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ASFMRA Ag News - May 23, 2023

By ASFMRA Press posted 05-22-2023 08:48 PM


USDA Streamlines Conservation Easement Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an effort to streamline its Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), updating its process around land appraisals and land surveys while certifying organizations that help the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with the process of rolling land into easements. 

The ACEP aids landowners in conserving, restoring, and protecting wetlands as well as at-risk grasslands.

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Inn at Dos Brisas Shaves $2.5M Off Asking Price

A more than 300-acre Texas ranch—including the largest private indoor riding arena in the state—is back on the market for $15 million after a $2.5 million price cut. 

Located in Brenham, Texas, between Austin and Houston, the estate includes a Mediterranean-style main house and nine casitas and haciendas with private patios that open up to tranquil views of the Texas Hill Country. It also boasts well-maintained equestrian facilities, Peach Creek, and three stocked ponds, according to the listing with Tonya Currie with the Lifestyle Ranch & Home Group at Compass. 

The property first hit the market last April for $17.5 million, listing records show. It was removed in September, reappearing Monday at its new price. It’s located on the east side of Washington County, which has the priciest acreage in the area, according to Ms. Currie. 

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Spiking Farmland Values Squeeze Young Farmers

When Florida farmer Jeb Smith retires, he wants to leave his son Jared with some financial security, and that means adding property to his 800-acre peanut, sod, cattle, and tilapia farm near Hastings.

Skyrocketing property values stand in his way.

“Can he afford to secure more?” says the elder Smith. “As a young 27-year-old, it’s getting more difficult to compete.”

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Connecting Southeast Ranchers to Farmers With Cover Crops to Graze

A new University of Florida project aims to “play matchmaker” between ranchers with livestock and landowners with grazing space.

The Southeast Grazing Exchange, funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Water Policy, is free to users and seeks registrants with all livestock and field types, from Florida as well as neighboring Alabama and Georgia.

Account creators are asked a few details about their herd or field – size, grazing season, and fencing and water availability, for example – and then a pin appears on the service’s interactive online map. Selecting a pin reveals those details, with contact information protected via a messaging tool hosted on the platform.

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NC Land Appraiser Got $467M in Tax Breaks on Bogus Land Values. Now, He’s Going to Prison

A North Carolina land appraiser pleaded guilty Friday to running a fraud scheme in Georgia that bilked taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars, federal prosecutors in Atlanta said.

Shelby resident Walter “Terry” Douglas Roberts II inflated charitable contribution deductions based on bogus and way-too-high appraisal values of conservation easements, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Roberts wasted no time launching the ruse after becoming a licensed appraiser in 2007, prosecutors said.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

ACBO Releases Updated Baseline

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its updated estimates (May baseline). CBO estimates the deficit to be $1.5 trillion for this fiscal year. This baseline will be used by the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for their farm bill work this year.

The May 2023 projections (see USDA Mandatory Farm Programs) increase total Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) spending excluding conservation programs to $83.6 billion (FY 2024 – 2033) from the February estimate of $71.8 billion. Conservation spending increases slightly to $59.9 billion from $57.5 billion and crop insurance increases to $101.3 billion from $97 billion over the ten-year period. The crop insurance increase is due to higher commodity price estimates in the near term (out year price projections were largely unchanged in the May estimate). 

The nearly $11 billion increase in CCC spending is largely due to increases in projections for emergency assistance (especially Livestock Forage Disaster Program), export programs and interest payments – nearly $8 of the $11 billion increase. The remainder is due to increased estimates in expected commodity program payments (ARC and PLC). 

House Appropriations Subcommittee Moves FY 2024 Spending Bill 

The House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee passed on voice vote the FY 2024 appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture. The full House Appropriations committee will consider it this week. The bill provides appropriations for USDA agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. The bill provides a non-defense discretionary total of $25.313 billion for programs under the jurisdiction of the subcommittee, $532 million (2.1%) below the FY 2023 enacted level and $3.622 billion (12.5%) below the FY 2024 President’s Budget Request. It also includes recissions and spending limitations that “save” $8.15 billion resulting in a net score of $17.163 billion. Democrats decried the partisan bill and Secretary Vilsack described it as “pathetic, it is punitive, and it is petty.”

