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ASFMRA Ag News - February 27, 2024

By ASFMRA Press posted 02-27-2024 11:40 AM


Farm Family Selling Land and Operations for $2 Billion

Fresno’s Assemi family, one of the region’s largest in the ag business, is looking to divest from its farming operations, seeking a buyer for tens of thousands of acres of farmland, as well as Touchstone Pistachio Company, a major nut processor it owns.

The move comes as Farid Assemi – who has headed up the family’s farming operations – has faced declining health over the past few years and an intense intra-family legal battle over control of the family’s farming enterprise.

Sources with knowledge said the value of the combined entities and their assets sits at roughly $2 billion.

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Steady Growth in Farmland Values Continues

Agricultural real estate values remained strong through the end of 2023 despite a moderation in the farm economy and higher interest rates. According to Federal Reserve District Surveys of Agricultural Credit Conditions, the value of nonirrgiated cropland increased by as much as 10% from a year ago in some regions. The sharp rise in financing costs over the past year and thinner profit margins for many key commodities has the potential to weigh on farmland values, but coming into 2024 those factors have not materially tempered land markets.

Agricultural real estate values remained firm through the end of 2023. The value of nonirrigated cropland increased by an average of nearly 10% over the past year throughout Districts participating in the survey (Chart 1). The growth in farmland values was markedly lower than the previous two years, but remained strong.

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FoxyAI: Real Estate Frustration Leads to Valuation Innovation

In the real estate business, how a property looks has a big impact on how potential buyers make a decision. With so much at stake, real estate professionals have turned to AI in the buying, selling, planning and visualization of real estate.

Founded in 2018, FoxyAI was born out of CEO Vin Vomero’s frustration with an appraisal coming in lower than expected, sparking a journey into the potential of AI and computer vision to revolutionize the valuation of real estate. His frustration led to the development of a platform that turns property photos into actionable data.

The company has also developed AI-enhanced automated valuation models (AVM), which uses a proprietary condition scoring method and quality score models. These innovations allow for instant consideration of a property’s condition alongside traditional metrics, yielding more accurate valuations.

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Liz Strom, AFM, to Lead ISPFMRA

The Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers has a new president: Liz Strom, AFM, farm manager and real estate broker for Murray Wise Associates, Champaign.

Strom hails from Toulon, Ill., where her family raises corn, soybeans and beef cattle. She’s the second woman to be elected president of the society in its nearly 100-year history, and is the youngest person ever elected.

Among her goals: expand their membership to a younger crowd. “We’re creating groups like the Young Professionals Network to bring in young, new members and really get them involved in the organization,” she says.

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Lack of Export Sales Making it Hard for Commodity Prices to Rebound

Weakened commodity prices continue to cast a shadow over agriculture as we get closer to spring, and according to Frayne Olson, North Dakota State University professor/crops economist, one of the main culprits causing the depressed prices is export sales.

“Even though some of the production out of South America isn’t going to be as large as some are expecting, it’s still going to be a decent crop,” Olson said. “For Brazil, we still have some questions about the corn crop. The soybean crop isn’t going to be as large as we had expected, but it’s still not a bad crop. Argentina is actually looking like a very good crop.

“Given all that, a lot of market guys, including myself, were saying between potential problems in South America and any logistical/shipping issues in the Red Sea region, we should see a pick up or increase in U.S. export sales, but we just haven’t seen that,” he added.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

Spending Agreement Stalls

House and Senate negotiators were expected to announce a spending agreement over the weekend for the 4 appropriation bills expiring this coming Friday, March 1. For various reasons that did not happen. President Biden has invited the Senate and House Leaders to the White House on Tuesday to discuss the 2024 funding situation along with funding for Ukraine and Israel. Speaker Johnson (R-LA) is under tremendous pressure from the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) to not give in to Democrat spending demands and maintain controversial Republican policy riders but at the same time, he lacks the votes to achieve what the HFC wants.

As another (partial) shutdown looms by this weekend, more time is clearly needed. To avoid the shutdown, another Continuing Resolution (CR) is necessary. The House returns to Washington on Wednesday leaving only 2 full legislative days to act to avoid a partial shutdown.  The USDA spending bill is one of the four bills with lapsing authority on March 1. Should a shutdown occur crop insurance should not be greatly impacted under the current USDA shutdown plans, but other parts of USDA would be, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service staff would largely not be allowed to work, for example.

Secretary Vilsack Testifies before House Agriculture Committee

Secretary Vilsack testified before the House Agriculture Committee for just over 5 hours in, at times, a testy hearing. The Department’s rollout of the Economic Relief Program (ERP) program for crop year 2022 came under attack by the Republicans. Former Chairman Lucas led that effort (29-minute mark) with the Secretary saying since Congress did not provide sufficient resources for the program he was forced into the unusual rollout.

Democrats for their part asked the Secretary his opinion about changes the Republicans have floated for the farm bill, including making future updates of the Thrifty Food Plan budget neutral, moving IRA conservation funds, limiting the CCC discretionary authority and making the Conservation Reserve Program a dollar rather than acre-based program. Unsurprisingly, the Secretary stated he does not like any of those ideas.

