Ag Briefs

Census of Agriculture countdown begins for America’s farmers and ranchers

America’s farmers and ranchers will soon have the opportunity to strongly represent agriculture in their communities and industry by taking part in the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census, to be mailed at the end of this year, is a complete count of all U.S. farms, ranches, and those who operate them.

The Census of Agriculture highlights land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, and other topics. The 2012 Census of Agriculture revealed that over 3 million farmers operated more than 2 million farms, spanning over 914 million acres. This was a four percent decrease in the number of U.S. farms from the previous census in 2007. However, agriculture sales, income, and expenses increased between 2007 and 2012. This telling information and thousands of other agriculture statistics are a direct result of responses to the Census of Agriculture.

NASS defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year (2017).

Marketing Assistance Loans and LDPs available for 2017 crops at FSA

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized 2014-2018 crop year Marketing Assistance Loans (MALs) and Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs).

MALs and LDPs provide financing and marketing assistance for wheat, as well as other commodities such as feed grains, soybeans and other oilseeds, pulse crops, rice, peanuts, cotton, wool and honey. MALs provide producers interim financing after harvest to help them meet cash flow needs without having to sell their commodities when market prices are typically at harvest-time lows.

A producer who is eligible to obtain an MAL, but agrees to forgo the loan, may obtain an LDP if such a payment is available.

To be eligible for an MAL or an LDP, producers must have a beneficial interest in the commodity, in addition to other requirements. A producer retains beneficial interest when control of and title to the commodity is maintained. For an LDP, the producer must retain beneficial interest in the commodity from the time of planting through the date the producer filed Form CCC-633EZ (page 1) in the FSA County Office. For more information, producers should contact their local FSA county office.

Interested producers should stop by the FSA office before loan request to initiate any paperwork that can be done ahead.

Wisconsin Republicans tout bill that would legalize hemp

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers made the case Tuesday for a bill that would allow Wisconsin farmers to grow hemp, stressing that the plant shouldn’t be confused with marijuana and that farmers should be given the option to raise another profitable crop.

Rep. Jesse Kremer and Sen. Patrick Testin told reporters during a news conference ahead a public hearing on the measure that the proposal would give hope to farmers.

“The message from a united agriculture community is this: We’ve led the nation in hemp production in the past. It’s time we lead again,” Testin said.

Hemp and marijuana are both forms of cannabis, but hemp lacks enough THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, to get people high. Hemp can be used to make a variety of products, including clothing, rope, food and plastics.

Wisconsin was once one of the nation’s top hemp producers. It produced three-quarters of domestic hemp during World War II before demand plummeted and China took control of the market.

The 2014 Farm Bill gave the states the right to run hemp research programs. At least 30 states, including neighboring Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, have since passed legislation allowing hemp cultivation in light of the federal act, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Under the Wisconsin bill, the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection could issue licenses to farmers looking to grow industrial hemp. People with drug convictions wouldn’t be eligible.

The plants couldn’t contain more than 1 percent THC. They could contain up to 1.5 percent THC if the farmer uses state-certified seeds developed by DATCP, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Crop Improvement Administration.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation and the Wisconsin Farmers Union support the bill. No groups have registered in opposition. The bill has bipartisan support in the Assembly and the Senate.

“It’s really about returning an opportunity to Wisconsin farmers,” farm bureau President Jim Holte said during the news conference. “I hope we can move past the myths surrounding industrial hemp and concentrate on the facts.”