Farm Bankruptcies Update: Fourth Quarter of 2020

by: Kevin Kim, a Ph.D. student and Ani Katchova, Professor and Farm Income Enhancement Chair, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University

The number of Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings has not increased in the fourth quarter of 2020 nor in all quarters of 2020 as many had been initially concerned at the beginning of the pandemic. The U.S. farm economy has been supported by strong government payments which reached $46.3 billion in 2020, the largest amount in history. Combined with strong farmland values and low interest rates, the farm bankruptcy rate in Ohio rather decreased in 2020, with 1.29 farm bankruptcies per 10,000 farms.

The report is available at:

https://aede.osu.edu/sites/aede/files/publication_files/BankruptcyUpdate2020Q4.pdf

 

Ohio Local Bank Market Conditions

by: Kevin Kim, a Ph.D. student and Ani Katchova, Professor and Farm Income Enhancement Chair, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University

The US banking sector and local community banks faced great uncertainty in 2020 due to the pandemic. The consolidation intensity within US banking sector continued in 2020. Ohio experienced a similar trend, with continued decrease in the number of community banks. However, Ohio banks remained highly profitable relative to the national average, and the credit availability increased significantly as the increase in the amount of bank deposits outpaced the increase in the amount of loans. Overall Ohio banks slightly increased bankruptcy risks in 2020 but are still more resilient than the national average.

The full report is available at:

https://aede.osu.edu/sites/aede/files/publication_files/OhioLocalBankMarketConditions.pdf

Are Starlink Satellites the Solution to Rural Internets Setbacks? 

By: Andrew Holden, Extension Educator, Agriculture & Natural Resources, The Ohio State University Extension

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide you with information about a new internet service technology and is not an endorsement of the company or their services. I hope that this information will assist you in making informed decisions and help you learn more about the importance of high-speed internet for rural communities.  

Slow internet can frustrate almost anyone, but if you live in a rural area, slow internet, if any, can often be your only choice. The lack of highspeed internet access has been a concern for many years in rural America. While companies slowly improve service and governmental programs try to address these issues, many rural residents are left waiting for faster internet that can’t come soon enough. One company that is attempting to close this digital divide is SpaceX, with their high-speed satellite internet system called Starlink. While Starlink is just beginning to roll out service, the initial results appear to be promising.

Rural communities and Tribal lands have far less access to high-speed internet compared to those in more populated areas. The Federal Communications Commission considers high-speed broadband internet as being able to provide 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speeds. According to the FCC’s, 2020 Broadband Deployment Report, “22.3% of Americans in rural areas and 27.7% of Americans in Tribal lands lack coverage from fixed terrestrial 25/3 Mbps broadband, as compared to only 1.5% of Americans in urban areas”. Those without high-speed internet access can often be categorized under the phrase ‘last mile’ customers. The last mile problem can be described as the customers at the end of the communication line that are more expensive to reach and located farther apart. As unfortunate as it is, in basic terms, companies would rather run a mile of infrastructure in an area that will yield 25 customers than run a mile for just one customer. Diminishing returns leads to internet companies being unwilling to improve internet in rural areas, as well as less competition for existing providers.

The impact of the digital divide can be felt across the US by those living in small and rural towns. Many aspects of modern life are affected by access to high-speed internet, including education, healthcare, entertainment, and employment. In a report from Michigan State University’s Quello Center, students with slow or limited internet access lacked digital skills and performed lower on standardized tests. In addition to education, 2020 highlighted the future of working remotely and virtual healthcare appointments which rely on faster internet. Rural businesses, from farms to manufacturing, benefit from better internet speeds as well, making it quicker to send and receive information. As technology improves and expands, more people in rural areas are slowly receiving better internet services, but one company that may have the ability to close the gap seemingly overnight is SpaceX.

SpaceX, short for the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is an aerospace manufacturer founded by Elon Musk. Musk is also the founder of the popular electric  vehicle company Tesla Motors. One of SpaceX’s business endeavors is providing satellite internet access via a satellite consolation called Starlink. This isn’t like the traditional satellite internet that has been offered over the years. Starlink uses satellites in low Earth orbit that allow for shorter distances and speeds over 100 mbps for those in the beta testing program. Speeds like that would be a huge improvement for almost anyone in a rural area and can be offered remotely to the hardest to reach places. In February, Starlink opened pre-orders to the public and has been slowly filling orders ever since. With the high demand for the service, many orders are slated to be filled by the end of 2021 depending on your location. The current advertised cost for the service is $99.00 per month with the hardware, including a small satellite dish and a router, for a $499.00 onetime payment. On their website Starlink states service will be offered on a first come, first served basis, and is currently taking $100 down payments to get in line for the service. If you are interested in seeing if service is available in your area, or signing up yourself, you can visit www.Starlink.com to do so.

