ASFMRA AgNews - October 13, 2020

By ASFMRA Press posted 15 days ago


Search Underway for Murder Hornets as They Near "Slaughter Phase"

Agricultural officials in Washington state said Friday they are trying to find and destroy a nest of Asian giant hornets — also known as murder hornets — amid concerns they could kill honey bees crucial for pollinating raspberry and blueberry crops.

Evidence of six of the hornets were found over the last week near the town of Blaine in Whatcom County, the Washington state Department of Agriculture told reporters.

The number of hornets found — nearly double the previous number discovered in the state — would indicate a nest has been established in the area, the agency said. One of the hornets was trapped alive, a first for the agency, spokeswoman Karla Salp said.

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Farmland Is Solid Ground in Otherwise Shaky Year

While much of 2020 has felt like shaky ground, good-quality farmland remains a rock-solid investment. The global pandemic as reflected in the land market reveals more impact on process than prices, according to farmland managers and appraisers in several Midwest states.

Dennis Reyman, AFM, ARA, and President of the ASFMRA says that although sales of Iowa farmland “paused” for a couple months when news of COVID-19 broke, values overall have remained steady. The global pandemic brought farmland sales in Iowa to a near standstill for about 60 days, but farmland values have stayed stable throughout the year and the auction pace is picking up for fall, says Reyman, a partner at Stalcup Ag Service at Storm Lake in northwest Iowa. Listings increased versus auctions during the second quarter, particularly on land lower than Grade A.

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Keeping It Clean: U.S. Ethanol Producers Invest in Sanitizer for Long Haul

Red River Biorefinery in Grand Forks, North Dakota, came online in April, arguably the worst time for an ethanol facility to begin operating as the coronavirus pandemic sank fuel demand.

Instead of shutting like many ethanol facilities, the company switched focus from producing fuel ethanol to making high-grade alcohol for hand sanitizer, where demand surged during the pandemic as Americans scrambled to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

Red River and several other companies now view the hand sanitizer market as more than a temporary salve for weak fuel demand, making permanent investments in production of high-grade alcohol that meets standards for producing sanitizer.

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Nebraska Farm Bureau Suggests Cattle Market Reforms to USDA

Nebraska Farm Bureau has offered the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a series of recommendations to reform the way beef cattle are marketed. The underlying concept of Farm Bureau’s suggestions are to create a more transparent and value-based system that would more closely link the prices farmers and ranchers receive for their cattle to the value of beef products sold at the wholesale and retail levels. Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson shared the recommendations with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in an October 2 letter.

“With only four major meatpackers, many Nebraska cattle producers have expressed concerns about the level of control that exists within the consolidated meat packing industry, specifically in the way of packer captive supplies of cattle and the diminishing cash market for live cattle. We believe reexamining the cattle pricing system and moving toward one where cattle prices and cattle contract prices are discovered under a more transparent and value-based system would be beneficial in addressing producer concerns and allow the cattle market to better respond to actual supply and demand conditions,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

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USDA Announces New Ethanol Investments

[Listen] USDA has announced new investments aimed at promoting ethanol. (Stephanie Ho and Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue)

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Historic Parcel of Land for Sale Near Alpine, Wyoming

In 1944, Flying Tiger pilot Dallas Clinger had his eye on 125 acres along what’s now Highway 89 just north of Alpine, a stretch of dusty sagebrush and thin grass on the market for $1,200. But he had just $600. He went to the bank in Afton to ask for a loan.

“The bank turned him down flat,” said his son, Michael Clinger. “They said, ‘Worthless land.’”

But the war hero came up with the money, added another 80 acres a few years later and more after that, finally owning about 250.

Today Michael Clinger and his sister, Karyn, are the last of the family, and they hope to sell the second-to-last piece they own.

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Ohio Court Rules That Farm Weddings Don’t Count as Agritourism

When many of us think of “agritourism,” we think of those events that help bring people to farms in a way that educates and entertains them. However, a local zoning board in Caesarcreek Township, Ohio, zeroed in a more narrow definition in a case involving Brian and Sherry Lusardi — and the board apparently had the legal backing to do so. The Lusardis own a 13.5-acre property containing a pole barn and outbuilding, a one-acre pond, several acres of woods, and an eight-acre hayfield. Their plan was to offer corn mazes, hayrides, and celebratory events like weddings and receptions on the property — all under the umbrella of agritourism.

The board, however, agreed that corn mazes and hayrides fit the bill, but didn’t greenlight events such as weddings as being “agritourism.” The decision to deny weddings was based on the Lusardis failing to demonstrate to the township’s Board of Zoning Appeals that their activities fit within Ohio’s definition of “agritourism.” That definition states: “Agritourism means an agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activity, including you-pick operations or farm markets, conducted on a farm that allows or invites members of the general public to observe, participate in or enjoy that activity.”

