Nebraska NRCS assisting Nebraksa producers with blizzard livestock loss.

Remember last week when we discussed EQIP?  Well, the Nebraska NRCS has added a new element to EQIP — a special Livestock Mortality Initiative.  The Initiative provides technical and financial assistance to producers to dispose of livestock carcasses in a safe manner.  If a producer has already disposed of livestock, he or she may still apply for funds so long as the disposal meets NRCS technical requirements.  Note that technical and financial assistance will be available upon submission of an application; once funds are available, a contract will be drawn up and and payment completed once work is complete.

Due to the path of the blizzard, the Initiative is available only for producers in the Upper Niobrara White Natural Resources District which serves Box Butte, Dawes, Sheridan, and Sioux counties.  The deadline to sign-up for assistance is November 15, 2013.

Friday Facts, Fun and Food

I’ve been driving around Nebraska this week and I have to say — I love fall.  The crispness in the air, the harvest coming in, fresh apples.  But winter feels like it is rapidly approaching.  Before winter happens though, some possible items to keep you warm:

What is EQIP?

If you have an interest in soil, water, and wildlife conservation, Nebraska NRCS is now accepting applications for its EQIP program.

What is EQIP?

EQIP stands for Environmental Quality Incentives Program.  It is a voluntary program designed to assist owners of land in agriculture or forest production in soil, water, and wildlife conservation.  The owner of the land enters into a contract with a maximum term of ten years (although most are three to four years); the contracts provide financial assistance via cost-sharing to plan and implement conservation practices that are appropriate for the land and the owner’s conservation goals.

How does EQIP work?

EQIP applications are subject to a competitive process, in which the applications are ranked.  Nebraska offers special incentives for water conservation in the Ogalalla Aquifer, energy conservation, and conversion to organic production.  How the ranking is determined varies by state.

Does EQIP assist beginning farmers and ranchers?

Absolutely.  In fact, if all other application requirements are met, beginning farmers, socially-disadvantaged farmers, and limited-resource farmers may receive greater financial assistance of 25% above the applicable cost-share percentage.  What this means is if a resource practice has a cost-share of 50%, a beginning farmer or rancher will receive 75% cost-share from EQIP.

Additionally, five percent of EQIP funding is set aside for beginning farmers and ranchers and another five percent is set aside for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Can I only apply once?

No.  As long as you meet the eligibility criteria, you may continue to apply for EQIP funds.

Can I receive unlimited monetary assistance?

Smart question but the answer is no.  Payments are limited to $300,000 for all contracts entered into during a six year period.  Payments for technical assistance are excluded from the $300,000 limitation.  Further, payments for organic production may not exceed $20,000 per year or $80,000 during any six year period.

If NRCS determines your project has special environmental significance, an applicant may petition the NRCS Chief for the payment limitation to be raised to $450,000.

When are applications due?

Nebraska applications can be accepted at any time but ranking for applications on hand will begin on November 15, 2013.  A second round of ranking has a cut-off date of January 17, 2014.

Friday Facts, Fun and Food

After the turmoil the past two weeks, how about some non-government shutdown reads for your weekend:

Now that the government shutdown is over, what next?

Today, the federal government is open for business.  And while that is good news, there will still be some effects felt for a few days:

  • The USDA’s website is up and will be updated over the next few days.  USDA agencies, such as the Farm Service Agency, should be staffed as of this morning.
  • Because FSA is staffed, that will allow farmers and ranchers to get checks signed by the FSA, if applicable to their situation.
  • Certain statistical reports from the National Agriculture Statistical Service and World Agricultural Outlook Board will be cancelled or delayed because necessary data was not able to be collected during the shutdown.  Cancelled reports are the Crop Production and Cotton Ginnings reports from NASS and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates from WAOB, both scheduled for October 11.  The next release date is November 8.  Crop Progress reports scheduled for October 7 and October 15 are cancelled.  The October 18 Cattle on Feed report is postponed.
  • The Federal Reserve did release information on the state of the economy, including information from each Federal Reserve district concerning agricultural production.
  • No word yet on when direct payments will come out but I would expect those to begin showing up shortly.


