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ASFMRA Ag News - December 21, 2021

By ASFMRA Press posted 12-20-2021 11:14 PM


Iowa Farmland Values Jump 29%

After several years of modest gains and losses, the average value of an acre of Iowa farmland skyrocketed 29% in 2021. The nominal value of an acre of farmland is now higher than at any point since Iowa State University and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach began surveying values in 1941, and is 12% higher than the previous peak in 2013; although the current value in inflation-adjusted terms is still lower than that for 2012 and 2013.

The last time farmland values increased more than 25% was in 2011, when values rose 32.5%. “Surging ethanol demand and high commodity prices were two of the significant factors driving the increase in 2011,” said Wendong Zhang, ASFMRA member and associate professor in economics and extension economist at Iowa State’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. “The increase this year is in part due to much stronger commodity prices thanks to higher exports, stronger than expected crop yields, and strong ad hoc COVID-19 related government payments.”

Zhang leads Iowa State’s annual Land Value Survey, which found that the average statewide value of an acre of farmland is $9,751, an increase of 29%, or $2,193, since 2020. The $9,751 per acre estimate, and 29% increase in value, represents a statewide average of low-, medium- and high-quality farmland.

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Betting the Ranch

By all outward appearances in the fall of 2020, the Easterdays looked better than good. They employed hundreds of workers in their packing plants and on the ranch and farm, and contracted crews for seasonal labor. They were donors and boosters for Republican candidates and campaigns, gifted livestock to fairs in three counties and sponsored one of the region’s biggest rodeos, the Pendleton Round-Up. From steer wrestling to barrel races, they were fixtures in arena box seats and in the community, too.

But there was trouble.

Over the fiscal year ending in 2020, Easterday Ranches’ gross revenues had declined by almost half from the previous year, from $111 million to $65 million. And the ranches’ investments had been wiped out entirely. The farm was similarly failing, with gross revenues falling from $82 million to $52 million and interest income on investments diving even as the stock market was booming.

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DOD Funding for Farming Easements

Urban sprawl is a threat to many farmers. It’s a threat to the U.S. military, too. Encroaching development can limit or restrict training at military bases, according to the Department of Defense (DoD).

“Imagine you’re at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. Maintaining dark skies around that base is critical for U.S. military pilots who are training to fly in nighttime conditions. That training is compromised when light pollution from nearby commercial areas spreads,” said Joe Knott, Director of Military Partnerships with Compatible Lands Foundation — a specialized land trust whose primary focus is protecting military readiness while conserving land and natural resources.

“Residents that live in housing developments near military bases complain about the noise and smoke generated by training activities. Those complaints result in restrictions on the time and frequency training activities can be conducted,” he continued. “Over time the conflicts created by encroachment could damage our military’s readiness capabilities. If soldiers receive inadequate training, how will they perform on the battlefield?”

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U.S. Pork Producer to Limit Sales in California Over New Pig Law

Seaboard Foods, the nation’s second-biggest pig producer, said on Friday it will limit sales of certain pork products in California due to a measure requiring farmers to provide more space for animals raised for food sold in the state.

The company, which produces about 7.2 million hogs a year, “will no longer sell certain whole pork products into California due to California’s Proposition 12,” spokesman David Eaheart said. The measure, approved by voters in November 2018, is slated to take effect Jan. 1.

Supporters say it will make food production more humane by setting minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens. It also forbids the sale of raw veal, pork or eggs from animals enclosed in too little space. Opponents in the U.S. meat industry argue that enforcement will hurt producers and consumers by increasing food costs, and violate the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause by requiring out-of-state producers to comply or face the sales ban.

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Rupert Murdoch Buys Sprawling Montana Ranch From Koch Industries

Fox News founder and Wall Street Journal owner Rupert Murdoch has purchased the 340,000-acre Beaverhead Ranch in Southwest Montana from Koch Industries. The deal, worth $200 million according to reporting by both the Wall Street Journal and CNBC, makes it the largest ranch sale in Montana history.

“This is a profound responsibility,” the 90-year-old Murdoch said through a spokesman. “We feel privileged to assume ownership of this beautiful land and look forward to continually enhancing both the commercial cattle business and the conservation assets across the ranch.”

