ASFMRA AgNews - September 15, 2020

By ASFMRA Press posted 14 days ago


Farm Cash Receipts May Hit New Low in 2020

Following a sharp downturn in many commodity prices as a result of COVID-19, USDA’s most recent Farm Income Forecast, released Sept. 2, projects cash receipts from the sales of crops and livestock will decline by $12 billion, or 3%, from 2019 to $358 billion. If realized, U.S. farm cash receipts will be at the lowest level in more than a decade, and $18 billion below the 10-year average of $376 billion.

Largely through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and the Paycheck Protection Program, Congress and the administration have provided a projected $23.4 billion to help farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID-19. Importantly, nearly $3 out of every $4 in federal support to farmers and ranchers comes from CFAP, PPP and other ad hoc assistance programs, like the tariff-mitigating Market Facilitation Program. When this support is combined with traditional farm bill conservation and risk management programs and other farm income, total gross income is forecast at $447 billion for 2020, up 3% from 2019, but more than $36 billion below 2013 and 2014 gross income levels.

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GRO Network Aims to Help Farmers Earn More for Low-Carbon Crops

Agtech unicorn Farmers Business Network is spinning out a new sustainable farming company, called GRO Network, that will track and score the carbon footprint of specific crops down to the bushel and allow farmers to make more for their crops that have lower carbon footprints. In a phone interview, FBN cofounder and CEO Amol Deshpande described the new business as a way to help reward farmers for their efforts as environmental stewards. The San Carlos, California-based company plans to announce the spinout later today.

“Farmers deserve more opportunities to be recognized for sustainable practices,” Deshpande, 42, says. “The extra incomes and premiums could be the difference between running a profitable business and losing money.”

That’s especially true these days as the economic downturn has squeezed family farms. Corn prices have fallen to $3.50 a bushel or less, while the prices of seeds and other inputs, like fertilizer and pesticide, have not dropped.

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Wisconsin Farmer Brings a Little Sun to Kenosha

Everyone could use a little sunshine in their life right now, so a Wisconsin farmer decided that's what he was going to do, and planted more than 2 million sunflowers in his fields.

Scott Thompson's family has been farming in Kenosha County for more than 70 years, and this is the first year that flowers are decorating the landscape. Usually, the pick-your-own farm consists of strawberries in summer and raspberries and pumpkins in the fall.

Located just 10 miles from Kenosha, Wisconsin, in Bristol, Thompson Strawberry Farm is drawing people to a simpler family outing where they can picnic, wander fields of florals and take home a dozen sunflowers.

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New Jersey Farmers Fear Loss of Land to Solar Development

The Dolbow family has farmed the rich soil of Salem County in South Jersey for so long that the road that runs along its cornfield is named after them.

But amid all the trials the family has faced over four generations of farming, David Dolbow, 52, sees something coming that could completely transform local agriculture: big solar.

“It’s definitely going to change the landscape,” Dolbow said of Bil-Dow Farm. What he fears most is the loss of thousands of acres of prime farmland to utility-scale solar systems.

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California Farmers Fighting Wildfires on Their Own

Kendall Richard knows how life can change in an instant. Nearly three weeks ago, she was tending to blooming tall-bearded irises on her eight-acre property. That same piece of land is now scorched and coated in ash.

Last month, Richard, the co-owner of Pleasants Valley Iris Farm in Northern California, watched a faint, faraway glow in the mountains turn into an aggressive blaze that consumed her entire home and flower farm in just over ten minutes.

“All of the embers just got pulled right over the ridge and blanketed the mountain range beside us. It went from nothing to ‘oh my gosh, we need to get out of here now,’” she says. “You literally had minutes to get out.”

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Rancher Who Won 2009 Powerball Lists South Dakota Property at $41 Million

The Newell cowboy who won the $232.1 million Powerball jackpot in 2009 has listed his nearly 50,000-acre ranch for sale for a whopping $41.15 million.

Neal Wanless recently told the Wall Street Journal he’s selling the Bismarck Ranch that is about 10 miles east of Vale in Butte County. He and his wife, Jody, are spending more time at her family’s cattle ranch in Canada’s British Columbia and recently bought a house in Arizona where they plan to spend winters, according to the publication.

When Wanless won the Powerball, he and his family lived in a camper. Instead of taking installments of the jackpot, he took a lump sum of $88.5 million and bought 7,000 acres for a family ranch. He bought parcel after parcel until it amounted to 47,883 acres.

