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ASFMRA Ag News - March 29, 2022

By ASFMRA Press posted 03-28-2022 06:50 PM


Nebraska Land Values on the Rise

The value of agricultural land in Nebraska increased by an average of 16% over the prior year, to a statewide average of $3,360 per acre, according to the preliminary findings of the 2022 Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey. This marks the largest increase in the market value of agricultural land in the state since 2014, and is the highest non-inflation-adjusted statewide land value in the history of the survey.

According to the survey, higher commodity prices and interest rates near historic lows have contributed to the recent robust real estate sales market. Survey participants also reported that those purchasing land looked to the asset as a hedge against inflation and economic uncertainty.

“Many operations improved their financial positions in the last year, despite rising machinery costs and input expenses,” says Jim Jansen, AFM, AAC, an agricultural economist with Nebraska Extension and ASFMRA member who co-authored the survey and report with Jeffrey Stokes, a professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics.

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Beartooth Ranch, Former Mel Gibson property, Sells Again

One of the primo properties in the Stillwater Valley, the Beartooth Ranch, has been sold after about two years on the market. Hall and Hall listed the 12,350-acre property about five miles south of Columbus in 2019 for $29.8 million. The ranch controls another 1,000 acres of state, private and federal leases, according to the listing. The sale price is confidential.

The Beartooth Ranch gained wider attention in 1988 when actor-director Mel Gibson purchased the land from Vern Sanders, who was well-known for his cattle business. After the sale, a large rapid in the Stillwater River, just above the ranch bridge, was dubbed Mad Max.

The ranch also contains a 3,700-acre conservation easement at its south end, meaning development options are limited on that portion of the land. “The easement doesn't have much impact on the value of the ranch, as the southeast portion is remote and would not be developable as its highest and best use,” says Andy Rahn, ARA, of Montana Land Source.

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Mole Drains Offer Low-Cost Alternative to Subsurface Tiles

Mole drains are a low-cost practice to improve the soil physical property and drainage performance. The use of mole drains is very suitable in heavy clay soil with a minimum of 45% clay content and less than 20% sand at the mole depth.

The primary benefit of mole drains is its low cost. Other benefits are improved soil physical properties and increased crop yield in heavy clay soil. When properly installed, mole drains create soil cracks that increase soil aeration, increase infiltration and facilitate water movement toward the mole channels.

Mole drains are unlined tunnels (mole channels) in the clay subsoil formed by a mole plow. In soil where surface drainage is insufficient for addressing excess water problems and installing subsurface (tile) drainage is uneconomical due to low crop income, mole drains are an inexpensive means to drain excess water from the soil profile.

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Greenhouse Study Confirms Flood-Tolerant Varieties of Soy

If you’ve ever looked at food labels in your local grocery store, you’ve probably seen soy listed as an ingredient. Even though soy is widespread in our foods, that doesn’t make the production of soy any easier for growers. One challenge facing soy growers is flooding. 

Flooding is a major cause of crop loss worldwide. As weather patterns change, experts expect severe weather events like flooding to occur more often. Luckily, the growers aren’t alone in facing this challenge. A study published in Crop Science found some answers that may be helpful to soy growers on land that is flood-prone.

Derrick Harrison and a team at University of Arkansas worked on the project. They conducted studies in greenhouses, which previous studies have shown to be reliable in breeding studies. This team was testing the reliability and consistency of screening germplasm in hydroponic systems in the greenhouse. The end goal was to determine how different varieties of soy react to flood conditions.

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Twelve New Cases of Avian Influenza Reported, 14.7 Million Birds Dead

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reported new cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in 11 counties. The flocks have been depopulated.

Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds, says the USDA. The department has a list of tools producers can use to help with biosecurity measures.

APHIS is working closely with state animal health officials on joint incident responses. State officials quarantined the affected premises, and birds on the properties will be depopulated to prevent the spread of the disease. Birds from the flocks will not enter the food system.

To date, 14,737,542 reported birds have been affected by HPAI.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

PAVE Report Released

The Interagency Taskforce on Property Appraisal and Valuation Equity (PAVE) led by HUD Administrator Marcia Fudge released its long-awaited report on appraisal bias last week. The Biden Administration Taskforce is composed of 13 Federal agencies including the Appraisal Subcommittee. The Taskforce report triggered a Senate Banking Committee hearing on March 24th (see below) as well a House Financial Services Committee hearing to take place on March 29th.

The PAVE report reviews the historical role of racism in residential property valuation and describes administrative steps federal agencies should take to advance equity in the appraisal process. The administrative steps are significant and will require coordination across all 13 Federal agencies as well as by the Appraisal Foundation.

The report also generally calls for legislative changes to “modernize” the governance structure of the appraisal industry and allow more public input in the establishment of appraisal standards and appraiser qualification criteria. The report does not specify the legislative changes, but Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has released a legislative proposal prior to the House hearing on March 29th. The legislative proposal, the Fair Appraisal and Inequity Reform Act of 2022, would establish a new Federal regulator, the Federal Valuation Agency (FVA) to replace the Appraisal Subcommittee. The FVA would also subsume responsibilities currently held by the Appraisal Foundation’s Qualification Board. The House drafted legislative changes would be significant to the appraisal industry’s governance structure and are not likely to find bipartisan traction in the Senate.

