Tag Archives: Farm

The coronavirus outbreak has exposed major flaws in the American farm labor system. Politico says that’s upping the pressure on the federal government to make migrant labor much more accessible to farmers. It also highlights a lack of health and safety protections for these “essential” workers.

Farm workers who are still planting and harvesting crops have a higher than normal risk of being infected because they typically live, work, and travel in crowded conditions. Most don’t have any form of healthcare. Meanwhile, farmers are worried that the closure of U.S. embassies, especially in Mexico, will slow the flow of migrant labor into the U.S.

That will make an already chronic labor shortage on produce, livestock, and nursery operations across the country that much worse. Farm labor lobbyists see an opportunity to slide labor provisions into an expected fourth stimulus bill that would provide some relief. Also, because food production has been declared a critical industry under federal guidelines, agriculture employers are giving undocumented farm workers letters stating that they’re “essential.”

According to a recent survey of farmers, 70 percent have no formal back-up plan should a key member of the family farming operation become ill with COVID-19. This doesn’t mean farmers aren’t thinking about the issue, but in most cases, it has not resulted in a plan of action.

 

Granted, most corn farms continue to be family-run operations with minimal employees and or seasonal help, so much of the advice currently being shared with businesses may not apply. However, there are some basic things you can do and should consider.

 

  • Schedule a brainstorming meeting with all family and employees involved in the operation to discuss possible scenarios, solutions to potential disruptions during planting and subsequent fieldwork. Make a list of immediate changes that can lower risk.
  • Minimize the exposure of outsiders. Use telephone, emails or texts for communications with employees or contractors who do not reside on the farm. Observe appropriate social distancing if someone needs to visit the farm or work on site.
  • Consider cross-training of family members and employees regarding key functions and appropriate safe operation of equipment.
  • Increase sanitation of workspaces and make it part of your daily/weekly routine. Simple things like disinfecting work surfaces, countertops, computer keyboards, doorknobs, hand railings, tractor controls, and monitors can make a difference.
  • Make cleaning supplies readily available, including cleaning solutions, buckets, mops, brushes, etc. for cleaning break areas and the shop readily available. Place disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer on equipment and in truck cabs and in high traffic areas.
  • Stay in the house if you’re sick. Farmers and their employees regularly work while sick. This is a time to break that tradition. If employees are sick, tell them to stay home, and if the family is sick, they should isolate themselves as much as possible and not visit work areas.
  • Develop a written contingency plan and make sure everyone has a copy. Are there neighboring farmers who might be able to share resources and or labor in an emergency? Who will manage for a few weeks if you or another key person is unable to leave your house or are hospitalized?

NCGA is committed to keeping you informed and passing along best practices as we move through the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. You will find some previous tips on handling deliveries on the farm here.

A guide by the National Corn Growers Association offers tips to manage COVID-19 on the farm. Farmers are preparing for spring planting, which means activity levels are increasing on the farm for things like field preparation and on-farm deliveries.

NCGA says limiting interactions and exposure is a good idea to limit exposure and risk related to COVID-19, as it is critical to practice biosecurity for your family, your employees, the public, and animals. NCGA recommends farmers identify and coordinate a drop-off location for supplier deliveries to the farm. If possible, set this up away from high traffic areas and housing. Further instruction includes practicing distancing with delivery drivers, log all deliveries and utilize a visitor’s log for everyone entering the farm.

NCGA recommends farmers prepare on-farm workers and family members, and to sanitize contact surfaces around the farm, including door handles and knobs, floor mats, steering wheels and other commonly contacted surfaces. Additionally, it is recommended that all farms have Continuity of Business plans, to keep operations running smoothly in case of any disruption.

McLEAN, Va. — The Farm Credit Administration is encouraging Farm Credit System (System) institutions to work with System borrowers whose operations have been affected by COVID-19 and the measures taken to prevent its spread.

The coronavirus is creating extensive disruptions to the economy and American life, and governments, businesses, and the public are taking actions to minimize and mitigate risks. We recognize the pandemic may also create significant stress for System borrowers because of disruptions to employees, markets, transportation, and other factors important to their operations.

“FCA regulations and the solid financial position of System institutions give the institutions considerable flexibility to provide relief to borrowers affected by COVID-19,” says Glen R. Smith, FCA board chairman and CEO. “We encourage institutions to use this flexibility to work with borrowers to lessen any stress and financial burden related to the disease and efforts to contain it.”

System institutions can help alleviate stress for borrowers affected by COVID-19 in several ways:

  • Extending the terms of loan repayments
  • Restructuring borrowers’ debt obligations
  • Easing some loan documentation or credit-extension terms for new loans to certain borrowers

In addition to affecting System borrowers, the virus may also create challenges for System employees and institutions. These challenges may impair the institutions’ ability to comply in a timely way with regulatory or reporting requirements. FCA may be able to grant temporary relief in some circumstances that would alleviate these challenges without weakening safety and soundness.

FCA encourages any System institution that needs temporary relief from these requirements to contact David Grahn, director of the agency’s Office of Regulatory Policy, at 703-883-4145.