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George Washington's River Farm Being Sold in Hail Mary

The American Horticultural Society is looking at the River Farm as a financial saving grace, and has announced plans to put it on the market. The plan is to save the American Horticultural Society as a botanical entity that supports plants, gardens, and green spaces on a sustainable planet. Money from the sales of the land, which overlooks the Potomac River, is needed to boost their finances, which have been more in jeopardy since the pandemic.

This isn’t a popular stance to many Mount Vernon residents or the elected officials that represent them, but could be a harsh reality of the financial crisis that is facing many these days.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

Senate “Skinny” Coronavirus Relief Bill Vote Insufficient to Move Forward

The Senate vote of 52-47 failed to end debate on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) coronavirus relief package, amendment S. 2652, last week. No Democrat voted to end debate; one Republican (Senator Rand Paul of KY) voted no as well. Sixty votes are needed in the Senate to end debate (cloture vote). Failure to move forward on the relief package means it is extremely unlikely that a fourth coronavirus relief bill will clear Congress before the November election. Democrats and Republican leaders remain too far apart to reach an agreement and with the November election looming neither party is willing to compromise.

The Senate “skinny” bill would have provided some $300 billion in additional relief, including $20 billion in emergency spending authority to the Secretary of Agriculture to support agricultural producers, growers, and processors impacted by coronavirus, including producers, growers, and processors of specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock and poultry, including livestock and poultry depopulated due to insufficient processing access and growers who produce livestock or poultry under a contract for another entity.

USDA Secretary Perdue has indicated he plans to move forward with a CFAP round 2 payment despite congressional failure to act. He most likely will use remaining CFAP round 1 money (only $9.7 billion of the $16 billion has been used as of September 8th) enhanced with additional CCC borrowing authority. The CFAP round 2 payment structure should be announced sometime in September.

September 30 Deadline to Update PLC Yields

The 2018 farm bill provided authority to allow farmers to update, one-time, yields used to calculate Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments for crop years 2020 - 2023. The deadline is September 30, 2020. FSA issued a notice to remind farmers of this opportunity. No action is required if farmers do not wish to update program yields.

CBO Estimates Deficit at $3.3 Trillion

The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) regularly reports updated budget and deficit estimates in September. This September update report projects a federal budget deficit of $3.3 trillion in Fiscal Year 2020, more than triple the shortfall recorded in 2019. That increase is the result of the economic disruption caused by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and the enactment of legislation in response. At 16.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the deficit in 2020 would be the largest since 1945. The FY 2021 deficit is projected by CBO to be 8.6% of GDP

As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to rise sharply, to 98 percent of GDP in 2020, compared with 79 percent at the end of 2019 and 35 percent in 2007, before the start of the previous recession. It would exceed 100 percent in 2021 and increase to 107 percent in 2023, the highest in the nation’s history. The previous peak occurred in 1946 following the large deficits incurred during World War II. By 2030, debt is projected to equal 109 percent of GDP.

Since we are still in the midst of the pandemic, large deficits and debt levels are not a national policy concern. At some point they will impact policy makers decisions. Future agricultural policy, for example the 2023 farm bill, could be impacted if lawmakers decide spending reductions are necessary to reign in these historically high deficit and debt levels.

Net Farm Income Projected to Increase for 2020

The Economic Research Service (ERS) released 2020 farm income projections. Net cash income for 2020 is projected to rise by 4.5 percent or $4.9 billion from 2019. Net cash farm income encompasses cash receipts from farming as well as farm-related income, including government payments, minus cash expenses. It does not include noncash items—including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income of operator dwellings.

Lower crop and livestock receipts in 2020 are offset by reduced expenses and increased government payments. Government payments are estimated at $37.2 billion in 2020, up $14.7 billion from 2019. The increase is due to supplemental and ad hoc disaster assistance for Coronavirus relief. If not for the increased government payments, 2020 net cash farm income would have declined.

USDA Implements Measures to Help Rural Communities Affected by COVID-19

USDA Rural Development has taken a number of immediate actions to help rural residents, businesses and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Rural Development will keep our customers, partners and stakeholders continuously updated as more actions are taken to better serve rural America.

Visit for information on Rural Development loan payment assistance, application
deadline extensions and more.

Read the Full Announcement Here