“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I hesitate to say that we’ve seen everything these last few years, but we must be getting close. Rising input costs, declining grain and livestock prices, trade wars, flooding, wet, wet, fall, still harvesting, and now a pandemic. We have also seen a tightening of insurance markets, reinsurance markets, existing farm & ranch market rate increases, life insurance companies halting new applications, credit crunches, near zero federal borrowing rates, etc., etc.
Through it all we have not lost one producer to bankruptcy, we continue to harvest poor to average corn, and continue to plan for 2020.
Farmers and ranchers are the most resilient people in the world. We have also seen the worst in hoarding, disregard for government orders, and general unpreparedness for a downturn.
Our 14 offices continue to be open for business; however, we have closed all lobbies to foot traffic. This is a precaution for both staff and clients and demonstrates our resolve in not spreading this virus. Our office layouts and desks are far more than 6ft apart and our investment in technology ensures that business will continue, claims will be processed, renewals will be reviewed, and new business will be quoted.
Currently, we have four staff members working from home with full access to there job duties. We also have contingencies in place if things get worse to ensure continuity of business operations to serve our clients. Our Wishek office is on heightened alert with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Wishek (a grade schooler). We are finishing up our processing of the 2020 changes for crop policies, down to our last 100 claims, and collecting production for 2019. We will then focus on database cleanup, spring planting, and hail.
A vast majority of our companies have been blasting us with emails for billing deferments and options. If you need a deferment, please let your agent know so they can facilitate billing options through this uncertain time.
The office has made it through all requested help requests with ARC/PLC elections and the vast majority of yield updates (over 500). For those of you who have not updated your yields at FSA, you still have until September to do so but please contact the office as soon as possible if you need any help.
Minn-DAK Co-Op has settled on the payment to producers for the 2018-2019 crop season. For 2018, each harvest tone of beets will be paid an additional $7.00 per ton. For 2019, each planted acre of beets will receive $146.00 per planted acre and $7.00 per delivered ton of beets. It is not certain what impact this will have on the upcoming planting season as far as share agreements and share price. This money has not been distributed yet and they are hoping for mid-April.
As you know we have ushered this program from the start and are totally disheartened with the roll-out. Signups started March 23rd and are of course going very, very slowly. If you have not done so, please contact your local FSA to signup as soon as possible. I WANT TO STRESS THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF OUR PRODUCERS WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR SOME KIND OF PAYMENT. Please call the office if you are unsure if you qualify.
Our scheduled lobbyist weekend with Senator Hoeven was cancelled due to the coronavirus funding bill, but we are diligent in our efforts to bring support and stability back to the Ag economy. I have outlined some of the week’s efforts.
USDA Easing Requirements to Obtain H-2A Visas – USDA announced late Thursday that the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have agreed to waive in-person interview requirements for H-2A and H-2B visa applicants. “Temporarily waiving in-person interviews for H-2A visa applicants streamlines the application process and helps provide steady labor for the agriculture sector during this time of uncertainty,” said Secretary Perdue. “H-2A labor is vital to the economy and food security of America – our farmers and producers depend on these workers to continue to feed and clothe the world.”
FSA Extending Loan Deadlines – USDA’s Farm Service Agency announced it is relaxing its loan-making process and adding flexibilities for servicing direct and guaranteed loans to provide credit to producers in need. “We recognize that farm loans are critical for annual operating and family living expenses, emergency needs and cash flow through times like this,” FSA Administrator Richard Fordyce said in a statement. “FSA is working to find and use every option and flexibility to provide producers with credit options and other program benefits.”
Senate Unanimously Passes $2 Trillion Aid Package – By a vote of 96-0 margin, the Senate passed the CARES Act, a $2 trillion COVID-19 response bill. The House is now considering the bill where it is expected to handily pass despite the potential demand for a roll call vote by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). President Trump has indicated he will immediately sign the bill into law. Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven (R-ND) spearheaded relief provisions for agriculture. “Our farmers and ranchers have continued to supply our nation with the highest-quality, lowest cost food supply in the world, despite the challenges they face,” said Hoeven. “This legislation injects $14 billion into the CCC to provide USDA with resources to assist producers. At the same time, we secured an additional $9.5 billion in emergency funding support for farmers and ranchers, including our livestock and specialty crop producers, impacted by COVID-19. We’ll continue working with USDA Secretary Perdue to get this assistance out to our producers and help them during these challenging times.” With an estimated $7-9 billion in existing CCC authority, the $14 billion infusion, plus the $9.5 billion additional funding for livestock and specialty crops, the Secretary will have the resources at his disposal to provide significant aid in these difficult times.
We will continue to work on your behalf today, tomorrow, and the foreseeable future. We will be here when you need us.