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ASFMRA Ag News - November 23, 2021

By ASFMRA Press posted 11-23-2021 10:00 AM


Federal Reserve Ag Credit Surveys - 2021 Third Quarter Farmland Values Soar

On Monday, the Federal Reserve Banks of Chicago and Kansas City released updates regarding farm income, farmland values and agricultural credit conditions from the third quarter of 2021.

David Oppedahl, a Senior Business Economist at the Chicago Fed, explained in the AgLetter that, “Assisted by low interest rates, government support, and higher than normal farm incomes, the District saw a year-over-year gain of 18 percent in its agricultural land values in the third quarter of 2021.

"This was the largest year-over-year increase in the District’s farmland values in nine and a half years. Iowa led the way with a year-over-year jump in farmland values of 28 percent; other District states also saw double-digit year-over-year growth in farmland values.”

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Texas Cattle Raisers Fight to Protect Water Rights in Texas Supreme Court Briefing

The Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association filed an amicus curiae brief with the Texas Supreme Court in the case of Pape Partners v. DRR Family Properties. The brief, available here, asks that the state’s highest court consider the matter and reverse a previous decision by Texas’ 10th Court of Appeals in Waco.

The heart of the case is who has jurisdiction to decide disputes over ownership of water rights, the court system or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In 2020, the Court of Appeals ruled that TCEQ has exclusive jurisdiction to decide questions over ownership of water rights, and disputes must go through the agency’s administrative process. This ruling, however, has been widely criticized for reversing longstanding precedent on how water rights are considered, interpreted and protected.

Along with numerous other concerns, water rights advocates are united in their belief that TCEQ does not have the jurisdiction suggested by the appeals court. TCEQ agrees, stating in their own legal brief, “the Commission’s authority does not extend to adjudicating private disputes simply because they involve water rights.”

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Storied South Routt Ranch Enters Conservation Agreement

A storied working ranch in South Routt County that acts as a wildlife buffer zone between critical habitat on nearby public lands is now protected thanks to a conservation easement through the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust. Through the years, the property has supported hunting, fishing, sheep and cattle, and was home to the Kids Cavalry all-girls summer riding camp.

Amber Pougiales, assistant director of external relations with Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, attended the horse camp as a girl. “It’s difficult for me to describe just how much this conservation project means to me. I spent two weeks each summer at the Kids Cavalry riding camp, and Lou Dequine and his late wife, Lydia, are responsible for the creation of many of my fondest childhood memories,” Pougiales said. “The completion of the Flying Horse Ranch conservation easement provided me with the rewarding opportunity to not only protect an ecologically significant property but to also protect a place and thank a family that played an impactful role in my formative years.”

She said land transfer statistics show Routt County experienced a 48.5% increase in gross volume of real estate sales from 2019 to 2020. “This demand has placed significant pressure on development,” she said, “and caused an unprecedented increase in real estate value, challenging the economic viability of our largest and most rooted industries and placing never before seen development pressure on our agricultural lands and open space.”

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What Do Convicts and Mustangs Have in Common? A Wyoming Farm and Shot at Redemption

The Wyoming Honor Farm is a minimum-security prison. It sits just one mile north of the small town of Riverton, Wyoming — which is home to a little over 10,000 people at the confluence of four rivers and a jurisdictional history embroiled in land disputes between the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes and the state government.

After the land was ceded from the Wind River Reservation in 1905, it was transformed into a quintessential Wyoming town: full (but not too full) of livestock, long fences and the cowboys who work with both. In 1931, the State Penitentiary Farm (later to be renamed the Wyoming Honor Farm) opened, and even state prisoners became cowboys.

The farm started as an experiment. What if 30 inmates with marked good behavior were allowed to leave high-security facilities to maintain a working farm — complete with beef cattle, swine, poultry, crops, dairy and butchering operations? According to Andrew Brenston, one of the first onsite supervisors, the farm allowed former prisoners to be “successful in finding and maintaining their place in society and become useful citizens once again.” The idea of putting a minimum-security prison on a farm — where inmates slept, worked, learned and served out their sentences away from the typical penitentiary setting — worked in the state of Wyoming’s opinion, and the farm received additional funding.

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Carbon Farming Opportunities Beckon Farmers

Farmers must feel like major league rookies as they evaluate the barrage of carbon markets pitched their way.

Like their baseball counterparts, farmers are neophytes in this new arena. The good news is that carbon markets can be a hit in terms of a new “crop” for farmers.

