Significance of USDA natural disaster area designation

As of this writing, there are several Nebraska counties with a USDA natural disaster area designation.  Some are primary natural disaster areas, while others are counties which are contiguous to a primary natural disaster area.  A current listing of the Nebraska counties designated as a natural disaster area are below but first, what does designation as a USDA natural disaster area mean?

Producers may become eligible for a wide variety of programs.  As of the date of the disaster declaration, all qualified farm operators are eligible for low interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency, assuming other eligibility requirements are met.  The farm operator has eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply to help cover actual losses.  Each emergency loan application is considered on its own merits; there is no guarantee of receiving funds.

Other programs that may be of use are the Emergency Conservation Program, crop insurance, and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.  The Small Business Administration also administers disaster assistance loans.

In Nebraska, the following counties are currently USDA disaster areas:

Arthur (drought)
Chase (drought)
Custer (drought)
Dawson (drought)
Deuel (drought)
Dundy (drought)
Frontier (drought)
Furnas (drought)
Garden (drought)
Gosper (drought)
Hayes (drought)
Hitchcock (drought)
Keith (drought)
Lincoln (drought)
Logan (drought)
McPherson (drought)
Perkins (drought)
Red Willow (drought)

If you live in one of these counties and need help navigating your options, feel free to contact us and we’re happy to help!

Accessing Business Credit as a Beginning Farmer

One common theme among all farmers and ranchers?  Access to credit.  Whether you are a beginning farmer looking to purchase your first plot of land to an established farmer interested in exploring new export markets, access to credit is a recurring theme.

The USDA recently hosted a Google+ hangout to discuss access to credit, which may be especially interesting for beginning farmers.  The Google+ Hangout featured USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, along with FSA Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm and Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach Gary Matteson.  The topic of conversation?  What is a lender looking for when a farmer walks in the door requesting credit.

The video in the link has information not only from the USDA and Farm Credit, but also everyday farmers and ranchers sharing their experiences.  If you have a few moments, the video is well worth your time to gain insight from lenders and gain ideas from other farmers and ranchers.  Check it out!

Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm
Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm
Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm

Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm
Farm Service Agency Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm and Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach Gary Matteson – See more at:

Farm Service Agency Farm Loan Chief Chris Beyerhelm and Farm Credit Council Vice President for Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach Gary Matteson – See more at:

Farmer and Rancher Disaster Assistance Program Sign-Ups Announced

As of Tuesday, April 15, 2014, farmers and ranchers may sign-up for disaster assistance programs that received funding under the 2014 Farm Bill.

The following disaster assistance programs are taking sign-ups:

Livestock Indemnity Program (“LIP”) and Livestock Forage Disaster Program (“LFP”) will provide payments to eligible producers for livestock deaths and grazing losses that have occurred since the expiration of the livestock disaster assistance programs in 2011, and including calendar years 2012, 2013, and 2014.

LIP provides payments to eligible producers who suffered livestock death in excess of normal mortality due to weather (see: South Dakota blizzard).  Eligible livestock include beef cattle, dairy cattle, bison, poultry, sheep, swine, horses, and other livestock as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.  Remember that documentation of livestock death is required.  The documentation can include photographs and video of the livestock loss (dated if possible); purchase records, veterinarian records, production records, or bank or other loan documents; and/or Written contracts, records assembled for tax purposes, private insurance documents, and other similar reliable documents.

LFP provides payments to eligible producers grazing losses due to drought or fire.  Payments for drought are equal to 60 percent of the monthly feed cost for up to five months.  Payments for drought are based upon the severity of drought as rated by the United States Drought Monitor.  You can see if your county is eligible here. Payments for fire on federally managed rangeland are equal to 50 percent of the monthly feed cost for the number of days the producer is prohibited from grazing the managed rangeland, not to exceed 180 calendar days. The grazing losses must have occurred on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

Funding is also available under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (“ELAP”).  ELAP provides emergency assistance to eligible producers of livestock, honeybees and farm-raised fish that have losses due to disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, such as blizzards and wildfires, as determined by the Secretary of Agriculture.

