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ASFMRA Ag News - June 18, 2024

By ASFMRA Press posted 23 days ago


‘Precision Ag’ Promised a Farming Revolution. It’s Coming, Just Slowly.

For 20 years, Pablo Sobron sought a better way to learn exactly what was in the soil, rock or any other substance on Mars.

Instead of sampling and laboratory analysis — the old way of soil testing — scientists began to use lasers and sensors to get high precision data quickly. Eventually, that led Sobron to think the same type of technology could work on Earth, particularly farms.

“The idea is to do exactly what we do on Mars, which is drive and, without stopping, get real time measurements of every square inch if you want to. As small as you want,” he said.

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Marin Grand Jury Calls for Scrutiny of Agricultural Easements

A new Marin County Civil Grand Jury report calls for increased oversight of tax revenues being used to help purchase agricultural easements.

The report — titled “Spending Public Money to Preserve Marin’s Agricultural Heritage: Is Anyone Watching?” — focuses on the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, known as MALT.

“Between 2014 and April, 2024, $22.7 million of public money was approved for Farmland Preservation investment as matching grants in privately held lands in Marin through a single private entity, MALT,” the report says.

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‘Time for a Reckoning.’ Kansas Farmers Brace for Water Cuts to Save Ogallala Aquifer

An inch or two of corn peeks out of the dirt, just enough to reveal long rows forming over the horizon.

Sprinkler engines roar as they force water from underground to pour life into dusty fields.

Thunder cracks. The wind whips up dirt as a trail of dark storms looms. The crashing hot and cold fronts would probably set off tornado sirens — if there were any in this remote part of the state.

It’s spring in southwest Kansas, a hub for the nation’s crop, dairy, and beef industries.

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10.1-Acre Colorado Ranch Listed for $55 Million

A fully equipped ranch set on 10.1 acres in Aspen, Colorado, is for sale with a $55 million price tag.

Named Moonshot Ranch, the property is set in the middle of more than 200 common irrigated acres with abundant water. 

Despite the pastoral setting, the ranch is less than a 15-minute drive from downtown Aspen, according to the listing with Steven Shane of Compass, who brought the home to the market on Monday. 

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9th Circuit Weighs Endangered Species Act Pre-Emption of Klamath Water Rights

Irrigators are asking a federal appeals court to rule that Endangered Species Act enforcement doesn’t trump state water right regulation in Oregon’s Klamath Basin.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must decide whether federal species protections pre-empt an order issued by Oregon water regulators meant to protect irrigation storage in Upper Klamath Lake.

“If you don’t have a water right, you can’t use water. The ESA does not give you a water right,” said Nathan Rietmann, attorney for the Klamath Irrigation District, during June 12 oral arguments in San Francisco.

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ASFMRA Government Relations Update

Ranking Member Boozman Releases Farm Bill Framework  

The Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) released his long awaited farm bill framework last week. The Republican framework claims to put “more farm back in the farm bill” with additional investments in the commodity title (raising reference prices) and improving crop insurance (additional premium assistance). The framework follows many of the House Agriculture Committee passed farm bill provisions including limiting the USDA Secretary’s use of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), making the Thrifty Food Plan changes budget neutral, and moving the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding into the conservation title without maintaining the climate provisions. These three provisions have become redlines for Democrats.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Stabenow (D-MI) welcomed the Senate Republican framework proposal. It is clear some common ground exists, but also some large policy differences. It is unclear what the next steps are for the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Senator Boozman’s framework would raise reference prices for all commodities by 15%. It would adjust the commodity program payment limitation for inflation, raise loan rates for marketing assistance loans and allow changes to base acres for farms without base or minimal base. Precise details are not provided by the framework, however. 

Regarding crop insurance, Senator Boozman’s framework would increase premium assistance for beginning and veteran farmers, increase Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) endorsement assistance to 80% while raising the coverage level to 90%. The framework also includes Senator Hoeven’s (R-ND) proposal to increase premium assistance for enterprise unit coverage to 77% for 80% coverage and 68% for 85% coverage.

On the crop insurance delivery side, the framework would reinstate the inflation factor on capped A&O like the House as well as set a 17% minimum A&O rate for specialty crop policies. It does not include the House provision of additional loss adjustment payments in high loss ratios states.

House Marks-up FY 2025 Agriculture Appropriations

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed on a party-line vote the FY 2025 agriculture appropriations bill. The full committee is scheduled to consider the bill on July 10. As passed, the bill provides a 3.6% reduction in spending compared to the FY 2024 bill. House Democrats have lamented the reductions in spending while Republicans claim the bill reigns in wasteful spending by the Biden Administration. Most notably the bill would reduce the Food for Peace program by nearly 40%.

