ASFMRA Ag News - February 1, 2021

By ASFMRA Press posted 25 days ago


In This Issue

China Books Biggest Deal Yet for U.S. Corn

China booked its biggest purchase of U.S. corn yet, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Friday, buying more at once than any country except the Soviet Union 30 years ago, as it tries to meet a surge in demand for animal feed.

The purchase, and a string of deals earlier this week, mean China is on course to become the world’s largest corn importer.

Its buying spree has driven up global prices of corn and other grains and may stoke food inflation in economies already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.

USDA reported private sales of 2.108 million tonnes of corn for delivery to China in the 2020/21 marketing year. It was the second-biggest daily U.S. sale on record, eclipsed only by a deal for 3.72 million tonnes to the USSR in January 1991.

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We’re Told That Healthy Soil Sequesters Huge Amounts of Carbon, Scientists Are Finding That’s Not Always the Case

In November, a group of over 150 former government officials and advisers to President Biden published a list of recommendations meant to help his administration “hit the ground running” on the climate crisis. Foremost among the suggested ag proposals was the creation of a federal “carbon bank,” which would pay producers to adopt conservation practices such as cover cropping and no-till farming on their fields.

The basic concept is that these activities help plants suck carbon from the atmosphere and direct it into soil, effectively turning farmland into a big sponge that can sop up all the heat-trapping greenhouse gases we emit. A carbon bank would incentivize farmers to adopt such practices. Down the line, the former officials suggested, the federal government could go on to sell these carbon credits to polluting companies seeking to offset their own emissions.

But there remains a lot that we don’t yet know about soil carbon sequestration—how to accurately measure it, how to price it, and what practices really increase it. This week, research opened up an additional area of uncertainty: A study on interactions between carbon, soil, and soil enzymes raises new questions about how long sequestered carbon actually stays in the ground.

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Noem Orders Agriculture, Natural Resource Department Merger

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday issued an executive order to merge two departments overseeing the state’s agriculture industry and natural resources.

The Republican governor’s order created the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources that she billed as a “one-stop” shop for farmers and ranchers that would save the state about $450,000 by eliminating five positions. While the influential South Dakota Farm Bureau praised the move, other farmers’ groups focused on conservation opposed the merger, saying it impacted the protection of resources including water, oil and soil.

Hunter Roberts, the current Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, will head the new department.

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Essential Worker Status May Help Appraisers Get Early Vaccination

The Appraisal Institute on Jan. 20 advised its professionals to check with state and local government agencies where they reside to see if the real estate appraiser profession falls into an essential workforce category that will give them early access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

Some state and local governments are scheduling vaccinations based on essential workforce categories that were put in place when the stay-at-home orders and other restrictions were initially enacted. Individuals identified as being in an essential workforce category or as being in a public facing occupation or profession are often placed into a “phase” or “tier” that would give them earlier access to a vaccine.

Inclusion in the essential workforce category is what permitted most appraisers to continue providing services while state and local stay-at-home and other restrictions were in place; some areas still have those orders in place.

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Value of Missouri Land Continues to Grow

All classes of Missouri land values grew steadily in the past year, according to the University of Missouri Extension’s “Missouri Farm Land Values Opinion Survey.”

Ray Massey, MU Extension agricultural economics professor, heads the survey efforts.

Low-interest rates and nonfarm recreational purchases pushed values upward in 2020. A couple of other factors brought new investors to the table.

Buyers of farmland near metropolitan areas said expansion of broadband internet made these properties more attractive to investors, Massey says. COVID-19 also nudged some city dwellers to buy property in rural areas to build a house. Massey said this likely is a short-term phenomenon and should not factor into long-term land values in these areas.

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Sale of Family Farm on Madison's East Side Offers Opportunity for Development, Preservation

On Mother’s Day 1998, Lisa Rowin walked out of Woodman’s Market to see several firetrucks and police cars at the U.S. Postal Service building across Milwaukee Street.

It wasn’t a burning building or an armed robbery that drew the response, but rather a herd of escaped cattle in the middle of Madison’s East Side. Rowin hoped the livestock had run off from a broken-down cattle truck, but a police officer confirmed what she suspected — the cattle were from her family’s farm half a mile west on Milwaukee Street.

“I called my dad — he happened to have a cellphone in his truck at the time — and he said, ‘Make sure you have your tennies on,’ so we went chasing after them,” Rowin said.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

President Biden Issues Climate Related Executive Order

Last week President Biden issued a wide ranging executive order to tackle the climate crises in the U.S. and abroad. The order states that: “It is the policy of my Administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of United States foreign policy and national security.”

