While the political focus of the estate tax is on farmers and ranchers, few producers pay the estate tax. USDA's Economic Research Service studied the issue earlier this year and concluded 1.7% of farm estates in 2016 had to file an estate-tax return. Of that group, 0.42% are estimated to owe any taxes. ERS estimated farm estates paid $344 million in taxes for 2016. "It impacts hardly any farmer, and in fact it impacts hardly any people across the U.S., far less than 1%," said Roger Johnson, president of NFU. "They are the wealthiest among us. If you have got $11 million in net assets, you can move them free and clear to the next generation. It's only beyond that do you have any sort of issues." The exemption is $10.98 million for a farm couple. Farms can also take advantage of special valuations as well when determining the fair market value of estates.
Milk futures have taken a beating over the past month with prices experiencing very few days of higher closes. Technically, futures should be about ready to rebound in price retracing some of the losses experienced during that period of time.The bottom line is that there is just too much milk and product out there to warrant much higher prices. Yes, prices could increase to some extent and hopefully we will experience Class III futures back to $17.00 again before the end of the year, but there is significant lost ground to regain. Summer weather is now basically behind us and with it any impact from sustained hot weather. The next item on the horizon is holiday and end of the year demand. That certainly can reduce inventory and available fresh supply, but we much remember that milk continues to be produced every day and demand must exceed supply in order to reduce inventory. If the current trend remains intact, we will end this year with higher levels of cheese in inventory than last year. This would make it the fourth consecutive year of higher inventory at the end of the year for total cheese and the fifth consecutive year for American cheese.
It will take months to calculate the damage Hurricanes Harvey and Irma unleashed this summer on the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida: dozens of lost lives, hundreds of thousands of destroyed homes, tens of billions in property damage and untold suffering and disruption. Some losses will take years to mend, some can never be mended at all. For farmers, once conditions clear enough to inspect fields, a first order will be to assess losses to their crops. For many, this disaster, as bad as it was, could have been worse. Texas farmers had been anticipating records crops in 2017 before the storm struck. About 75 percent of rice and 15 percent of cotton was harvested or ready for harvest. Cotton modules already dotted many fields. But much remained exposed, and Harvey’s fierce winds and unprecedented 30-plus inch rains wreaked havoc on rural infrastructure. Cotton gins and rice storage facilities suffered on a wide scale, potentially blocking many crops from reaching markets even if they survived the immediate hit.
Expect challenges in the Midwest to so-called “ag-gag” laws, laws that criminalize certain forms of data collection and recording on farms and ranches, after a series of challenges have left Utah’s law permanently struck down and Wyoming’s on shaky ground. On Wednesday, the Utah attorney general’s office said it would not appeal a federal judge’s decision to strike down the state’s law as unconstitutional, effectively killing the legislation.“[Ag-gag] laws in states like Iowa and Kansas are crying out for a challenge at this point,” says University of Denver law professor Justin Marceau, one of the attorneys representing animal rights groups in the Utah case.Animal rights groups emboldened by the Utah decision -- like the Animal Legal Defense Fund and People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals -- are already preparing challenges to ag-gag statutes in at least two more states, Marceau says.Ag-gag laws were borne out of farmers’ and ranchers’ frustrations with animal rights activists surreptitiously recording video of purported abuse and then publishing the video for public consumption. Because the undercover agents are often legitimately hired by farms and ranches, the targeted farmers didn’t have legal recourse once the videos surfaced. By criminalizing the collection of images without consent, the animal activists are suddenly opened up to potential charges.Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, North Carolina and Alabama all have some form of an ag-gag law currently on the books.
Monsanto showed what it will tolerate, and what it won't tolerate, when it comes to states' reactions to the 2017 season's unprecedented dicamba drift damage complaints. The St. Louis-based company on Thursday said it has filed an aggressive petition to the Arkansas State Plant Board, demanding it reject the state's proposed in-season ban on dicamba herbicides within 30 days or risk legal action.That response contrasts with the company's newly announced take on actions in Indiana. The state recently said it is completing the process to make dicamba a restricted use pesticide, keeping the herbicide available in 2018, albeit with restrictions on purchasing and use. Monsanto indicated it was now supportive of that restriction and similar actions in Missouri and Tennessee.
But when it comes to the profitability and survival of Pennsylvania farms, size apparently matters, according to a report compiled by economists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Theodore Alter, professor of agricultural, environmental and regional economics, and Theodore Fuller, development economist, both in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, co-authored the report, Pennsylvania Agriculture: Where the Action Is! Incorporating data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 Census of Agriculture — the most recent available — the researchers looked at farm size and farm incomes, with an eye toward determining what classes of farms can better weather low commodity prices, which have fallen sharply since the census was completed. A close look at Pennsylvania farms in 2012 suggests that farm incomes are closely linked to farm size,” said Fuller. About nine of every 10 mega-farms and large farms — 92 and 88 percent, respectively — had a gain in net income, and 68 percent of medium farms did as well. On the other hand, only 23 percent of small farms saw their net income rise. The economists also looked at the relationship between productivity and farm size, and they found that mega-farms and large farms outpaced medium and small farms on three key productivity measures in 2012. Farm expenses as a percent of product sales told a similar story. Expenses were 76 percent and 73 percent of sales for mega-farms and large farms, respectively.Medium farms’ expenses represented 92 percent of sales, and small farms had expenses that were 344 percent of sales, fueling their negative net cash income.
Farmers have been battling herbicide-resistant weeds for generations. A common practice for most of that time has been to rotate between different herbicides every season. But despite farmers’ best efforts, herbicide resistance has grown through the years, with some weed populations showing resistance to not one but four or five different herbicides. A new study from the University of Illinois explains why herbicide rotation doesn’t work.
The announcement of a new $320 million Tyson Foods Inc. poultry complex in Leavenworth County, Kan., was the focus of protests by local residents, according to regional reports. Several residents of nearby Tonganoxie, Kan., shouted their objections to the plant, hatchery and feed mill during the official announcement, despite the 1,600 jobs expected to be created when production launches in mid-2019. The protesters expressed concerns about several issues, including potential air and water pollution, animal cruelty and the potentially disruptive influx of schoolchildren to the district when new workers move into the area. Some residents also objected to what they felt was secrecy about the plans among city, county and state officials before the announcement, the report added.
Despite the widespread availability of smartphones, a study says consumers face a number of technological challenges in using the devices to get information about bioengineered foods, the key method for disclosing GMO ingredients under a 2016 law. The study, which was required by the law and conducted by the consultant group Deloitte under contract with the Department of Agriculture, said that an extensive educational campaign will be needed to implement the law and that USDA should consider developing or endorsing user-friendly scanner apps for consumers to use. The study also suggests development of “offline alternatives,” including the use of text messages, to enable consumers to get information on biotech ingredients. The law said that If additional disclosure methods were needed USDA is required to provide them after consulting with food retailers and manufacturers. The study said that while 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and 94 percent have adequate broadband access to scan a digital code on a food label, consumers aren’t aware of the digital links and many would face challenges in using the codes that they’re not even aware of.
Texas agricultural officials fear thousands of cattle may have died in the aftermath of Harvey, resulting in losses to ranchers of tens of millions of dollars. The counties that sustained damage when Harvey first came ashore Aug. 25 were home to 1.2 million head of cattle, representing 1-in-4 of all beef cows in Texas, the nation's largest producer.