In This Issue
America’s Biggest Owner Of Farmland Is Now Bill Gates
Bill Gates, the fourth richest person in the world and a self-described nerd who is known for his early programming skills rather than his love of the outdoors, has been quietly snatching up 242,000 acres of farmland across the U.S. — enough to make him the top private farmland owner in America.
After years of reports that he was purchasing agricultural land in places like Florida and Washington, The Land Report revealed that Gates, who has a net worth of nearly $121 billion according to Forbes, has built up a massive farmland portfolio spanning 18 states. His largest holdings are in Louisiana (69,071 acres), Arkansas (47,927 acres) and Nebraska (20,588 acres). Additionally, he has a stake in 25,750 acres of transitional land on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona, which is being developed as a new suburb.Read the Full Story
Kansas Begins Commercial Hemp Licensing Program
The Kansas Department of Agriculture found in a September 2020 report that the hemp market accounted for nearly $4.5 million in revenue as growers harvested 832,950 pounds of hemp over 1,758 acres. These limited profits were due, in part, to a lack of knowledge of how to best grow the crop in the state, the report added.
However, Kansas estimates a significant increase in value for the state's hemp crops in the years ahead, with an annual value potentially rising to $22 million and a per-acre value far exceeding other more traditional crops, such as corn and soybeans.
For instance, the state estimates that floral hemp could return as much as $3,500 per acre in profits, with grain hemp worth $400 per acre and $150 per acre for fiber hemp. By comparison, sorghum has a net worth of $40 per acre, with corn worth $35 and soybeans worth $2 per acre, the report found.Read the Full Story
One of the Most Under-Used Resources in American Ag Is a Waste Product
According to the University of Kentucky, each bushel of corn produced leaves about 50 pounds of…well, not corn.
This stuff is generally called corn residue, and it includes the stalk, leaves, cob, and some fallen ears of corn. Much of this residue is collected and disposed of; some farmers leave it to prevent erosion and inject some more nutrients into the soil over the winter. But there’s another option, and according to a new study, it’s a dramatically under-used one: let cattle graze this residue.
Morgan Grabau, at the American Society of Agronomy, took a closer look at the idea of cattle grazing on corn residue in a new study. This tactic is not commonly used; “Only 15 percent of the corn residue acres in the central US are grazed,” she says in the study’s press release. There are multiple reasons for that: some corn acreage isn’t close enough to cattle for it to make sense, for example. But there’s also a suspicion held by many farmers that it’s bad for yields, owing to the compaction the cattle will leave in the soil. Read the Full Story
New Solar Power Plant in Pulaski County Raises Concern Among Farmers
A lot of debate is circling around whether to build a new solar power plant in Pulaski County.
Many farmers are concerned the plant could have a negative impact on agriculture and their livelihoods. Other residents say this is a good opportunity for the county to create additional revenue in the least impactful way.
The Pulaski County Planning Commission will meet Tuesday, Jan. 12, to decide whether to recommend a special use permit for a new solar farm.
The land where the solar farm would be built is zoned for agricultural use. Some farmers say despite the name, solar farming has nothing to do with farming or agriculture at all. They argue this is the wrong move for the countyRead the Full Story
Cheyenne River Ranch Near Rapid City Sold for $19 Million
A 21,756-acre ranch southeast of Rapid City recently sold for $19 million.
The Cheyenne River Ranch is adjacent to state Highway 44 and around 30 minutes from Rapid City. It has 20,555 deeded acres, 1,078 acres of National Grassland grazing permit, 108 acres of Bureau of Land Management lease, and 15 acres that includes the unincorporated community of Creston.
The ranch was listed by Hall and Hall, a national brokerage firm, for about three months before it was under contract. The deal was closed on Dec. 23.
Robb Nelson, a real estate agent with the brokerage, said ranches typically take 18 months to sell, which made the Cheyenne River Ranch an “extremely quick sale.”Read the Full Story
$1.1 Million Conservation Easement Purchase Finalized in Ann Arbor Township
Ann Arbor Township has finalized a conservation easement purchase from residents which officials say represents a key piece of protected land in the area.
As part of the Ann Arbor Township Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program, the township agreed to a $1.1-million purchase of a conservation easement of a 114.77-acre lot from Otto and Carolyn Moehrle, Barry Lonik, the township’s land preservation consultant, said.
The conservation easement ensures the land will never be developed but remains in private ownership and is not open to the public. Conservation easements are permanent deed restrictions on the use of a property. Purchasing them costs less than buying the property and keeps the property on the tax rolls and contributing to the local economy, Lonik said.Read the Full Story
Generous Tax Perks Blossom in New Relief Loan Funding Round
Expanded tax perks in the new round of Paycheck Protection Program funding are designed to stretch support to small businesses still stuck in widespread shutdowns caused by the pandemic.