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Respecting Property Rights a Focus in Water Speculation Task Force Meeting

A task force has begun meeting to consider concerns about the adequacy of Colorado’s water anti-speculation law, with some of the initial discussion focusing on a desire to not unduly harm property rights.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday held the first meeting of the Anti-Speculation Law Work Group. The task force was established as a result of passage of a bill this year to consider ways to strengthen the current anti-speculation law and recommend any changes to a legislative committee by Aug. 15.

The bill was sponsored by state Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon and Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, and Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Don Coram, R-Montrose. It was inspired by a growing number purchases of agricultural land and associated water rights by investment firms, including wide-scale purchases in the Grand Valley by Water Asset Management, which is based in New York.

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Hard Rock Casino Project Leaders Bulldozed Land They Don't Yet Own, Attorney Claims

The firm assembling land for Gary, Indiana's prized Hard Rock casino project contended with land speculators and a heir to an estate for ownership of land in the casino’s footprint during a Thursday court hearing.

The bizarre tax deed case pending in Lake Circuit Court is a prime example of how land surrounding a major project like the $300 million casino — including even the smallest parcel — holds value when it thwarts a developer's attempt to fully assemble a jigsaw puzzle of parcels.

The tax certificate for the property in question, 5820 36 W. 29th Avenue, is only 0.04 acres, but its ownership was hotly contested in court Thursday.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

Farm Groups Release Policy White Paper

Twenty-one organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Farm Credit Council, major commodity groups, and organizations representing the seed, fertilizer and agrochemical sectors released a 12-page white paper to both the Trump and Biden campaigns. The paper delineates 10 policy focus areas of importance for agriculture starting with providing vaccines and testing to help agribusinesses deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Other priorities include farm policy, which includes stressing the need to defend and improve crop insurance, trade policy, research needs, the farm labor shortage, rural broadband and sustainability and climate.

FSA Announces Sign-up Deadline for WHIP+

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, as the deadline to submit applications for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP+) for 2018 and 2019 losses. USDA did not originally specify a deadline when the program was announced.

The FSA also indicated it will announce the details “soon” for producers who experienced quality loss from 2018 and 2019 natural disaster events authorized in appropriations legislation. The announcement indicates there will be a separate signup period for producers reporting quality loss.

In a statement, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson said: “I was glad to see the USDA announcing that producers who have been waiting to get assistance for their 2019 quality losses will be able to sign up for that assistance in coming weeks. I also hope that an end date for sign-up on WHIP+ losses means that producers waiting for the second half of their payment on 2019 losses should be receiving it soon. The 2019 crop season was one of the most difficult for many farmers, including those in my district, and I know producers will be glad to take this final step to put those memories behind them.”

Government Shutdown Avoided

The Senate overwhelmingly voted to approved the House passed Continuing Resolution (CR) by a vote of 84 – 10 and President Trump signed the CR before the Federal fiscal year started on October 1st to avoid a government shutdown. The CR funds the government through December 11, 2020 setting up the need for another CR during the expected lame duck session after the November election. The CR did replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) borrowing authority so USDA is able to make scheduled farm program payments (ARC, PLC and loan deficiency) starting this month.

Democrats Pass another COVID-19 Relief Package

The House narrowly approved another COVID-19 relief package (HEROES 2.0) late last week by a vote of 214 -207. Eighteen Democrats voted against the package, including House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and 4 other Democrat House Agriculture Committee members. No Republican voted for it, and 10 Republicans did not vote. Speaker Pelosi and the Trump Administration continue to negotiate a “deal” for additional relief. The Speaker indicated she thinks a deal is possible before the election, but the two parties remain far apart and it is becoming highly unlikely any additional relief will be provided before the November election.

The agriculture provisions of the House passed measure found in Division N of the bill are summarized by the House Agriculture Committee here. Because the CR replenished CCC borrowing authority and USDA is now administering CFAP 2 payments, the bill no longer contains the $16.5 billion emergency appropriation for additional direct payments to producers contained in the initial HEROES act passed earlier this year. It does include aid to ethanol plants, livestock producers who were forced to kill their animals due to packing house shutdowns and a 15% increase in benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

CFAP 2 Payments Nearly $2 Billion

USDA is now reporting total CFAP 2 payments on a weekly basis. As of October 6th, total CFAP payments were $1.959 billion. The report shows the totals by State but does not break out the payments by commodity. Recall USDA announced CFAP funding availability of $14 billion. CFAP 1 payments totaled $10.2 billion as of October 4, 2020.