Senate Banking Committee Reviews PAVE Report

Last week the Senate Banking Committee held a public hearing to review equity in the appraisal process. The Committee heard from two witnesses Ms. Melody Taylor, Executive Director for the PAVE report and Mr. James Park, Executive Director for the ASC. You can read their written testimony here and here respectively. It's clear from Mr. Park’s testimony, written and oral, that he feels the ASC does not have sufficient regulatory oversight over the Appraisal Foundation. You can watch the replay of the hearing. It is about one hour long and doesn’t start until after the 15:30 mark.

Chairman Brown (D-OH) and Ranking Member Toomey (R-PA) sat through the entire hearing. No other Republican Senator showed up. Senator Toomey questioned the results of the study and the underlying data used in the study (not available to the public) but did indicate he is sympathetic to the qualification/ training issue raised in the report and in Mr. Park’s testimony. Given the lack of Republicans attending the hearing and Senator Toomey’s remarks, a bipartisan legislative solution is not likely in the Senate.

The “rural” shortage of appraisers came up on several occasions during the hearing. Senator Tester (D-MT) raised it during his question period. Other Democrat Senators who asked questions include Senators Menedez (D-NJ), Smith (D-MN) Warrant (D-MA) and Cortez Mastro (D-NV).

House Agriculture Committee Climate Hearing

The House Agriculture Committee continued its farm bill review with a hearing to evaluate the role of USDA programs to address climate change. Unlike previous hearings, this one sounded a little more partisan. Republicans questioned the timing of the hearing. Ranking Member G.T. Thompson said in his opening statement: “I would be remiss not to mention the tone deafness of this hearing as our country and our farmers face enormous and immediate challenges including higher food prices, record inflation and input costs, attacks on our energy independence, crop protection tools, and dependable labor.” Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Austin Scott (R-GA) made similar comments.

Ms. Kristin Weeks Duncanson testified on behalf of AGree Economic and Environmental Risk Coalition. In her written and verbal testimony, she said that crop insurance should recognize the impact of the adoption of risk reducing conservation practices. AGree issued an on-line report just prior to the hearing with similar statements.

EWG Claims Retiring Frequently Flooded Land Would Save Billions in Crop Insurance

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a new report last week claiming that retiring 300,000 acres along the Mississippi River would save billions in crop insurance indemnities (2001 -2020 period). Now that crop insurance participation rates are high for many commodities, the general notion of taking land out of production to forego (save) crop insurance indemnities is potentially a new argument for additional spending on USDA land retirement programs (conservation easements and the Conservation Reserve Program). However, considering current rising food prices and general inflationary pressure, the argument may not resonate immediately.

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
Shelby Borman with Compeer Financial in Eden Valley, MN (Minnesota Chapter)
Sabrina Boylen with Greenstone FCS in Rochester, MI (Michigan Chapter)
Brandon Brewer with Farm Credit Midsouth in Jonesboro, AR (Mid-South Chapter)
Erin Butler with Farm Credit Services of America in Perry, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Colter DeVries with Clark & Associates in Billings, MT (Montana Chapter)
Kayin Garner in Mahomet, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Kimberly Hearn in Garland, TX (Texas Chapter)
Lynn Hurley in Canton, SD (South Dakota Chapter)
Marilyn Hurley in Canton, SD (South Dakota Chapter)
Charles Jones in Auburn, AL (Alabama and Georgia Chapters)
Adam Lauer with Farm Credit of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM (New Mexico Chapter)
Mark Manfredo with Arizona State University in Mesa, AZ (Arizona Chapter)
Adam Martin with Land Management Partners, LLC in Alexis, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Alex Mitchell with Farmers National Company in Charles City, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Chelsea Ochs in Olney, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Lyndi Parent with Farm Credit Mid-America in Russellville, IN (Indiana Chapter)
Peter Pearre with Maryland Appraisal Company LLC in Westminster, MD (Northeast Chapter)
Bailey Reynolds with First Mid Ag Services in Mount Zion, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Ian Ross with Fresno Madera Farm Credit in Fresno, CA (California Chapter)
Clayton Shepherd with Southern Ag Credit in Ridgeland, MS (Mid-South Chapter)
Thatcher Skolout with Farm Credit Services of America in Omaha, NE (Nebraska Chapter)
Jillian Smith with Rooster Ag in Monroe Center, IL (Illinois Chapter)
William Spint with AVSO/ITPVD in Billings, MT (Montana Chapter)
Jordan Swan with Farmers National Company in York, NE (KS and NE Chapters)
Malinda Trainer with Farm Credit Mid-America in Washington Court House, OH (Ohio Chapter)
Blake White in Ninnekah, OK (Oklahoma Chapter)
Jaren Williams in Spokane, WA (Washington Chapter)
Orban Winton with Winton Appraisal Company in Socorro, NM (New Mexico 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!

Seth Baker, AFM
Lyndsy Bock
Ken Brown, ARA
Tarah Goodman
Ken Hobart
James Libbin, Ph.D.
Emily Lucke
Cary Matthews, ARA, RPRA
Trevor Milbourn
Toni Parish, ARA
Troy Parsell
Andrew Rahn, IV, ARA
Thomas Schorr, ARA
Shelby Smith
Paul Stoddard, ARA
Elizabeth Strom, AFM
Brian Thompson, AFM, ARA
Cody White

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