The biggest change from the original version of the pandemic aid program is the ability to receive a PPP loan and claim the employee retention tax credit, a CARES Act (Public Law 116-136) perk meant to encourage companies to keep employees on their payroll. In the first iteration, businesses could only choose one or the other.
That flexibility, as well as a forced reversal for the IRS to allow deductions from the loan, means the aid available to businesses now is more generous than it has been at any point in the Covid-19 pandemic. The latest aid law, which relaunched PPP as of Jan. 11, required the IRS to say business expenses like utilities and rent paid with PPP loans could be deductible, a switch from its original position.Read the Full Story
Georgia Senate Runoff Elections Create 50/50 Senate
ASFMRA Government Relations Update
With the Democrats (Warnock and Ossoff) winning both Georgia Senate runoff elections last week, the Senate will be split 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. The last time the Senate was evenly divided was following the 2000 elections. Once President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are sworn in on January 20th, Vice President Harris will become the tie breaking vote giving the Democrats control of the Senate. Until January 20, 2021, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) remains Senate Majority Leader as Vice President Pence is the tiebreaker. The Senate is in recess until January 19th, 2021.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) will resume the Senate Agriculture Chair after inauguration day. Senator Stabenow has indicated creating a voluntary climate exchange and a focus on climate policy for agriculture will be a priority. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) will become the ranking member. The current Senate Agriculture Committee make-up of 11 Republicans and 9 Democrats will change as well with the Republicans losing one seat and the Democrats gaining at least one seat.RMA Extends Pandemic Related Delivery Flexibilities
The Risk Management Agency (RMA) issued Managers Bulletin MGR-20-30
extending a host of previously granted delivery flexibilities in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Please take a moment to read the extensive relief provided by this Managers Bulletin
.USDA Secretary Perdue Announces Acting Officers During Transition
The outgoing Administration typically designates career officials to acting leadership roles until the incoming Administration is able to appoint personnel to lead the various agencies within a Department. USDA Secretary Perdue issued a memorandum last week making such designations. Kevin Norton, who is the current acting Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief, will act as Deputy Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC), Richard Flournoy will act as RMA Administrator. Steve Peterson will act as Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator and Terry Cosby will act as NRCS Chief during the transition. You can read the full list here
.USDA Announces Additional Coronavirus Food Assistance
USDA announced the additional CFAP assistance
on January 15, which includes expanding CFAP eligibility for some agricultural producers and commodities and updating payments to accurately compensate some producers who already applied for earlier assistance. This additional assistance builds on about $23.6 billion in payments made available through CFAP 1
and CFAP 2
earlier signups.FHFA Issues RFI on Appraisal-Related Policies, Practices, and Processes
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a Request for Input (RFI) on appraisal-related policies, practices, and processes. The input received in response to the RFI will be used by FHFA to determine the necessary modifications needed to ensure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) operate in a safe and sound manner.
The RFI covers four areas related to appraisals:
- Appraisal modernization;
- The Uniform Appraisal Dataset (UAD) and the design of appraisal forms;
- Automated Valuation Models (AVMs) and appraisal waivers; and
- Valuation differences by borrower and neighborhood ethnic makeup.
FHFA invites feedback
on all the questions in the RFI within 60 days of the publication of this document, no later than February 26, 2021. USDA Seeks Members for Advisory Committee on Urban Agriculture
The USDA is seeking members for a new advisory committee on urban agriculture, part of a broader effort to focus on the needs of urban farmers. The 12-person committee will advise the Secretary of Agriculture on the development of policies and outreach relating to urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices as well as identify any barriers to urban agriculture. If you are interested you can find more information here
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!New Members
Garrett Cox with Heritage Land Bank in Tyler, TX (Texas Chapter)
Collin Cresson with Bridgewood Properties in Woodway, TX (Texas Chapter)
John Garlock with Peoples Company in Clive, IA (Iowa and Nebraska Chapters)
Sarah Godde with GreenStone Farm Credit in Adrian, MI (Michigan Chapter)
Randy Hinton with Lone Star Ag Credit in Benbrook, TX (Texas Chapter)
Tempest Joice in Stillwater, OK (Oklahoma Chapter)
Dylan Layman in Niles, MI (Michigan Chapter)
Theodore Martin with T Martin Appraisal in Aberdeen, SD (South Dakota Chapter)
Kodi McBride in Ericson, NE (Nebraska Chapter)
Tamer Mohamed in Zionsville, IN (Indiana Chapter)
Katie Rozman in Elkhorn, WI (Wisconsin Chapter)
Don Sprengeler in Russell, MN (Minnesota Chapter)
Holly Suhr with Farm Credit Services of America in Scottsbluff, NE (Nebraska Chapter)
Shelly Weinzetl with Steffes Group in Litchfield, MN (Minnesota and Wisconsin 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!
Corey Prins, AFM
Cy Thoene, ARA
Thank you to all who have referred someone and in some cases, more than one, to join ASFMRA.
In This Issue