were closed or limited during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home mandate, farmers markets were deemed essential.

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Facing Losses, Farm Operators and Land Owners May Need to Agree to New Terms

The farm financial analysis offered last week by Gary Schnitkey, University of Illinois farm management specialist and ASFMRA member, painted a bleak picture. Schnitkey reported that corn grown on cash-rented farmland had not been profitable for the past six years, and soybeans are not expected to return a profit next year either.

“Without adjustments to provide farm support in 2021, cuts in non-land costs and cash rents will be needed to reduce losses, or approach break-even returns level.” Basically, that is a warning to farm operators and land owners that a meeting about cash rent should be scheduled.

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Maryland County Weighs Pros and Cons of Allowing Solar on Agricultural Reserve

“We became a pacesetter 40 years ago with our vision to set aside this land to be used for the production of food and fiber to give our citizens food security and access to locally grown foods. We are a model for other communities,” said Todd Greenstone, of the Maryland Farm Bureau.

But the urgency and reality of climate change propelled the current Council toward new visions and goals of a sustainable Montgomery County, a county that produces its own clean energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2027 and eliminates emissions carbon emissions 100 percent by 2035.

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Vermont Migration Driven by COVID-19 and Social Forces

A collision of social forces, some related to COVID-19, has prompted a wave of migration into Vermont this year. University of Vermont research reveals that the newcomers are overwhelmingly young and gainfully employed. And they’re choosing to live in some of the state’s long-neglected rural areas.

The findings show people are looking for places that are removed from COVID-19 hotspots and from the civil unrest associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Meanwhile, large companies like Google, Facebook, Barclays, and JP Morgan Chase have said it’s unlikely most of their workers will ever return to the office. COVID-19 has been the catalyst for a move to remote work that could potentially free up millions of workers to leave cities and suburbs for rural areas.

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Does an Organic Certification Increase Land Value?

According to data gathered from a survey of organic farmers and landowners, organic land for row crops receives a 25% rent premium, on average, over conventional cropland. Respondents who rent both conventional and organic land pay a price premium of $68 per acre annually for certified organic land.

“We’ve known for a long time that there is a substantial premium for organic crops, but these results indicate that the financial impact to organic farmers is broader,” Erin Leonard, manager of the initiative at Mercaris, said. “What we’re seeing is evidence that organic certification can go beyond income and boost the overall value of the farm operation.”

The boost in value was not universal, however. Some reported no premium for the organic land they own or rent, and more research needs to be done to determine the true extent of these premiums.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

House Senate in Recess, Party Conventions Starting

Both the House and Senate are now in recess for August. The Democratic Convention starts today, and the Republican Convention starts next week. Speaker Pelosi announced she will bring back House members for a vote, probably on Saturday the 22nd, regarding the U.S. Postal Service. Talks on a fourth Coronavirus relief package have stalled and will not likely resume until after Labor Day. Secretary Perdue has indicated USDA will move on additional assistance even if Congress fails to provide such assistance. More than likely this will be in the form of additional CFAP payments covering losses sustained after the 1st quarter of 2020, not a MFP structured payment.

FSA Extends CFAP Deadline, Adds Eligible Commodities

Last week the Farm Service Agency (FSA) extended the deadline to apply for CFAP payments until September 11, 2020 from August 28th, 2020. Producers with approved applications will receive the remaining 20% of the payment. Previously FSA was paying 80% of the approved loss to ensure funding availability. Now that it is clear sufficient funds remain, the FSA will automatically issue the remaining 20 percent of the calculated payment to eligible producers. Going forward, producers who apply for CFAP will receive 100 percent of their total payment, not to exceed the payment limit, when their applications are approved.

The following additional commodities are now eligible for CFAP:

  • Specialty Crops - aloe leaves, bananas, batatas, bok choy, carambola (star fruit), cherimoya, chervil (french parsley), citron, curry leaves, daikon, dates, dill, donqua (winter melon), dragon fruit (red pitaya), endive, escarole, filberts, frisee, horseradish, kohlrabi, kumquats, leeks, mamey sapote, maple sap (for maple syrup), mesculin mix, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, plantains, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, tangelos, turnips/celeriac, turmeric, upland/winter cress, water cress, yautia/malanga, and yuca/cassava.
  • Non-Specialty Crops and Livestock - liquid eggs, frozen eggs and all sheep. Only lambs and yearlings (sheep less than two years old) were previously eligible.
  • Aquaculture - catfish, crawfish, largemouth bass and carp sold live as foodfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, salmon, sturgeon, tilapia, trout, ornamental/tropical fish, and recreational sportfish.
  • Nursery Crops and Flowers - nursery crops and cut flowers.

FSA Changes AGI Definition

Last Friday the FSA issued Notice PL-290 to expand the definition of average farm AGI to include wages and dividends from a legal entity when the wage or dividend is derived from a legal entity engaged in farming, ranching, and forestry activity. Previously these wages and dividends were considered non-farm income. The change is effective for program year 2020 and subsequent years.

RMA Defers Premium Payments for 60 Days

The Risk Management Agency (RMA) issued Managers Bulletin MGR-20-21 deferring interest accrual and payment of premium and administrative fees for policies with premium billing dates between August 1 and September 30, 2020. The RMA took the action in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

FSA Changes Emergency Haying and Grazing Process

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced it was changing how it determines emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. Previously emergency haying and grazing requests originated with FSA at the county level and required state and national level approval. Now approval will be based on drought severity as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Producers located in a county that is designated as severe drought (D2) or greater on or after the last day of the primary nesting season are eligible for emergency haying and grazing on all eligible acres. Additionally, producers located in counties that were in a severe drought (D2) status any single week during the last eight weeks of the primary nesting season may also be eligible for emergency haying and grazing unless the FSA County Committee determines that forage conditions no longer warrant emergency haying and grazing.

To date, 500 counties nationwide have triggered eligibility for emergency haying and grazing on CRP acres. A list by state and map of eligible counties are updated weekly and available on FSA’s website.