When the novel coronavirus arrived in Oregon earlier this year, turning daily life on its head, Bryan Henney, a commercial banking officer at Columbia Bank, was swamped with calls from his clients in farming and agribusiness.
"Really, the business community in its entirety was just gripped by fear," Henney remembers. "I was getting phone calls from my clients, even prospects that didn't work with me, concerned about what was happening.
Northwest farms and food processors faced a monumental task ahead to comply with strict orders to protect worker health while remaining open as essential businesses — buying additional cleaning supplies and face masks, retrofitting production lines to ensure social distancing, and pivoting to alternative markets as state-mandated lockdowns forced restaurants, stadiums and other venues to close.
Uniland Development Corp. is dropping its plan to construct a transportation, logistics and shipping hub in South Buffalo – as part of a collaborative effort around international trade – because the land it was targeting can't easily support the facilities without prohibitive costs.
Instead, the Amherst developer is proposing to build a 5-megawatt solar panel farm on the same 20.3-acre brownfield property at 255 Ship Canal Parkway. Officials are currently meeting with solar contractors and operators to select a partner.
“We’re changing our strategy for that 20-acre site,” said Uniland spokeswoman Jill Pawlik.
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Is Farming with Reclaimed Water the Solution to a Drier Future?
On a Saturday in late October, Carolyn Phinney stands hip-deep in a half acre of vegetables, at the nucleus of what will one day be 15 acres of productive farmland.
“You can’t even see the pathways,” she says, surrounded by the literal fruits of her labors. The patch is a wealth of herbs, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, kale, winter squash, and zucchini. So much zucchini—fruits the size of bowling pins hidden under leaves as big as umbrellas. “Zucchini plants are supposed to be 30 inches across. Ours are 8 feet,” she says. “Everything looks like it’s on steroids.”
Phinney, pictured above, is the farmer behind CoCo San Sustainable Farm of Martinez, California, a farm built on reclaimed land, using reclaimed water, and started with a simple mission: to get kids to eat more vegetables.
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Entire Replica Old West Town Selling in New Mexico for $1.6M
Say “howdy” to one heck of a smoking-hot deal straight out of the Wild West. A replica old-timey town in New Mexico has hit the market for $1.6 million, offering the right buyer a unique opportunity to saddle up and own 18 buildings across 58 acres.
Though the Town of Gabriella hopes to preserve the history of the American West, it rose up relatively recently, after the plot near the Datil Mountains was purchased by owner Larry Iams 20 years ago, the New York Post reports. Like true cowboys, Larry and his wife Janet proudly brought their vision for the rustic, replica settlement to life by hand, as inspired by Western towns of yore from the 1880s, listing agent David Cordova told Fox News.
Now, Gabriella and all that comes with it – including a saloon, hotel, log cabin, dance hall, billiard hall, old-timey barber shop and stagecoach – can be yours for under $2 million. According to a Sotheby’s listing page, the town has hosted dinners, dances, and weddings. Currently, the space is being used for a western movie set, private parties and, naturally, “1800s gunslinger reenactment.”
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Report Calls for Farmland Access for Young and People of Color
The main obstacle preventing a younger generation from entering farming is a lack of access to land, the National Young Farmers Coalition said in a recent report that advocates for programs that would advance a new generation of farmers and promote racial equity in the sector.
“Access to land is the number one barrier facing aspiring farmers today, and this barrier is even greater for farmers of color,” said Holly Rippon-Butler, director of the group’s Land Access Program.
About 900 million acres in the United States are used for agriculture, which contributes $132.8 billion to the gross domestic product. But land ownership reflects broad inequities, the report says, with whites owning 98% of the nation’s farmland and accounting for 95% of all farmers. USDA figures also show that a third of farmers are over age 65, while only 9% are 35 or younger.
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Farmland Values Rise Despite Turbulent Year
The average acre of farmland in Iowa, the top corn-growing state, is worth $7,559, an increase of 1.7% from 2019, despite the effects of the pandemic and the accompanying economic slowdown, said Iowa State University on Tuesday. It was the second year in a row of modest increases, but land values remain $1,157 below their 2013 peak hit during the commodity boom.
Assistant professor Wendong Zhang, a frequent contributor to the Journal of the ASFMRA, said large government payments, low interest rates, a rally in commodity prices and the limited supply of land on the market resulted in higher land values. In nearly three of every four sales this year, the buyer was a farmer. The estimate of land values is based on an annual ISU survey of real estate brokers, farm managers, lenders, appraisers, county assessors, and other experts.
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Planting the Seeds for a New Generation of Minnesota Farmers
If you picture a farmer, Elizabeth Bryant's face might not be the first that comes to mind. But someday, when more of the people who produce our food look like the people who eat our food, maybe she will be.
"Growing up here, there's a sense — either felt or expressed — that you don't belong here," said Bryant, an aspiring Black farmer learning the craft in rural Rice County.
Last Saturday, the last hour of the last day of the winter market at the Mill City Farmers Market in downtown Minneapolis. Bryant and her aunts, Lynne and Nancy Reeck, had sold out of almost all the cheese curds and feta and buttery wedges of herbed chèvre they'd brought up from Singing Hills Goat Dairy near Nerstrand, Minn.
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ASFMRA Government Relations Update
Agreement Reached on FY 2021 Appropriations/Coronavirus Relief
Over the weekend House and Senate Leaders reached an agreement on a $900 billion plus Coronavirus relief package and a $1.4 trillion FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill. The legislative text of the massive spending package should be released Monday clearing the way for a House vote late Monday and, in the Senate, possibly as soon as Tuesday.
