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Farm Bureau: New Grassroots Members Appointed to National Committees

The American Farm Bureau Federation has appointed farmer and rancher members to the organization’s Young Farmers & Ranchers and Promotion & Education committees.

“Engaging with consumers to build trust and share the story of agriculture is an important part of national program committee work,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We commend the newly appointed farmer and rancher members for their willingness to serve.”

Duvall announced the appointment of the following members to the YF&R Committee for the 2020-2022 term beginning in March: Jocelyn Anderson, California (tree nuts and row crops); Ben Cagle, Georgia (beef cattle and sheep); Eric and April Castle, Kansas (hogs and chickens); Jon Iverson, Oregon (tulips); Dean and Sara Hutto, South Carolina (corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, cotton, bell peppers and broccoli); Kenny and Jamila McFarland, Utah (sweet corn, onions, pumpkins, winter squash and industrial hemp); and Sally Turpin, Wisconsin (dairy consultant).

The YF&R Committee is comprised of 16 positions representing all regions of the U.S. An individual or couple may hold each committee appointment. Committee members are responsible for program planning, which includes the coordination of YF&R competitive events during AFBF’s Annual Convention each January, and the Harvest for All program.

Duvall announced the appointment of Daryn Westergard of Utah (trucking company) to a two-year term on the P&E Committee starting in April 2020. The following members of the P&E Committee were reappointed for two-year terms starting in April 2020: Debra Durheim, Minnesota (crops, sheep and beef cattle); Mary Fischer, Missouri (crops and Angus beef cattle); and Patti Fisher, New York (dairy cattle). Fisher was elected by her peers to serve a two-year term as committee chair in January 2019; Fischer was elected vice chair.

 

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States With the Most Farm Bankruptcies

More than 40% of farm bankruptcies over the last year were filed in the Midwest.

Wisconsin has seen the highest number of farm bankruptcy filings over the past year, according to a recent report by the American Farm Bureau Federation.

According to the report, which tracked bankruptcy filings over 12 months ending in September 2019, the Midwest accounted for 40% of the nation's 580 Chapter 12 farm bankruptcy filings (a 24% increase from the previous year). Bankruptcy relief under Chapter 12 requires businesses to establish a plan to pay their debts to creditors over three to five years.

By the end of the year, the agricultural industry is expected to receive around $33 billion related to trade and disaster assistance, the farm bill and insurance indemnities from the federal government, the report notes. Comparatively, the government spent $80 billion in 2008 to aid General Motors and Chrystler during the auto bailout. But even with record amounts of help, the outlook for family farms this year doesn't look promising: farm debt is expected to reach $416 billion in 2019, the highest level ever.

Waterfront of Boston, Massachusetts. Composite stitched image.
In an effort to increase revenue, farmers in some states are diversifying their agricultural products and planting more hemp. Iowa's Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, for example, recently signed legislation in which the state will license and regulate hemp production. Like marijuana, hemp comes from the cannabis sativa plant, but unlike marijuana, hemp is not considered to be psychoactive since it contains very low levels of THC.

Other farms are working with environmental and advocacy groups to fight climate change by experimenting with new crops, including hemp, and practicing sustainable farming, according to CNBC.

For example, a start-up company called Indigo Agriculture plans to pay up to 3,000 farmers by the end of 2019 to move to environmentally friendly practices. The group will pay farmers around the U.S. $15 for every tonne (also known as a metric ton) of carbon dioxide that is stored underground, which farmers can achieve by planting cover crops between main crops and by cutting down on their tilling of the soil.

Indigo Agriculture CEO and Director David Perry told the Financial Times that a farmer can probably capture two to three carbon tonnes of carbon dioxide per acre per year.

(COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION)

Wisconsin saw 48 Chapter 12 filings over the 12-month period ending in September, followed by Georgia, Nebraska and Kansas, each of which had 37 filings. Minnesota, California, Texas, Iowa, Pennsylvania and New York round out the top 10 states for farm bankruptcies.

Oklahoma experienced the largest increase in farm bankruptcy filings, rising from two filings last year to 17 this year. All regions of the U.S. saw an increase in filings, with the largest jumps in the Northwest ( up by 74%) and West (up by 65%).

(COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN FARM BUREAU FEDERATION)

Experts attribute the farm industry's downturn to the U.S.'s trade war with China, along with unfavorable growing conditions thanks to droughts and floods.

CNBC reported that China purchased approximately $8 billion of U.S. agricultural goods in the first eight months of 2019, a rate far below the $19.5 billion total for 2017.

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Short Supply of Christmas Trees Leads to Increased Prices

CHRISTMAS TREE PRICES are elevated this season as the supply dwindles and it becomes more difficult to find real trees.

The Christmas tree industry has faced tight tree supplies in the past as it continues to try and bounce back from the Great Recession, when people increasingly turned to artificial trees.

Leading up to the Christmas tree shortage was an oversupply a decade ago, AP reported. Fewer trees were cut down and not as many new seedlings were planted to replace them. Additionally, hot and dry weather has made growing trees more difficult, forcing many growers to close.

Oregon produces the highest annual production of Christmas trees, followed by North Carolina and Michigan. However, the number of tree farms nationwide fell 3% from 15,494 in 2012 to 15,008 in 2017, the most recent year available, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 32.8 million real trees were purchased in 2018 for an average of $78, compared to about 27.4 million for an average of $75 in 2017.

Nearly 24 million new fake trees were bought in 2018, a 12% increase from 2017. The average price for the fake trees was $104.

In 2018, 28% of real Christmas trees were bought from a "choose and cut" farm. The same percentage were bought from a chain retailer, while 23% were purchased from a retail lot and 10% came from a nursery or garden center.

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