Ag News

ASFMRA Ag News - February 16, 2021

By ASFMRA Press posted 02-16-2021 12:25 AM


In This Issue

Flagler, For Free

For the past 15 years, two billboards have stood on the city limits of Flagler, Colorado, waiting to greet those who may be looking for a place to land. From 10 feet in the air overlooking I-70 and Flagler, the two signs deliver their proclamatory message: “Got Land! Got Water! All we need is you.”

Flagler is a rarity in the West — it’s offering land without a price tag to someone willing to stake a future in the town.

Situated in eastern Colorado, this small town is an agricultural community — akin more to the tilled-and-planted Midwest than the Rocky Mountain reveries most envision upon hearing “Colorado.” The ground is flat, and most houses are separated by a mile or two of grain fields and grassland for cattle. The two main employers in town are a grain co-op and bird seed factory.

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Planting Crops — and Carbon, Too

Maryland farmer Trey Hill pulled in a healthy haul of corn last fall and then immediately planted rye, turnips, clover and other species, which are now spreading a lush green carpet over the soil. While his grandfather, who started the family farm along the Chesapeake Bay, always planted in the spring in a clean field, in Hill’s approach to farming, “you never want to see the ground.”

As the winter cover crops grow, they will feed microbes and improve the soil’s health, which Hill believes will eventually translate into higher yields of the crops that provide his income: corn, soybean and wheat.

But just as importantly, they will pull down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the ground. Hill is at the cutting edge of what many hope will provide not just a more nature-friendly way of farming, but a powerful new climate solution.

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U.S. Farmers Eye Range of Good Planting Options after Biggest Grains Rally in Years

Illinois farmer Fred Helms is so eager for his next soybean crop he invested in a faster-maturing variety of soy seeds in hopes of beating other farmers to harvest the crop in mid-September, more than a month earlier than usual.

Other U.S. farmers told Reuters they are signing contracts to sell the corn and soy crops they will harvest in autumn, months before they have even planted them, looking to take advantage of boom times after years of oversupply, trade wars and low prices. Some are waiting to sell, betting on even higher prices.

A dozen farmers interviewed by Reuters said 2021 is shaping up to be their most profitable season in years as corn futures have rallied to their highest since June 2013 and soybean futures to their highest since June 2014. They are working to pay off debts and update machinery after years of sluggish markets left them dependent on government payouts.

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Walt Disney’s Grandson Fights to Save Family Wyoming Ranch

A picturesque 110-acre Wyoming ranch in Teton County is at the center of a multi-million-dollar battle by Walt Disney's grandson, Bradford Disney Lund, to secure control of the inheritance put in trust for Lund by his mother, Sharon D. Lund.

The Code of the West seems to elude Lund, who hopes that the Wyoming ranch will continue to be retained by the trust as was intended for use and enjoyment by him and his family. Lund is ensnarled in California's notoriously abusive-prone probate system. As full as Walt Disney was with imagination, he likely would have never dreamt that such an unhappy circumstance would unfold for his grandson.

Hanging in the balance is "Eagle South Fork," the family ranch that is located in Wilson, Wyoming, in Teton County, in the shadow of Grand Teton, not far from Jackson Hole. It's been a Disney family treasure for decades.

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Corn Boom Sends Farmland Value Up Most Since 2012 in Midwest

The global pandemic isn’t hurting the value of farmland in the heart of the U.S. Corn Belt.

Agriculture land values rose 6% last year, the biggest gain since 2012, across the Seventh Federal Reserve District, a five-state region including all of Iowa and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Bankers say more gains are expected this quarter, according to the Chicago Fed’s latest AgLetter.

Along with lower interest rates, farmland fortunes were boosted by last year’s rebound in revenues from corn and soybeans. Iowa, hit hardest by an August derecho storm that swept across multiple states and caused $11 billion in losses, was the only state with lower crop production compared with a year earlier. A pickup in trade of livestock products also helped offset income losses from the pandemic.

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Additional Restrictions on Foreign-Owned Farmland in Missouri Spark Debate

Missouri lawmakers are debating how to limit and track the amount of foreign-owned farmland in the state.

Members of the Missouri House Agriculture Committee considered a bill last week that would require county assessors to track foreign farmland holdings. It would also cap foreign ownership of farmland at the county level to no more than 1% of the total agricultural acreage in each county. Farmland currently owned by foreign entities will not be affected.

Rep. Don Rone, R-New Madrid, chairman of the committee and sponsor of the bill, said he is advocating for grain farmers in the Bootheel who expect anti-competitive market conditions due to a pending foreign acquisition of 17 grain elevators along the Mississippi River.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

House Agriculture Committee Moves Additional Coronavirus Relief

While the Senate conducted the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump last week, the House started the process to pull together President Biden’s $1.9 trillion Coronavirus relief package. The Democrats are pursuing the relief package under budget reconciliation rules, which allows a simple majority vote in the Senate for passage. Several House Committees marked-up their respective pieces of the budget package, including the House Agriculture Committee. The House Budget Committee will combine the respective Committees work into one budget package by the end of this month or early March for a House vote.