Press reports the Coronavirus relief package includes $600 payments to individuals and dependent children up to age 16, phasing out at $75,000 individual income and $150,000 for married couples. Federal unemployment benefits will be increased by $300 per week. Aid to small businesses is provided at $325 billion with the bulk delivered through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Other provisions include $25 billion in rental assistance, extension of a moratorium on evictions, $13 billion in funds for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) and child-nutrition benefits. The package would also restore 100% tax deductibility for business meals.
The agriculture component totals $26 billion split evenly between producer and additional nutrition assistance. SNAP benefits will be increased by 15% for 6 months. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released a press statement detailing most of the additional food assistance provided in the bill. Her statement also notes the following aid for producers:
- $5 billion for supplemental $20 per acre payments to all row crop producers.
- $225 million for supplemental payments to producers of specialty crops if they lost their crop in 2019.
- $3 billion for supplemental payments to cattle producers, contract growers of livestock and poultry, dairy farmers, and producers who were forced to euthanize livestock or poultry due to COVID crisis.
Tom Vilsack to Return as Secretary of Agriculture
President-elect Joe Biden formally announced Tom Vilsack as his nominee for Agriculture secretary. The Vilsack nomination was one of five announced for officials in charge of domestic programs. The other nominees were Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) for Housing and Urban Affairs Secretary, Denis McDonough for Veterans Affairs Secretary, Katherine Tai for U.S. Trade Representative, and Susan Rice as Director of the Domestic Policy Council.
During the formal introduction, President-elect Biden said that Vilsack, who served as Agriculture secretary in the Obama administration for eight years, “wasn’t anxious to come back, wasn’t looking for this job, but I was persistent.”
Mr. Vilsack’s return is broadly supported by farm, consumer and anti-hunger groups. You can read his bio on the Biden/ Harris transition website.
USDA Chief Economist to Depart
Last week USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that Dr. Rob Johansson will be leaving USDA to become Associate Director of Economics and Policy Analysis for the American Sugar Alliance at the end of January. Additionally, the Secretary announced Dr. Seth Meyer will return to USDA to become the new Chief Economist. Dr. Meyer is currently a Research Professor and the Associate Director for the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri. Dr. Meyer was previously the head of the World Agricultural Outlook Board (WAOB) in the Office of the Chief Economist.
USDA Increases Continuous CRP Incentive Payments
The USDA is increasing incentive payments for practices installed on land enrolled in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is upping the Practice Incentive Payment for installing practices, from 5 percent to 20 percent. Additionally, producers will receive a 10 percent incentive payment for water quality practices on land enrolled in CRP’s continuous signup.
WELCOME NEW MEMBERS
Help us welcome our newest members to ASFMRA! We are thrilled that you have chosen ASFMRA as the organization to be affiliated with. Because of you, ASFMRA continues to grow and support rural property professionals across the nation!
We are recognizing new members of the Society on a monthly basis. You may recognize your colleagues in the following list and we encourage you to welcome them into ASFMRA!
Marian Barnes with MJBarnes & Associates in Madison, WI (Wisconsin Chapter)
Sarah Baskins with AgIS Capital Investment in Turlock, CA (California Chapter)
Katie Baroun with Greenstone Farm Credit Services in Reedsville, WI (Wisconsin Chapter)
Evan Burlingame with Farm Credit Mid-America in Lagrange, IN (Indiana Chapter)
Spencer Collins in Adel, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Emily Elfers with Halderman Farm Management and Real Estate Services in North Hampton, OH (Ohio Chapter)
Alyssa Haines with Edwards, Lien & Toso, Inc. in Hilmar, CA (California Chapter)
Kyra Herron in Toluca, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Ben Holmen with Luther Appraisal Services, Inc. in Miles City, MT (Montana Chapter)
Andrew Klosterman with CBRE in Salem, OR (Oregon Chapter)
Neil Woodard Mott, III with Delta Land and Farm Management in Mer Rouge, LA (Mid-South Chapter)
Tiffany Poen in Ames, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Jessica Prosper with Farm Credit East in Potsdam, NY (Northeast Chapter)
Greg Schroeder with Consolidated Appraisal Services Company in Ottawa, OH (Ohio Chapter)
Brian Skow with Growthland Realty and Appraisal in Humboldt, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Molly Sparrowk in Clements, CA (California Chapter)
Stuart Tiedemann in Blairstown, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Barry Watts with Watts Farming Company in Bakersfield, CA (California Chapter)
Brad Woodson with McHenry County Conservation District in Woodstock, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Bobby Wuertz with Land Advisors Org in Scottsdale, AZ (Arizona and California Chapters)
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE – MAKE A REFERRAL
You know first-hand what a great organization ASFMRA is and what it means to you both professionally and personally. We thank you for spreading the word, you are the driving force behind our continued growth! Talk to those you know who would benefit from ASFMRA’s educational offerings, networking, and meetings. Let them know your experiences of being involved in this great association and some of the business contacts you have made along with lasting friendships. Your peers listed below have done just that! They spoke to individuals about ASFMRA and those individuals have now become members of ASFMRA!
Frederick Geyer, ARA
Howard Halderman, AFM
Tim Harpster, ARA
Pat Karst, ARA
George Luther, Jr., ARA
Jim Rickert, AFM, ARA
Rebecca Stone, ARA
Anthony Toso, ARA
JoAnn Wall, ARA
Thank you to all who have referred someone and in some cases, more than one, to join ASFMRA.