Will Starlink satellites be the solution to our rural internet woes? When considering access to high-speed internet service in rural areas, one thing that has historically lacked were options to choose from. Starlink will provide another option, or possibly the first option, to those living with poor to no access to internet and may solve the last mile problem for many rural communities. Even those who do not use Starlink’s service could benefit from the competition that will encourage traditional internet providers to improve their infrastructure and speeds. Rural communities here in Ohio and across the United States could benefit greatly with better internet access and Starlink is on its way to providing it.

2020 Broadband Deployment Report: https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/broadband-progress-reports/2020-broadband-deployment-report

Poor Internet connection leaves rural students behind: https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2020/poor-internet-connection-leaves-rural-students-behind#:~:text=Slow%20Internet%20connections%20or%20limited,college%20admissions%20and%20career%20opportunities.

 

 

 

 

Farm Office Live to Analyze USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative

By Barry Ward, David Marrison, Peggy Hall, Dianne Shoemaker and Julie Strawser – Ohio State University Extension

April’s “Farm Office Live” will focus on details of the USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers” initiative announced on March 24, 2021. Changes were made in effort to reach a greater share of farming operations and improve USDA pandemic assistance.

During the webinar, we will be sharing details about the pandemic initiative and discussing some of the changes made to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).  Our Farm Office Team will also provide a legislative update and discuss changes to the Paycheck Protection Program and Employee Retention Credits. They will also be on hand to answer your questions and address any related issues.

Two live sessions will be offered on Wednesday, April 7, from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. and again on Friday, April 9, from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. A replay will be available on the Farm Office website if you cannot attend the live event.

Farm Office Live is a webinar series addressing the latest outlook and updates on ag law, farm management, ag economics, farm business analysis and other related issues. It is presented by the faculty and educators with the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

To register or view past recordings, visit https://go.osu.edu/farmofficelive.

For more information or to submit a topic for discussion, email Julie Strawser at strawser.35@osu.edu or call the Farm Office at 614-292-2433.

USDA Announces Pandemic Assistance to Farmers

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County

Source of Information: https://www.farmers.gov/

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week it is establishing new programs and efforts to provide financial assistance to farmers negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.

The new program is called the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers and is intended to reach a broader representation of producers than previous COVID-19 aid programs.  The program will place a greater emphasis on small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers, timber harvesting, as well as support for the food supply chain and producers of renewable fuels.

The USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers program administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) includes four parts.  Details below were provided in a news release from USDA.

Part 1:

USDA will dedicate at least $6 billion to develop a number of new programs or modify existing proposals using discretionary funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act and other coronavirus funding that went unspent by the previous administration. Where rulemaking is required, it will commence this spring. These efforts will include assistance for:

  • Dairy farmers through the Dairy Donation Program or other means:
  • Euthanized livestock and poultry;
  • Biofuels;
  • Specialty crops, beginning farmers, local, urban and organic farms;
  • Costs for organic certification or to continue or add conservation activities
  • Other possible expansion and corrections to CFAP that were not part of today’s announcement such as to support dairy or other livestock producers;
  • Timber harvesting and hauling;
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other protective measures for food and farm workers and specialty crop and seafood producers, processors and distributors;
  • Improving the resilience of the food supply chain, including assistance to meat and poultry operations to facilitate interstate shipment;
  • Developing infrastructure to support donation and distribution of perishable commodities, including food donation and distribution through farm-to-school, restaurants or other community organizations; and
  • Reducing food waste.

Part 2:

USDA expects to begin investing approximately $500 million in expedited assistance through several existing programs this spring, with most by April 30. This new assistance includes:

  • $100 million in additional funding for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, administered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which enhances the competitiveness of fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops.
  • $75 million in additional funding for the Farmers Opportunities Training and Outreach program, administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, which encourages and assists socially disadvantaged, veteran, and beginning farmers and ranchers in the ownership and operation of farms and ranches.
  • $100 million in additional funding for the Local Agricultural Marketing Program, administered by the AMS and Rural Development, which supports the development, coordination and expansion of direct producer-to-consumer marketing, local and regional food markets and enterprises and value-added agricultural products.
  • $75 million in additional funding for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program, administered by the NIFA, which provides funding opportunities to conduct and evaluate projects providing incentives to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables by low-income consumers
  • $20 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to improve and maintain animal disease prevention and response capacity, including the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
  • $20 million for the Agricultural Research Service to work collaboratively with Texas A&M on the critical intersection between responsive agriculture, food production, and human nutrition and health.
  • $28 million for NIFA to provide grants to state departments of agriculture to expand or sustain existing farm stress assistance programs.
  • Approximately $80 million in additional payments to domestic users of upland and extra-long staple cotton based on a formula set in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 that USDA plans to deliver through the Economic Adjustment Assistance for Textile Mills program.