In terms of the Salaries and Expenses (S&E) for the Risk Management Agency the bill provides $63.637 million compared to $66.87 million for FY 2023. The Farm Service Agency S&E totals $1.541 billion roughly the same as in FY 2023, the Natural Resource Conservation Service comes in at $911.399 million down from the FY 2023 level of $941.124 and the FPAC Business Center is provided $231.302 million down from $248.684 million for FY 2023. Because the White House and Speaker McCarthy (R-CA) are currently in negotiations over spending caps and raising the debt ceiling, the Agriculture spending bill does not reflect any “agreement” on total federal spending and would likely change once an agreement is struck.

USDA Announces 2022 Disaster Payment Intentions

Recall the FY 2023 Appropriations bill provided $3.7 billion for FY 2022 crop and livestock disaster payments. USDA announced it intends to provide an Emergency Relief Program (ERP) track for producers who had coverage through federal crop insurance or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP). Through a streamlined application process, USDA intends to send pre-filled applications directly to eligible producers in early summer. 

For producers who have not been able to avail themselves of risk management coverage or whose losses were not covered, USDA intends to offer a program track to access ERP assistance with assistance provided to producers who suffered a decrease in allowable gross revenue in 2022 due to necessary expenses related to losses of eligible crops from a qualifying natural disaster event.  

Instead of implementing these program tracks as two separate phases on different timelines, FSA intends to make both tracks available to producers at the same time, noting that the first track will follow a streamlined process with less paperwork burden, based on existing, available risk management data. The second ERP track would require that producers provide FSA with certain information related to revenue.

Senators Thune and Klobuchar Introduce Sodsaver Expansion

Senators Thune (R-SD) and Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced a bill to make the Sodsaver crop insurance provision apply nationwide instead of just in a limited number of States (prairie pothole region). Expansion of Sodsaver has been proposed in the previous three farm bills without making it into the final version. Senator Thune’s press release can be found here.

New FCIC Board Members Announced

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed two new members to the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) Board of Directors, which oversees the Federal crop insurance program. Chris Bardenhagen and Howard James will serve four-year terms beginning this month on the board Read more about the Board and the new Board members here.

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
Brandon Barr with Southwest Property Inspections & Appraisals LLC in Deerfield, KS (Kansas Chapter)
Bethel DuRant in Sumter, SC (Carolinas Virginias Chapter)
Robbie Johnson with Ag Associates in Modesto, CA (California Chapter)
Kaylyn Land with GreenStone Farm Credit Services in Otisville, MI (Michigan Chapter)
Garret Markes with DOI AVSO in Stone Mountain, GA (Georgia Chapter)
Brett Miller in Paris, MO (Missouri Chapter)
Renae Mitchell with Farmers National Company in Waterloo, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Jamieson Potter with CamoAg in Palatine, IL (Illinois Chapter)
William Presnell, Jr. with Commerce Bank in Clayton, MO (Missouri Chapter)
Josh Reeves with Frost Bank in Fort Worth, TX (Texas Chapter)
Bryan Rogan in Bozeman, MT (Montana Chapter)
Rodger Smith with U.S. Department of Interior in Albuquerque, NM (New Mexico Chapter)
Jeremy Sorbel with PARE Consultants in Reedsburg, WI (Minnesota and Wisconsin Chapters)
Alexis Stevens with Iowa State University Extension in Jefferson, IA (Iowa 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!

Gary Bratton, ARA
Gatlin Fenwick
James Green
Boyd Harris
Sharon Jacobson
Scott Johnson, ARA
Jason Knopf
Jared McConnon
Ann Roehm
Ethan Smith, AFM

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

In Memory: Allen B. Chesser - Monterey, Indiana

The ASFMRA was honored and pleased to welcome Allen into the membership in 1986 as an Associate member. The Society has just learned that Allen passed away unexpectedly at his home on December 28, 2022. He maintained his membership until his passing. Allen made many friends through his association with the ASFMRA, and he will be missed greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Mary, and his family. To see more on his life, please click here