The House Agriculture Committee passed on a party-line vote (25-23) a $16+ billion agriculture relief package late Wednesday last week. It’s contribution to the budget reconciliation process. The nearly 7-hour organizational meeting and mark-up was conducted virtually. Ranking member G.T. Thompson lamented that Republicans had no prior input into the package. Only one amendment, offered by freshman Representative Randy Feenstra (R-IA) to make 2020 crop losses from the derecho eligible for WHIP+ disaster payments, was successfully passed.

The package includes nearly $4 billion to purchase and distribute food and agricultural commodities, $500 million for grants to rural health care providers, $1 billion for socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, $800 million for the Food for Peace program, and additional Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program assistance, including extending the ongoing 15% benefit increase through September 30 of this year.

Senate Adopts Organizing Resolution, Names Agriculture Committee Members

The Senate unanimously adopted an organizing resolution. The agreement sets the ground rules for an evenly divided Senate. Democrats hold the majority because Vice President Kamala Harris can break any tie votes and therefore the Democrats will Chair all Senate Committees. The Senate Agriculture Committee will have 11 Democrats and 11 Republican members. During the 116th Congress, the ratio was 11 Republicans to 9 Democrats.

Senator Debbie Stabenow will chair the committee and is joined by Senators Patrick Leahy VT), Sherrod Brown (OH), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Michael Bennet (CO), Kristen Gillibrand (NY), Tina Smith (MN), Richard Durbin (IL), Corey Booker (NJ), Ben Ray Lujan (NM), and Ralph Warnock (GA).

John Boozman (AR) will be the Ranking Member of the committee and the other Republican members are Mitch McConnell (KY), John Hoeven (ND), Joni Ernst (IA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS), Mike Braun (IN), Chuck Grassley (IA), John Thune (SD), Deb Fisher (NE), Roger Marshall (KS) and Tommy Tuberville (AL).

House Agriculture Committee Democrat Roster and Subcommittee Chairs Announced

As part of the organizational meeting last week, Chairman Scott announced the Democrats roster on the House Agriculture Committee as well as his subcommittee chairs. The roster includes by seniority: Jim Costa (CA), Jim McGovern (MA), Filemon Vela (TX), Alma Adams (NC), Abigail Spanberger (VA), Jahana Hayes (CT), Antonio Delgado (NY), Bobby Rush (IL), Chellie Pingree (ME), Delegate Gregorio Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands), Ann Kuster (NH), Cheri Bustos (IL), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Delegate Stacey Plaskett (US VI), Tom O’Halleran (AZ), Salud Carbajal (CA), Ro Khanna (CA), Al Lawson (FL), Luis J. Correa (CA), Angie Craig (MN), Josh Harder (CA), Cindy Axne (IA), Kim Schrier (WA), and Jimmy Panetta (CA).

House Agriculture Subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members are:

  • General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee — Chair Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Ranking Member Austin Scott (R-GA)
  • Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit, Research and Development and Broadband Subcommittee — Chair Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Ranking Member Michelle Fishbach (R-MN)
  • Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee — Chair Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Ranking Member Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
  • Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Subcommittee — Chair Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Ranking Member Don Bacon (R-NE)
  • Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee — Chair Delegate Stacy Plaskett (D-US VI), Ranking Member Jim Baird (R-IN)
  • Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee — Chair Jim Costa (D-CA), Ranking Member Dusty Johnson (R-SD)

Secretary Vilsack Confirmation Vote Scheduled

USDA Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilsack’s confirmation vote is now scheduled for February 23rd in the Senate. He is expected to be confirmed by the Senate and can start work at USDA once the vote is completed and the President swears him into office.

ARC/ PLC Signup Deadline March 15, 2021

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding all agriculture producers that the ARC/ PLC deadline for 2021 is March 15th. Agricultural producers who have not yet enrolled in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for 2021 must do so by the deadline. Producers who have not yet signed a 2021 enrollment contract or who want to make an election change should contact their local FSA office to make an appointment. Program enrollment for 2021 is required in order to participate in the programs, but elections for the 2021 crop year are optional and otherwise remain the same as elections made for 2020.

CRP Deadline Extended

USDA is extending the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) General Signup period indefinitely, which had previously been announced as ending on February 12, 2021. USDA will continue to accept offers as it takes this opportunity for the incoming Administration to evaluate ways to increase enrollment. Before the General CRP signup period ends, producers will have the opportunity to adjust or resubmit their offers to take advantage of planned improvements to the program.

Enrollment has been declining in CRP. There are 20.8 million acres currently enrolled, the lowest amount since 1988. Up to 25 million acres can be enrolled. Signup for the CRP Grasslands option is set for March 15 through April 23. The grasslands option is intended to preserve grassland, rangeland and pastureland from conversion.

In This Issue