A government shutdown and no Farm Bill

It is easy to conflate the government shutdown with the lack of passage of the Farm Bill.  However, while the expiration of the Farm Bill and government shutdown occurred on the same date (October 1), they are, in fact, two separate albeit related issues.  Lets go through the status of each:

Government Shutdown:

There is not much more to say other than it continues.  As of this writing, the Senate is hammering out a potential deal to re-open the government and extend the debt ceiling.  The government shutdown continues to delay direct payments and other programs, as discussed previously.

Farm Bill:

The Farm Bill actually expired two years ago and, until October 1, a continuing resolution was in place.  As of today, the House has named its conferees, in response to the Senate’s naming of conferees.  There is some speculation that the Farm Bill could be part of a larger package to reopen the government.  One of the few areas of agreement between the Senate-passed bill and House-passed bill is the reduction of crop insurance subsidies for high-income earners.  Otherwise, for a complete run-down of the Farm Bill status, click here.


Friday Facts, Fun and Food

Welcome to the end of another week, or Week Two of the government shutdown.  In an effort to distract from the shutdown, here are some other interesting bits of information:

A helpline is established for anyone impacted by the South Dakota blizzard.

Volunteers are helping pick up fields after the tornadoes in northeast Nebraska, southeast South Dakota, and northwest Iowa to assist in the harvest.

Information on the Affordable Care Act as applicable to agriculture is in Cornhusker Economics.

Following up from last week, additional information on Monsanto’s buy of Climate Corporation is here.

Perhaps land values will remain steady and perhaps increase?

Combining the fun and food portion of this post, check out this recipe for pumpkin soup, using the pumpkin as the soup bowl.

Update on government shutdown for agriculture

Well, the government shutdown continues, with the Farm Bill also stalled.  What are the implications for agriculture?

To contract, the minds must meet.

Along with consideration and acceptance, a fundamental principle of contract law is “a meeting of the minds”.

You intuitively know what a meeting of the minds is.  It is when the parties have a binding mutual understanding as to the essential terms and conditions of a proposed contract.  Without a meeting of the minds, a contract cannot be formed.

Keep in mind this is about essential terms of the contract.  In other words, a contract must be definite and certain regarding the terms and requirements; it must identify the subject of the contract (e.g. buying a specific tractor) and articulate the essential commitments and agreements about the subject.

Let’s take the example of buying a tractor.  What would the essential elements be?  In other words, what is the consideration?  Price is the obvious element we would need to agreed upon.  Perhaps delivery to your farm is essential; you would not otherwise enter into the contract.  If a certain model of tractor is the only one who can perform a specific function you need, delivery of that model is essential.  Does the color of the tractor matter or whether the radio is on the right or left of the console?  Most likely, not at all because you are concerned only that the tractor can perform the functions as required.

What is most important to keep in mind is that all parties to a contract should have the same, mutual understanding of all the terms in a contract.  The meeting of the minds is another good reason to have a written contract rather than an oral contract — you can review all the terms prior to signing the contract and you can always review of the written contract to refresh your memory  If you don’t understand what a term means, ask.  If you will not agree to a contract without specific requirements, include them in the contract and state that such terms are essential.

The above is a quick overview of the meeting of the minds and there are nuances in the law.   Curious about the nuances?   Or are you a beginning farmer and have further questions about contracts?  You are welcome to contact us — we’re here to help!

Friday Facts, Fun and Food.

As we enter day four of the government shutdown and some potentially nasty weather this weekend, here are some tidbits to distract you:

Meet the new Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs, Brian Depew.

Crop insurance claims should not affect farmers, as the insurance contracts are with private companies and not the federal government.

Are you a agriculture student?  Check out the 2014 Agricultural Innovation Prize competition.

Monsanto has purchased The Climate Corporation.  The Climate Corporation is an ag-focused information technology company that measures historical rainfall, weather, and other information to assist in increasing production.

Here are three interesting vignettes about British beginning farmers.

This recipe combines some of my favorite things: apples, pie, and cookies to make the Apple Pie Cookie.  I haven’t tried them but they look delicious.