Part 3:

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, enacted December 2020 requires FSA to make certain payments to producers according to a mandated formula. USDA is now expediting these provisions because there is no discretion involved in interpreting such directives, they are self-enacting.

  • An increase in CFAP 1 payment rates for cattle. Cattle producers with approved CFAP 1 applications will automatically receive these payments beginning in April. Information on the additional payment rates for cattle can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Eligible producers do not need to submit new applications, since payments are based on previously approved CFAP 1 applications. USDA estimates additional payments of more than $1.1 billion to more than 410,000 producers, according to the mandated formula.
  • Additional CFAP assistance of $20 per acre for producers of eligible crops identified as CFAP 2 flat-rate or price-trigger crops beginning in April. This includes alfalfa, corn, cotton, hemp, peanuts, rice, sorghum, soybeans, sugar beets and wheat, among other crops. FSA will automatically issue payments to eligible price trigger and flat-rate crop producers based on the eligible acres included on their CFAP 2 applications. Eligible producers do not need to submit a new CFAP 2 application. For a list of all eligible row-crops, visit farmers.gov/cfap. USDA estimates additional payments of more than $4.5 billion to more than 560,000 producers, according to the mandated formula.
  • USDA will finalize routine decisions and minor formula adjustments on applications and begin processing payments for certain applications filed as part of the CFAP Additional Assistance program in the following categories:
    • Applications filed for pullets and turfgrass sod;
    • A formula correction for row-crop producer applications to allow producers with a non-Actual Production History (APH) insurance policy to use 100% of the 2019 Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Option (ARC-CO) benchmark yield in the calculation;
    • Sales commodity applications revised to include insurance indemnities, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program payments, and Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus payments, as required by statute; and
    • Additional payments for swine producers and contract growers under CFAP Additional Assistance remain on hold and are likely to require modifications to the regulation as part of the broader evaluation and future assistance; however, FSA will continue to accept applications from interested producers.

Part 4:

USDA will re-open sign-up for of CFAP 2 for at least 60 days beginning on April 5, 2021.

  • FSA has committed at least $2.5 million to establish partnerships and direct outreach efforts intended to improve outreach for CFAP 2 and will cooperate with grassroots organizations with strong connections to socially disadvantaged communities to ensure they are informed and aware of the application process.

Summary

Applications for this program will open on April 5th.  Anyone interested in additional information about the USDA Pandemic Assistance to Producers program is encouraged to see https://www.farmers.gov/pandemic-assistance/cfap or their local FSA office.

Expect Farm Liquidity to Decline in 2021

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County

Liquidity is the ability of a farm business to quickly convert current assets to cash to pay short-term (less than 12 months) cash obligations, debt, family living, and taxes. It is one of several measures used to gauge farm financial performance over time. The United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) is forecasting a decline in farm sector liquidity in 2021.  This article will discuss working capital, current ratio, and times interest earned ratio financial measures.

Working Capital

Working capital is calculated by subtracting current liabilities from current assets.  Let’s assume a farm has $300,000 in current assets and $175,000 in current liabilities.  This farm has $25,000 ($300,000 – $175,000) in working capital.   There is no standard dollar amount of working capital needed for businesses as it will vary by farm size.   Comparing total working capital to gross revenues does provide an indicator of whether a farm’s working capital is “enough”.  USDA-ERS forecasts a 13.6% decline in working capital in 2021 from 2020. If realized, this would be the largest decline since 2016.

See the table below to see how your farm compares.

Working Capital to Gross Revenue Ranges

>30% Strong
10% to 30% Caution
<10% Vulnerable

(Source: University of Minnesota Extension  https://extension.umn.edu/farm-finance/ratios-and-measurements)

Current Ratio

The current ratio is sometimes used when discussing liquidity.  The current ratio is determined by dividing current assets by current liabilities.  Using the example above, this farm has a current ratio of 1.7 ($300,000/$175,000).  In this example, for every $1 of current debt (liabilities), there is $1.70 of current assets available to cover it.  Using the benchmark chart below, this farm falls into the “caution” category.