FCA’s board policy statement PS-71, Disaster Relief Efforts by Farm Credit System Institutions, provides additional information that may help System institutions respond to the impacts of the virus on their operations.

To learn more about COVID-19, please consult the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During these challenging times, we wish the best for System staff and borrowers.

The outlook for the United States farm economy depends on the implementation of new trade agreements and the evolution of animal and human disease outbreaks.

The University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute reports that while net farm income increases in 2020, under a baseline assumption of continued trade friction with China, other indicators of the health of the farm economy are not as positive. Projections show that with an assumed return to normal planting and growing weather in 2020, there will be an increase in projected area, yields and supplies and lower prices for corn and soybeans in the 2020/21 marketing year.

With trend yields, 2020 corn production increases to 15 billion bushels, putting downward pressure on prices, which are projected to average $3.57 per bushel. With soybeans, an increase in production drops prices to $8.48 per bushel, before considering the possible impacts of the “Phase 1” trade agreement. Additionally, potential African swine fever impacts, along with the impact of COVID-19, could change the farm economy in 2020, as well.

Farmers The USDA’s most recent forecast of net farm income in 2020 pegs it at $96.7 billion, up 3.3 percent or $3.1 billion, from last year. If realized, 2020 would represent the fourth consecutive year of improved farm income. However, according to American Farm Bureau, 2020 farm income would only be slightly higher than the 20-year, inflation-adjusted, national average of $93 billion. Cash receipts from crop and livestock sales are projected to $384.4 billion, up 2.7 percent or $10.1 billion, from 2019. Total animal/animal product receipts are expected to increase 4.6 percent with growth seen in hogs, cattle/calves, and poultry/eggs. Projected receipts from cattle/calves, $69 billion, is expected to be the highest since 2015. Cash receipts from crops are forecast at $198.6 billion, up $1.9 billion or 1 percent, from the prior year. Corn receipts are projected to be $1 billion higher; soybeans are projected to be about $1 billion lower. Federal government payments are expected to fall 37 percent. This is due to the expectation of no Market Facilitation Payments (MFP) this year. The final tranche of the 2019 payments, $3.7 billion, was made earlier this month.

 

The farm income forecasts offer positive news for Nebraska. Higher cattle/calves receipts are particularly positive as Nebraska is second only to Texas in the number of beef cattle. Poultry receipts in Nebraska should also be higher due to the ramp up of production at the Costco facility in Fremont. On the crop side, typical production levels with steady prices could be coupled with lower per bushel costs.

 

The USDA projections do not include any growth in exports to China due to the Phase 1 deal. If China ramps up purchases of U.S. agricultural goods, a big “if” given the uncertainties created by the coronavirus outbreak and its accompanying economic impacts, the farm income numbers could improve. Another uncertainty is federal support payments. As noted above, the income projections do not include any MFP payments this year. With the Phase 1 agreement and passage of a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, most people thought a MFP program this year was unlikely. However, a President Trump tweet on Friday said additional aid to farmers will be provided until the trade deals “fully kick in.” Either way, more exports to China or additional MFP payments should improve income conditions on the farm or ranch.

 

Persons of all ages are invited to attend a “Farm and Ranch Estate Planning Workshop” hosted by UNL Extension.  This workshop will be held on March 2 from 9:30 to 3:00 at the Merrick County Ag Building, Fairgrounds, Central City.

The program is free with the lunch being provided by the Archer Credit Union. Everyone attending is asked to register by calling the Merrick County Extension Office at 308-946-3843 to ensure that there is enough lunch, handouts, and other materials. Please register by February 27, 2020.

One presentation will focus on the decisions and situations which should be addressed when thinking about how your farm or ranch estate will be passed. Topics will include: the need for planning, proper family communications, who makes the decisions, concept of fair versus equal, family negotiations, and much more. The presentation is designed to give some basic information to those that haven’t yet started to think about their succession or transition plan for their assets.

In addition, an attorney will be making his presentation to give Ag Families the basics of what they need to start planning their wills, trusts, and other end of life documents that need to be in order.

The objective is to start the process of having the farm succession or transition planned. Bring your questions, as the session is designed to be interactive answering as many questions as possible.

Allan Vyhnalek, UNL Extension Educator for Farm Succession will present. He was recently assigned to the Ag Economics Department to work on farm and ranch succession and transition. Tom Fehringer, Columbus based attorney with an additional office in Central City, will make the legal presentation. He has worked with farmers for over 16 years will cover the legal aspects of end of life and end of business decision making.

While the workshop will use examples related to Agriculture, the estate planning parts of the workshops will be applicable to all and anyone with interest is invited to attend. Participants at previous events always report that they wished they would have started sooner, when asked about the value of attending the presentation.  The consequences of not having an appropriate plan in place can jeopardize the financial stability of your operation, and the future of the family.  More importantly, we need to have our wishes known to others so the legacy of the farms and ranches can be passed to the individuals or entities intended.

For more information or assistance, please contact _308-946-3843 to register or Allan Vyhnalek, 402-472-1771.