In carbon markets, firms help match businesses aiming to be carbon neutral with farmers. Farmers receive payments to raise crops or livestock in ways that sequester greenhouse gases that fuel climate change: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

House Democrats Pass Build Back Better Bill

On Friday morning the House Democrats passed on a party-line vote President Biden’s Build Back Better bill. The bill now moves to the Senate where Democrats are expected to make changes to the House passed version to accommodate Senator Manchin (D-WV) to achieve all 50 Senate Democrats voting for the bill with Vice President Harris casting the deciding 51st vote. No Senate Republican will vote for the measure. With the House and Senate out this week for Thanksgiving, the Senate negotiations will take place in December.

While other parts of the bill are likely subject to change in the Senate, the agriculture provisions are less likely to change assuming Senate Democrats can pass the bill. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that enacting the agriculture title would result in direct spending outlays totaling $76.9 billion over the 2022-2031 period. House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA) and other House Agriculture Democrat Subcommittee leaders praised passage of the bill in a press statement while House Agriculture Committee Ranking member Thompson (R-PA) vigorously opposed the measure in a press statement.

FPAC Leadership Now in Place

Last Tuesday the Senate confirmed, by a vote of 76-19, Robert Bonnie to be Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation with oversight over the Risk Management Agency (RMA), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). He was sworn in later in the week and Secretary Vilsack issued the following press release:

“Robert Bonnie’s confirmation to serve as Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation is a victory for our farmers and ranchers. Robert is one of the nation’s foremost authorities and leaders on working lands approaches to conservation and incentive-based climate and conservation practices. Under his leadership, we will see a renewed focus toward preparing our food and agricultural community to lead the world in climate-smart agricultural practices. Robert has a wealth of knowledge and is well prepared for his new role. I look forward to working with him to further USDA’s mission to best serve farmers and ranchers equitably and make climate smart practices work for them in a market-oriented way.”

Also announced last week, Marcia Bunger will lead the RMA. The FSA and NRCS leaders were already announced. From the USDA press release:

Bunger joins USDA after serving as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) for 18 years. In total, she has over 25 years of experience working for USDA in the Farm Service Agency. In her role as County Executive Director, Bunger worked closely with Pine Ridge Tribal Government leaders and personnel to administer FSA programs on the second largest land based Indian Reservation in the U.S. She served 15 years on the South Dakota Advisory Council to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and previously held positions at Farm Credit Services of America, including Crop Insurance Specialist and Crop Insurance Officer. Recently, she founded an agriculture consulting limited liability company providing assistance to area farmers & ranchers and to work with a local crop insurance agency selling and servicing crop insurance policies. Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre, family-owned farm. Bunger graduated cum laude and received her bachelor’s degree from Augustana College. She will be the first person who is a member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and the first woman to serve as Administrator for RMA.

FSA Announces Remaining WHIP+ 2019 Payments and $270 million in Pandemic Assistance to Poultry, Livestock Contract Growers

USDA has begun issuing approximately $270 million in payments to contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry who applied for Pandemic Assistance. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, provided funding for payments to contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry for revenue losses from Jan. 1, 2020, through Dec. 27, 2020. Contract producers of broilers, pullets, chicken eggs, turkeys, hogs and pigs, ducks, geese, pheasants, and quail were eligible for assistance, along with eligible breeding stock and eggs of all eligible poultry types produced under contract. Signup ran from Aug. 24, 2021, through Oct. 12, 2021, with payments now finally being issued.

Last week, FSA announced it is issuing the remaining 10 percent of 2019 WHIP+ payments. Because of budget constraints, the payments were initially subject to a 50 percent factor. In June 2021, FSA authorized a second payment equal to 40 percent of the calculated payment. At that time, it was also announced that a third round of payments may be issued if sufficient funds become available.

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
Sarah Bogus with Farm Credit Services in Des Moines, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Thomas Byrne with U.S. Dept. of Interior in Atlanta, GA (Georgia Chapter)
Joella Chamberlain in Hastings, MN (Minnesota and South Dakota Chapters)
Madison Morris with Oklahoma AgCredit in Ardmore, OK (Oklahoma Chapter)
Alex Rosdail in Oakwood, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Emily Rybinski with Rybinski Farms Inc. in Ivanhoe, MN (Minnesota and South Dakota Chapters)
Molly Sparrowk in Clements, CA (California Chapter)
Jillian West with Carolina Farm Credit in Asheboro, NC (Carolinas Virginias Chapter)

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!

Tyler Grace
Ryan McKnight
David Nebel, ARA
Brian Neville, AFM
Ronda Newgard, ARA
William Sellwood, ARA

Thank you to all who have referred someone and in some cases, more than one, to join ASFMRA.