Salaries and expenses for the Farm, Production and Conservation (FPAC) mission area are reduced slightly in the House bill compared to FY 2024. The Risk Management Agency (RMA) salaries and expenses are $61.855 million compared to $65.637 million in FY 2024. The FPAC Business Center is reduced to $213.671 million in FY 2025 compared to $244.183 million for FY 2024. The Natural Resource Conservation Service is $902.994 million compared to $914.899 million and the Farm Service Agency is $1.530 billion compared to $1.535 billion in FY 2024.

RMA Issues New Policyholder Bill of Rights  

RMA released a “Policyholder Bill of Rights” document. The document lists existing insurance coverage rules along with existing information regarding how to find an agent or an insurance company. RMA is attempting to regulate ongoing crop insurance delivery consolidations (both at the AIP and agent level). The policyholder bill of rights should be viewed in conjunction with Manager Bulletins MGR 24-003 and MGR 24-003.1.  So far what is missing in the RMA response is any culpability on the regulators part for ongoing industry consolidation.

FCIC Board Raises ECO Premium Assistance

During its May 23rd board meeting the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board agreed to increase the Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO) to 65% to make it equivalent with the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) endorsement. The change will begin with the 2025 reinsurance year (starting July1).

Senate Beginning Farmer Hearing Raises Base Acre Issues

The Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade held a hearing to review Pathways to Helping the Next Generation of Farmers. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) chairs the subcommittee and Senator Hyde-Smith (R-MS) is the ranking member.  Full Committee Chair Senator Stabenow made remarks during the hearing and in those remarks noted that additional crop insurance assistance for beginning farmers is one area where the House and Senate Agriculture Committees agree. Witnesses during the hearing were also generally supportive of crop insurance and the need to improve affordability for beginning farmers.

The commodity program issue of “base acres” did come up in the Senate hearing. The House Agriculture Committee passed farm bill would allow a one-time voluntary base acre update. Base acres represent historical production of major commodities and were fixed in farm policy over 25 years ago. Updating base is a perennial farm bill issue. 

Senator Stabenow raised base as an impediment for beginning farmers (base raises land values and rental rates) as did Senator Smith. Senator Smith would like to see an update of base acres to allow beginning farmers the opportunity to establish a payment history.  Interestingly, Southern Ag Today published an article about base acres last week and the topic also came up during an American Enterprise Institute panel discussion last week about the House Farm bill. This is a topic that will be hotly debated as the farm bill progresses and thankfully does not impact crop insurance.

FSA Announces Grassland CRP Signup

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) announced that agricultural producers and private landowners can now sign up for the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (Grassland CRP). The signup runs through June 28, 2024. Grassland CRP is a voluntary working lands conservation program that enables participants to conserve grasslands and provide important conservation benefits for wildlife, soil health and carbon sequestration, all while continuing most grazing and haying practices.

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
Selia Becker in Indianola, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Sean Burgett in Monmouth, OR (Oregon Chapter)
Holly Campe Martinka with American Consulting & Appraisal Inc. in Rushford, MN (Minnesota Chapter)
Michael Crum with Caton Valuation Services in St. Charles, IL (Illinois Chapter)
Clayton Dawson with Glaub Farm Management in Hensley, AR (Mid-South Chapter)
Kirk Dosser in Wenatchee, WA (Washington Chapter)
Emily Nible in Bethany, MO (Iowa and Missouri Chapters)
Raymond Porter with Huntington University in Huntington, IN (Indiana Chapter)
John Ramirez in Gilbert, IA (Iowa Chapter)
Brendan Satterly with AgriFinancial in Springfield, KY (Kentucky 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!

Mollie Aronowitz, AFM
Jeffrey Hignight, AFM
Martin Humes
Robert Regenwether, AFM
Michael Wheeler

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

In Memory: Jon W. Mask, ARA, RPRA, of Boerne, Texas

The ASFMRA was honored and pleased to welcome Jon into the membership in 1984 as an Associate member. He obtained his Accredited Rural Appraiser (ARA) designation and went to the Accredited membership classification in 1994. He followed that up with obtaining his Real Property Review Appraiser (RPRA) designation in 2020. He maintained his Accredited classification. Jon was very active with the Texas Chapter. He was the Texas Chapter Vice President in 2005-06, President Elect in 2006-07, and President in 2007-08. There will be a celebration of Jon’s life on June 14, 2024. For more information on Jon’s life and the celebration for him, click here. Jon made many friends through his association with the Society, and he will be missed greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Nancy, and family.