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ASFMRA Ag News - May 9, 2023

By ASFMRA Press posted 21 days ago


Land Values Holding Their Own

Land values are holding up throughout the High Plains, according to an expert who tracks rural real estate sales.

Paul Schadegg, AFM, Senior Vice President of Real Estate Operations at Farmers National Company, says the double-digit increase in values in recent years has slowed but the market is resilient.

“A year ago we fully anticipated see some settling in the market,” he said. Instead the market went a different direction. “It really accelerated into the second half of 2022 and we really didn’t see any kind of settling until somewhere between the third and fourth quarter.”

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[WATCH] Could Farmers Be Held Liable for Devastating Dust Storm Accidents in Illinois?

Last week we reported on a devastating dust storm that resulted in a major traffic accident on a rural interstate in Illinois.

A state patrol said that the cause of the crash was due to excessive winds blowing dirt from farm fields across the highway obscuring visibility.
Many are now wondering if the farmers might be held liable.

Roger McEowen with the Washburn School of Law spoke with RFD-TV’s own Christina Loren on what regulations might play a role, if farmers could be held liable, and the big takeaways from the situation.

Watch the video

Billionaire Industrialist Buys Wyoming Ranch With Ties to the Disney Family

A Wyoming ranch once owned by members of the Disney family has sold after hitting the market for $71 million last year. 

The buyer is an entity tied to billionaire industrialist Steven Rales, according to property records and people familiar with the deal. The seller was Stephen Gordon, a former manufacturing executive who bought the ranch from the Disney family in the 1980s. The sale price of the ranch wasn’t disclosed since Wyoming is a nondisclosure state. Neither Mr. Gordon nor Mr. Rales responded to requests for comment. 

Known as the Diamond G Ranch, the property spans about 5,000 deeded acres and is located about 82 miles east of Jackson Hole near the town of Dubois, according to marketing materials. 

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Farmer Sentiment Improves; Less Pessimism Over Interest Rates

Farmer sentiment improved modestly in April as the Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer reversed a two-month decline up 6 points to a reading of 123. Both the Index of Current Conditions and the Index of Future Expectations improved in April with the biggest rise taking place in future expectations. The Current Conditions Indexrose 3 points to 129 while the Index of Future Expectations rose 7 points to 120. When asked to look ahead one year, more producers said they expect to be better off financially than now with fewer respondents expecting conditions to worsen compared to both a month earlier and one year earlier. This month’s survey was conducted from April 10-14, 2023.

The Farm Financial Performance Index rose 7 points in April to 93, matching the index’s January reading. The prime interest rate charged by U.S. commercial banks increased from 7.75% in January to 8% in late March and a shift in farmers’ expectations regarding future Federal Reserve Board interest rate policy could be one reason the financial performance index improved this month. Compared to earlier in the year, fewer producers expect interest rates to rise over the next year and more producers think rates are likely to hold steady or even decline. This month 34% of respondents said they expect the U.S. prime interest rate to remain unchanged or decline over the next year compared to 25% of producers who felt that way in February. At the same time, two-thirds (66%) of producers expect interest rates to keep rising, compared to 75% of respondents who felt that way in February. The biggest shift was among respondents expecting rates to rise 1 to 2% in the next year which declined to 37% of respondents in April vs. 43% of respondents in February.

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U.S. Treasury Dept. Moves to Limit Foreign Land Purchases Near Military Bases

By now, you’ve likely heard of the Chinese balloons that made their way across the U.S. in late January and early February and were eventually shot down. The spy balloons, coupled with a Chinese-owned company purchasing land 12 miles from a U.S. Air Force base in North Dakota, have sounded alarms on both state and federal levels.

To limit further foreign activity on U.S. lands, particularly the sale of land, the Treasury Department's Office of Investment Security proposed a rule on Friday that would require foreign entities to garner U.S. government approval before they are able to purchase land within 100 miles of eight military bases.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) welcomed news of the proposed rule, which could have blocked the North Dakota land sale to the Fufeng Group.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

House Passes Debt Ceiling Legislation

House Republicans passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023, which lifts the debt ceiling by roughly one year or $1.5 trillion whichever occurs first. The vote was 217 – 211 with four Republicans voting “no” along with all House Democrats. Three members did not vote, allowing passage with 217 votes instead of 218. The four Republicans voting against the measure were Representatives Biggs (R-AZ), Buck (R-CO), Burchett (R-TN) and Gaetz (R-FL).

Passage is a significant victory for Speaker McCarthy (R-CA) and a necessary step if Republicans are to be successful in negotiating reduced federal spending in return for lifting the debt ceiling. The particulars of the bill itself were less important than the act of passing a bill that lifts the debt ceiling and reduces spending. As the Speaker said after passage: “We have lifted the debt limit, we have done our job, we are the only body that passed anything,”

House passage has resulted in President Biden scheduling a meeting with Congressional Leaders (McCarty, Jefferies, Schumer, and McConnell) this week. Current estimates have the U.S. running out of borrowing authority in early June. Running out of borrowing authority means defaulting on scheduled government payments, which the country has never done before. Until the debt ceiling issue is resolved it will be difficult for the Agriculture Committees to move forward with a farm bill.

Senate Agriculture Committee Reviews Farm Safety Net

The Senate Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management and Trade held a two-part hearing last week to review the farm safety net. Chaired by Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Ranking Member Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) the subcommittee heard from a panel of farm group representatives on Tuesday and from the crop insurance industry and bankers on Thursday.

It is clear from both hearings that farmers strongly support crop insurance and want to maintain it. A consensus exists that the commodity programs are inadequate but there is no agreement on how to improve them. Additionally, finding money to enhance the commodity programs will prove difficult. 

RMA Announces $25 Million ADD-PAY Program

The Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced the availability of the $25 million that was provided in the 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill last December for additional Administrative and Operating (A&O) payments for 2021 reinsurance year specialty crop contracts. The ADD-PAY Program is a one-time additional payment to Approved Insurance Providers (AIP) administering eligible crop insurance contracts for 2021 reinsurance year specialty crops. Funding for the ADD-PAY Program will be distributed to AIPs proportionally based on their respective liabilities for eligible crop insurance contracts for 2021 reinsurance year specialty crops. Note: the distribution is based on liabilities, not premium.

USDA Announces Signup for Rice Program

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will begin sending prefilled applications to rice producers the week of May 8 for the new Rice Production Program (RPP), which will provide up to $250 million in assistance to rice farmers based on 2022 planted and prevented planted acres.  The funding was made available in the FY 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill.

FSA is mailing pre-filled applications to producers using information on file with the RMA or FSA, as reported by rice producers through their crop insurance agents or FSA county offices.  To apply for assistance through the RPP, producers must return their completed FSA-174, Rice Production Program Application, to their recording FSA county office by close of business on Monday, July 10, 2023. Applications may be submitted either in person, by mail, email, or facsimile.