If any of these disaster assistance programs may work for you, call your local FSA office.  The first step to any potential payment is determining eligibility and signing up for the program.

Interesting nuggets in the 2012 Census of Agriculture

The preliminary results from the 2012 Census of Agriculture are currently available and it paints an interesting picture in Nebraska.

While the preliminary results do not directly count the number of beginning farmers, the results do so indirectly by counting how many years a farmer or rancher has been operating the same farm.  In Nebraska, we know that there were 9,976 beginning farmers in 2012, an increase of 891 beginning farmers since 2007.

I think this is great news!  The number of beginning farmers is headed up, allowing for transition to the next generation.  I think these figures also point to the diversity of operations in Nebraska — from CSA’s and smaller fruit and vegetable operations to large-scale row cropping or livestock production.  In other words, there is room in the market for all types of farming and ranching.

The preliminary report also shows the number of established farmers increasing.  From 2007 to 2012, the number of established farmers increased by 1,366 individuals.  What does that mean?  It means that more future opportunities for beginning farmers.  The land will transition at some point.  That means beginning farmers have an opportunity to lease, buy, or create other arrangements to obtain access to land.

The numbers provide a window into the current (well … 2012) marketplace but also what the potential future holds.  When the full Census is released, I think we’ll see some even brighter spots on the horizon!

FSA Youth Loans, Along With Changes to the Loan Program

The Farm Service Agency has released a new Fact Sheet about updates to various loan programs under the new Farm Bill.  The changes in the Youth Loans are interesting and open the door to agricultural to many more individuals.

But before discussing the changes, what exactly are Youth Loans?  Youth Loans are loans to individuals to establish and operate moderate sized projects that produce income in connection with participation in programs such as 4-H, Future Farmers of America, or similar programs.  The project must be part of an organized and supervised program of work designed to provide practical business and education experience.  Furthermore, the project must be planned and operated with the help of an adviser from the organization and produce sufficient income to repay the loan.

You need to be between 10 and 20 years old to qualify for a Youth Loan.  The maximum loan amount is $5,000.  The loan can be used to purchase livestock, seed, equipment and supplies; buy, rent, or repair needed tools and/or equipment; and pay operating expenses for the project.

What are the latest changes?  First, Youth Loans no longer have a rural residency requirement.  This means that a person otherwise eligible for a Youth Loan but who resided in Omaha is now eligible for a youth loan to assist with agricultural projects or business.  With the growth of urban agriculture and interest in smaller operations, the elimination of the residency requirement is good news for encouraging even younger beginning farmers to enter the profession.

Second, debt forgiveness on Youth Loans will not prevent the borrower from receiving other federal loans.  Importantly, this includes federal student loans.  Further, if delinquent on a Youth Loan, a borrower is eligible for federal student loans.

If you have any questions about Youth Loans or FSA loans in general, you are welcome to contact us!



Preliminary Results for 2014 Nebraska Farmland Valuation

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln, via Cornhusker Economics, has released preliminary results for the 2014 Nebraska Farmland Valuation.  As many likely suspected, valuations did not drastically increase in 2013 and early 2014, unlike previous years.

In general, the average value of Nebraska farmland was generally up across the state, with one exception.  The state average is up 5%, with the central region the highest at 12% gain.  The only region with a decrease was the east region at -1% growth.

The preliminary report also discusses different classes of farmland.  Across the state, the increase for non-tillable grazing land at 7%.  Not surprisingly, this is related to increasing and record-high cattle prices.

Dryland cropland values varied across the state, depending upon region and potential for irrigation.  What I find interesting is that for the western two-thirds of the state, increases in valuation commonly ranged around 20%.

Many will also not be surprised in the difference in valuation between gravity irrigated and center pivot irrigated cropland.  Across the irrigated farmland class, valuations ranged from -2% to almost 20%.  Weighting the averages across the state, a 4% increase was seen across gravity and center pivot irrigated cropland.

Take a look at the report — it is interesting.  It also discuss cash rental rates, so if you are a tenant, the report has pertinent information for you.  (For example, for the majority of districts, cash rental rates have declined from 5% to 15% from 2013.)

There’s something for everyone in there and when the full report is released, we’ll let you know!