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ASFMRA Ag News - March 26, 2024

By ASFMRA Press posted 17 days ago


Big Short Investor is on a Rural Real Estate Buying Spree

When investors like Kyle Bass talk, investors listen. Bass, whose story was immortalized in Michael Lewis's book "The Big Short," first predicted then profited from the 2008 financial crash.

With that in mind, real estate investors everywhere should pay attention to his most current advice, which is to follow migration trends and buy real estate in those areas. Bass is buying large tracts of rural land in Texas, Florida and Tennessee.

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US Agriculture Industry Gears Up for 'Drone-Swarm' Farming

A new exemption for drone piloting from the Federal Aviation Administration has cleared the airways for "drone-swarm" agriculture, a method of seeding and spraying crops at a fraction of the traditional cost.

Hylio, a Texas-based drone manufacturer, successfully applied for an exemption from the FAA to allow fleets of drones weighing 55 pounds or more to fly together. 

It's the first exception of its kind for machines that carry what the company calls a "meaningful payload" and makes the process competitive with traditional tractors and seeding rigs.

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California Zombie Lake Turned Farmland to Water

For a time last year, it was difficult to drive through a large swath of central California without running into the new shoreline of a long dormant lake.

Resurrected for the first time in decades by an epic deluge of winter rain and snow, by spring the lake covered more than 100,000 acres, stretching over cotton, tomato and pistachio fields and miles of roads.

Tulare Lake, or Pa’ashi as it is known to the Tachi Yokut Tribe, was back.

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With Organic Fields Next Door, Conventional Farms Dial Up Pesticides

Champions of organic farming have long portrayed it as friendlier to humans and the earth. But a new study in a California county found a surprising effect as their acreage grew: Nearby conventional farms applied more pesticides, likely to stay on top of an increased insect threat to their crops, the researchers said.

Ashley Larsen, lead author of the study in this week’s journal Science, said understanding what’s happening could be important to keeping organic and conventional farmers from hurting each other’s operations.

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How Do Solar Farms Affect Farmland Values?

I’ve always said that farmers are the original conservationists, taking care of the land, leaving things better for the next generation. The same can be said for harvesting solar energy. Farmers have done it for millennia. Except instead of storing energy in batteries, they store energy in seeds and grains.

We have seen a recent explosion of interest in developing solar energy, and many companies have approached farmers and landowners to lease their ground. With all this activity, professional farm managers have fielded questions about how a solar lease might affect farmland values — or even the option to lease.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

House Agriculture Committee Reviews the Danger China Poses to U.S. Agriculture

The House Agriculture Committee held a two-panel hearing titled: The Danger China Poses to U.S. Agriculture. The first panel featured Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), respectively the Chair and Ranking Member of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, and South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R). The second panel was composed of Mr. Josh Gackle, President of the American Soybean Association, Mr. Nova Daly, a former Department of Treasury official, and former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Kip Tom. The hearing focused, although somewhat disjointedly over the course of more than 5 hours, on Chinese acquisition of U.S. farmland, Chinese control of aspects of the U.S. food supply chain, Chinese theft of U.S. agricultural technology, and the role of that Chinese imports play in U.S. agriculture.  As you could expect, the consensus from the hearing is that China views the U.S. as an adversary and the U.S. should treat the relationship accordingly.

Republican Study Committee Budget Would Gut U.S. Farm Policy 

Every year the Republican Study Committee (RSC) releases an “aspirational” budget proposal and for the last several years one aspect of the budget has called for major reductions or outright elimination of U.S. farm policy. This year’s RSC budget is no different. The agriculture section of the report starts on page 120. The RSC would lower the AGI test for PLC and ARC payments to $500,000, limit the Secretary’s discretionary use of the Commodity Credit Corporation and “reform” crop insurance by reducing premium assistance and limiting it to catastrophic insurance coverage only, halt administrative and operating payments to approved insurance providers, and cap premium assistance to $40,000 per grower. RSC membership can be found here.