Spread across more than 500 square miles of private and leased land, the Beaverhead Ranch was purchased nearly 70 years ago by Fred Koch, founder of Koch Industries, and was operated under Matador Cattle Co. Koch Industries, which is now led by Charles Koch, who along with late brother David Koch, is known for bankrolling Republican politicians and conservative causes. The Beaverhead Ranch has 7,000 cow-calf pairs and is home to 15 families who are employed on the ranch.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

Congress Clears Federal Debt Ceiling Increase

Last week the Senate and House cleared legislation to increase the federal debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion. The increase is expected to allow the government to meet its obligations into 2023. Both votes, in the Senate and House were largely party-line votes with only one Republican in the House (Representative Kinzinger R-IL) voting to increase the debt ceiling.

Build Back Better Dead?

Both the House and Senate are in recess until next year. The Democrats left town disappointed that a vote did not occur in the Senate regarding Build Back Better (BBB), but they expected to vote on it, possibly, in early January. Senator Manchin (D-WV), one of the primary holdouts in the Senate, who had been in negotiations with the White House recently, yesterday said clearly, he could not support the House passed BBB. “I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t,” Manchin said on Fox News Sunday. “I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no on this legislation.”

The White House appeared to be taken by surprise and issued a statement by Press Secretary Jen Psaki yesterday afternoon expressing possible bad faith on the part of Senator Manchin.

“On Tuesday of this week, Senator Manchin came to the White House and submitted—to the President, in person, directly—a written outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the President’s framework, and covered many of the same priorities. While that framework was missing key priorities, we believed it could lead to a compromise acceptable to all. Senator Manchin promised to continue conversations in the days ahead, and to work with us to reach that common ground. If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.”

Whether yesterday’s drama is simply negotiating tactics, or the BBB is in fact dead remains to be seen. Democrat leaders will at some point force a vote on the BBB in the Senate, most likely, in January.

House Agriculture Committee to Start Farm Bill Hearings Early Next Year

In an interview, House Agriculture Chairman David Scott (D-GA) said he plans to start holding farm bill hearings starting in January. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Thompson (R-PA) welcomed Chairman Scott’s announcement saying: “We need to hear from USDA and we have to hear from key stakeholders around the country, farmers, ranchers, producers, processors.” Chairman Scott also indicated he expects the House to act on the Senate passed Growing Climate Solutions Act sometime next year.

FSA Announces 2022 Dairy Margin Coverage Sign-up Period

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) opened signup for its 2022 Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) program and expanded the program to allow dairy producers to enroll supplemental production. This signup period runs from December 13, 2021, to February 18, 2022.

The supplemental DMC will provide $580 million to small- and mid-sized dairy operations that have increased production over the years but were not able to enroll the additional production. Now, they will be able to retroactively receive payments for that supplemental production. Additionally, FSA updated how feed costs are calculated to better reflect actual dairy producer expenses. 

RMA Issues Apple Coverage Change Proposal

The Risk Management Agency (RMA) issued a proposed rule last week to amend the apple crop insurance coverage. Comments on the proposal are due February 14, 2022. According to RMA, the intended effect of proposed changes is to better meet the needs of the apple producers, to address program vulnerabilities that have caused increased loss ratios and rising premium costs, and to provide safeguards against fraud, waste, and abuse. The proposed changes will be effective for the 2023 and succeeding crop years.

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
Mandy Barden with DOI-AVSO in Lawrenceville, GA (Florida Chapter)
Sophie Bell in Keota, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Craig Christianson in Delta, CO (Wyoming Chapter)
Roger Colmenero with Hertz Farm Management, Inc. in Gilbert, AZ (Arizona Chapter)
Will Feucht in Princeville, IL (Illinois and Iowa Chapters)
Josh Kelly in Bloomington, MN (Minnesota Chapter)
Derek Krogmann in Manchester, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Sydni Nicolici with BBG Inc. in Portland, OR (Oregon and Washington Chapters)
Ashley Poduska in Mechanicsville, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Roxane Poupart with DOI/OS/AVSO/ITPVD in Lac Du Flambeau, WI (Wisconsin Chapter)
Benjamin Rigby with Acreage Capital, LLC in Layton, UT (Idaho-Utah and Wyoming Chapters)
Briana Scheid with Farm Credit of Mandan in Beulah, ND (North Dakota Chapter)
Brittany Vigil in Manderson, WY (Wyoming Chapter)
Rebecca Wilke with Wilke R Farms in Sturgeon Bay, WI (Wisconsin 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!

Timothy Fevold, AFM
Trent Johnson
Christian Minard
Emily Oberbroeckling
Sheila Ressler
Traci Schermerhorn
William Sellwood, ARA
Rick Six

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