Larger Crops, Lower Prices

During its Agricultural Outlook Forum the USDA released its production and price estimates for the upcoming year. The U.S. corn crop is projected to total 15.04 billion bushels, down 2 percent from last year’s record-setting crop. The soybean crop would be 8 percent larger than last year, and wheat is forecast at 1.9 billion bushels, the largest crop in five years. The cotton crop, projected at 16 million bales weighing 480 pounds each, would be nearly 29 percent larger than it was last year. Corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton are the four most widely planted U.S. crops and make up over 50% of crop insurance premiums. The USDA projected average prices of $4.40 a bushel for corn, $11.20 for soybeans, and $6.00 for wheat all down from last year.

USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer said he sees most commodity prices “in a downward trend” while input prices are “sticky.” His summary presentation can be found here.

USDA Equity Commission Report Finalized

Last week the Biden Administration appointed USDA Equity Commission finalized its report and presented it to Secretary Vilsack. The 66 recommendations were based in part on 6 public hearings held from February 2022 through October 2023.

The report’s recommendations are grouped into nine areas, ranging from removing bias in USDA offices and programs to mitigating hunger. For example, the commission said the USDA should consider requiring that membership on the county committees that help direct its local operations reflect the local farm population. It also said the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) should be extended to U.S. territories, which are now given block grants. There are no recommendations related to crop insurance except for Recommendation 15(h) which calls for codifying in statute changes to the Micro Farm insurance plan (page 33).

In his speech accepting the report from the Commission Secretary Vilsack said:

“It’s our report now. I would just simply say, you damn well better know I take this seriously, and everybody who works with me at USDA.”

FSA to Open Dairy Margin Coverage Program Enrollment  

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) will open enrollment for its Dairy Margin Coverage Program starting on February 28, 2024. Coverage will be retroactive to January 1 and payments could start as soon as March 4, 2024.  FSA has revised the regulations for DMC to allow eligible dairy operations to make a one-time adjustment to established production history. This adjustment will be accomplished by combining previously established supplemental production history with DMC production history for those dairy operations that participated in Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage during a prior coverage year. DMC has also been authorized through calendar year 2024.

Recognition of Long-Standing Members

We are recognizing long-standing members of the ASFMRA on an annual basis according to their join date. The anniversaries are recognized in increments of five years. You may recognize your fellow peers in the list of Long Standing Members and we encourage you to extend your congratulations to them. Please note this list is for the 2024 year.

A round of applause is extended by the ASFMRA to our long-standing members for their continuous support. The Society appreciates every member for choosing us as the association you desire to affiliate with especially with many organizations vying for your membership. The ASFMRA continues to make every effort to offer member services which will benefit your professional and personal life.

Member's Name



Join Date

# of Years

Virgil H. Holtgrewe, ARA Loveland CO 12/1/1964 60
James G. Frevert, AFM-Retired Nevada IA 5/31/1964 60
Gary L. Balke, AFM-Retired Quincy IL 6/23/1974 50
Richard H. Hiatt, AFM, ARA Pontiac IL 12/3/1974 50
William J. Holstine, AFM, ARA, AAC-Retired Normal IL 12/6/1974 50
Don McCabe, AFM Bourbonnais IL 6/28/1974 50
W. Michael Bennett, AFM-Retired Ducor CA 7/23/1974 50
L. Sam Middleton, ARA Lubbock TX 12/3/1974 50

View More Long-Standing Members Here!

Welcome New Members

Help us welcome our newest members to the ASFMRA! Because of you, the ASFMRA continues to grow and support rural property professionals across the nation!

The Society recognizes new members on a monthly basis. You may find your colleagues in the following list — if you do, we encourage you to reach out and welcome them!

New Members
Kurtis Barry with Northwest Farm Credit Services in Ontario, OR (Idaho-Utah and Oregon Chapters)
William Benedict with Colliers in Richfield Springs, NY (Northeast Chapter)
Logan Blackstock with U.S. Department of Interior in Colorado Springs, CO (Colorado Chapter)
Derek Freel with Farmers National Company in Minneapolis, KS (Kansas Chapter)
Paige Gilligan with Risk Mitigators & Advisors in Clovis, CA (California Chapter)
Andre Johnson with Ernst & Young LLP in Los Angeles, CA (Arizona and California Chapters)
Jaclyn Jolley-Valentine with Heart of the Plains Real Estate in Clovis, NM (New Mexico Chapter)
Andrew Jolly with Heartland Bank in Chenoa, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Sedar Kane with Western Valuation Professionals in Cottonwood, CA (California Chapter)
Heath Lee with Cornerstone Bank in York, NE (Nebraska Chapter)
Amy Lyon with Any Lyon Appraisal Service in Marshall, MN (Minnesota Chapter)
Jon Rahn with Hertz Farm Management, Inc. in Geneseo, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Michael S. Rally with Colonial Farm Credit in Mechanicsville, VA (Carolinas Virginias Chapter)
Ethan Robson with Robson Farms in Cisco, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Matt Rusteberg in Highland, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Kevin Schaefer with Community First Bank in Muscoda, WI (Wisconsin Chapter)

Share Your Experience - Make a Referral

You know first-hand what a great organization the 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 the Society'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 the ASFMRA and those individuals have now become members!

Maria Boerngen, Ph.D.
Donald Fisher, ARA
Benjamin Harman, ARA
Rick Hauge, ARA
Chad Kies
Fred Olsen, AFM
James Rickert
Zachery Suddarth, AFM
Bethany Toews
Nick Westgerdes, AFM
Matthew Wyss, AFM

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