Senators Request OIG Investigate USDA Remote Work

Senators Ernst (R-IA) and Boozman (R-AR) sent a letter to USDA Inspector General (OIG) Phyllis Fong based on a whistleblower complaint regarding USDA remote work. The Senators call for an enhanced investigation after USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was questioned during a Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry hearing last month about a department supervisor’s revelation to the committee that the agency’s headquarters resemble a “ghost town,” to which the secretary claimed that his employees and managers are in the D.C. office “a majority of the week.” The letter also requests that the OIG “not limit its review merely to the USDA’s headquarters and its D.C.-based employees, but also to its footprint and workforce throughout the country”.

Move Conservation Spending to Avoid IRA Cliff 

In a blog post, the Senate Agriculture Committee staff laid out the case for a bi-partisan solution to move Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding provided to USDA conservation programs into the farm bill. Essentially, IRA funding could be cut and replaced by additional conservation spending in the farm bill. Senator Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has opposed this budgetary move because the cut and replace could lead to moving some of the funds to other titles for other purposes (House Agriculture Committee Republican plan) or it could result in a “broadening” of conservation purposes beyond the climate smart mitigation purposes allowed by the IRA (Senate Agriculture Committee Republican idea). She opposes both possibilities.

Secretary Vilsack Testifies on FY 2025 Budget Request

Secretary Vilsack testified before the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee regarding the FY 2025 USDA Budget Request. The wide ranging hearing lasted over 2.5 hours. Members asked many questions about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and USDA’s implementation of disaster assistance (ERP) funds. For the most part commodity programs and crop insurance did not come up. Starting at the 1:54:15 mark, Ranking Member Sanford Bishop (D-GA) asks the Secretary about “small farmers” access to crop insurance and states that he hears from constituents that “companies don’t want to be bothered with them.” He then asks the Secretary what, if anything, he is doing about that, and the Secretary says they are constantly reminding companies that they must serve all growers in a State if they are doing business in a State.

Congress Passes Remaining FY 2024 Appropriations Bills

With just over 6 months to spare, Congress has finally funded the government for FY 2024. On Friday the House passed the second “minibus” appropriations bill by a vote of 286 to 134 needing two-thirds of members to vote yes for passage under a suspension of the rules. Speaker Johnson (R-LA) did not ascertain a majority of Republicans voting for passage, which will add to the internal Republican discord questioning his leadership of the Republican conference. The Senate voted 74 to 24 to pass the bill and President Biden signed it into law.

New Members & Memorial


William G. Sellwood, ARA

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The ASFMRA was honored and pleased to welcome Bill into the association in 2014. He joined as an Associate member and quickly obtained his Accredited Rural Appraiser (ARA) designation seven months later in 2014. Bill was a Supervisory Review Appraiser for the Appraisal and Valuation Services Office. He made many friends throughout his association with the Society who will miss him greatly. Funeral services will be on April 20 at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi, MN. Visitation is at 1 pm and services at 2 pm (Central Time). Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family. To learn more about Bill’s life, simply click here.

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
Austin Amick with Integra Realty Resources-Boise in Middleton, ID (Idaho-Utah Chapter)
Brett Beesley with AVSO in Mannford, OK (Oklahoma Chapter)
Norman Chung in Cypress, CA (California Chapter)
Nathan Copeland with High Plains Farm Credit in Ness City, KS (Kansas Chapter)
Chris Fano in San Diego, CA (California Chapter)
William Ford in Summerville, SC (Carolinas Virginias Chapter)
Sean Ison with the Department of the Interior in Watonga, OK (Oklahoma Chapter)
Gavin Jacobson in Brookings, SD (ID-UT, MN, MT, ND, SD, and WY Chapters)
Ashton Klein in Stillwater, OK (Oklahoma Chapter)
Joseph Lemmons with Hertz Farm Management, Inc. in Omaha, NE (Nebraska Chapter)
Matthew Smith in Sugar City, ID (Idaho-Utah Chapter)

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!

Jeremy Darner
Brian Gatzke, ARA
Kirk Green, ARA
Michael Krause, AFM
Michael Paxton, RPRA
Jason Rustan, ARA
Benjamin Ward, ARA
Troy Wolzen, ARA

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