The goal for agriculture as outlined in the order and accompanying fact sheet is to make “American agriculture net zero emissions, first in the world.” The Secretary of Agriculture is directed to make efforts in the first 60 days from the date of the order to collect input from Tribes, farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, firefighters, and other stakeholders on how to best use Department of Agriculture programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities, and how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable, and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration and that source sustainable bioproducts and fuels. The Secretary of Agriculture is also directed to submit to the Biden Climate Task Force within 90 days of the date of the order a report making recommendations for an agricultural and forestry climate strategy.

Incoming Senate Agriculture Committee Chair, Senator Debbie Stabenow said last week that one of the priorities for the Senate Agriculture Committee in this session of Congress is passing climate related legislation. She and Senator Braun (R-IN) introduced a bipartisan bill in the last session of Congress, The Growing Climate Solutions Act, that will likely be the starting basis for the Committee’s work on climate legislation.

Incoming USDA Secretary Vilsack Outlines Priorities

The Senate has not yet confirmed Mr. Vilsack to Secretary of Agriculture. His confirmation hearing is scheduled for February 2nd. However, having served as Secretary for eight years during the Obama Administration, he will hit the ground running once confirmed. In an interview with Art Cullen of the Storm Lake Times, Mr. Vilsack provided eight priorities for USDA under the Biden Administration that require “significant work or even historic work.”

  • COVID relief
  • Equity and inclusion
  • Climate and regenerative agriculture
  • Rural economic development
  • Nutrition security and assistance
  • Open and competitive markets
  • USDA employee morale, and
  • Forest Service management in an era of climate-driven wildfires.

Republicans Announce House Agriculture Committee Members

Democrats have not yet announced their full slate of House Agriculture Committee members, but the Republicans have. The new Republican House Agriculture Committee members are Michelle Fischbach (MN), Tracey Mann (KS), Randy Feenstra (IA), Michael Cloud (TX), Kat Cammack (FL), Barry Moore (AL), and Mary Miller (IL). Returning Republican Committee members are Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA), Austin Scott (GA), Rick Crawford (AR), Scott DesJarlais (TN), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Rodney Davis (IL), Rick Allen (GA), David Rouzer (NC), Trent Kelly (MS), Don Bacon (NE), Dusty Johnson (SD), Jim Baird (IN), Jim Hagedorn (MN), Chris Jacobs (NY), and Troy Balderson (OH). Three previous Republican House Agriculture Committee members not returning to the Committee are Jamie Comer (KY), Mike Bost (IL), and Neal Dunn (FL).

House Agriculture Appropriation Subcommittee Members Announced

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA) will remain Chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Other Democrat Subcommittee members are Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), and Grace Meng (D-NY). Republican members are Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Andy Harris (R-MD), David Valadao (R-CA), John Moolenaar (R-MI), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).

USDA Suspends Debt Collection, Foreclosures on Farm Loans

USDA announced the temporary suspension of past-due debt collections and foreclosures for distressed borrowers under the Farm Storage Facility Loan and the Direct Farm Loan programs administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA). USDA will temporarily suspend non-judicial foreclosures, debt offsets or wage garnishments, and referring foreclosures to the Department of Justice; and USDA will work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to stop judicial foreclosures and evictions on accounts that were previously referred to the Department of Justice.

Additionally, USDA has extended deadlines for producers to respond to loan servicing actions, including loan deferral consideration for financially distressed and delinquent borrowers. In addition, for the Guaranteed Loan program, flexibilities have been made available to lenders to assist in servicing their customers.

The announcement expands previous actions undertaken by USDA to lessen financial hardship. According to USDA data, more than 12,000 borrowers—approximately 10% of all borrowers—are eligible for the relief announced today. Overall, FSA lends to more than 129,000 farmers, ranchers and producers.

Crop Insurance Not a Barrier to Conservation Adoption

The Journal of Environmental Management published an article last month that concluded crop insurance is not a barrier to conservation adoption. The authors focused on Midwest corn producers and conducted semi-structured interviews and a multi-state survey to determine if crop insurance requirements limit cover crops and/or conservation tillage adoption.

From the conclusion of the article: “Our findings routinely contradict the notion perpetuated in agricultural media publications that conservation adoption is limited by crop insurance requirements, or that producers must forgo crop insurance to use conservation practices. Agricultural media articles which position conservation adoption as an “either/or” _while using crop insurance has the potential to deter producers from adopting conservation, given the high importance of crop insurance.”

In Memory: Larry W. Foltz, Prentice, Wisconsin

The ASFMRA was honored and pleased to welcome Larry into the membership in 1999. Larry was very active, especially with the Wisconsin Chapter. He served as the Wisconsin Chapter President-Elect, then the President, and then the Immediate Past President. Larry also served as the Wisconsin Chapter Director on the Board of Directors. As stated by Arlin Brannstrom, AAC, “Larry was always willing to share his experience with others and he will be greatly missed by our members.” Larry did make many friends through his association with the Society who will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

In This Issue