 Current Ratio Ranges

Greater than 2.0 Strong
1.3 to 2.0 Caution
Less than 1.3 Vulnerable

(Source: University of Minnesota Extension https://extension.umn.edu/farm-finance/ratios-and-measurements)

Times Interest Earned Ratio

The times interest earned ratio is a less commonly known measure used to gauge the ability to service the interest portion of debt out of net farm income. Typically, interest is a cash expense and the principal portion of debt is paid out of net farm income. The times interest earned ratio is calculated as net farm income, less interest expense, divided by interest expense. A value less than 1 indicates that there is not enough cash coming from farm operations to make interest payments. Without a cash inflow from outside the farm, the ability to make interest payments would require borrowing or selling assets. It also indicates that the farm business is not generating sufficient dollars to make scheduled principal payments.  A higher times interest earned ratio indicates greater ease in making interest payments. USDA-ERS forecasts the times interest earned ratio will decrease from 9.2 in 2020 to 8.4 in 2021. Still, the times interest earned ratio is forecasted to remain above 2014-19 levels.

Summary

It is important to remember that examining only one measure can give a skewed, incomplete picture of farm financial performance.  An in-depth analysis of income, expenses, assets, liabilities, and cash flow is needed to provide a comprehensive understanding of financial performance.

I encourage you to schedule a meeting with your lender or Extension Educator to review your balance sheet, crunch some numbers, and discuss any questions as you develop a plan.  Whole farm analysis through the Ohio Farm Business Analysis program will also generate these critical financial numbers for your farm as well as benchmark reports with industry comparisons.  Additional information is available here: https://farmprofitability.osu.edu.

 

Sources:

Farm Sector Liquidity Forecast to Decline in 2021, United States Department of Agriculture – Economic Research Service, https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2021/march/farm-sector-liquidity-forecast-to-decline-in-2021/

Ratios and Measurements in Farm Income, University of Minnesota, https://extension.umn.edu/farm-finance/ratios-and-measurements#liquidity-796060

The Basics of a Farm Balance Sheet, Ohio State University Extension, https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-64

Lady Landlord Program held for all farmland owners and farmers

By: Eric Richer and Melissa Rupp, Extension Educators Fulton County

Do you have questions for what are the best practices for farmland leasing? Would you like to incorporate conservation practices or other items into your lease agreement? Do you know what should be in writing? If you are a farmland owner or farmer and you have these types of questions, consider attending the Lady Landlord program on Tuesday, March 23 from 9 am to 1 pm at the Robert Fulton Agriculture Center, 8770 State Route 108, Wauseon, OH. Attorney Peggy Hall, OSU Extension Ag Law Specialist, will discuss the legal aspects of farmland leasing, Beth Scheckelhoff, OSU Extension Educator-Putnam County, will discuss landlord-tenant communication, and Melinda Robison, Andres, Oneil & Lowe Insurance Agency, will discuss key insurance aspects of farmland leasing.  Other topics will include understanding the current market’s cost of production (enterprise budgets), incorporating conservation into leases, and farmland liability coverage.  This program is open to all farmland owners and farmers.

Registration cost includes lunch and materials is $20 per landowner or farm family and is due by March 19.  Must be pre-registered to attend. Registration link: www.go.osu.edu/2021FultonLadyLandlord

 

 

 

The Status and Changing Face of Ohio Agriculture

by: Ani Katchova, Associate Professor and Farm Income Enhancement Chair, Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics, The Ohio State University

Farmers deal with many stressors, most of which are out of their control: extreme weather, market changes, COVID-19, trade wars, fluctuating market prices, and environmental challenges. In 2019 particularly, a harsh winter followed by high spring and early summer rainfall led to damaged hay fields, delays in the planting of corn and soybean crops, and an inability to harvest early season crops in a timely manner. Tariffs on exported farm products led to declines in soybean and corn prices and contributed to uncertainty about the long-term security of global trade relationships. Growing attention to harmful algal blooms and other water quality challenges has increased pressure on farmers to reduce nutrient runoff from farm fields. Is this an unprecedented time in history, or have farmers experienced similar levels of stress in the past? It’s helpful to place current events in the context of long-term trends. Researchers from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences explored 20 years of data from the U.S. Census of Agriculture and multiple public sources to understand long-term trends in Ohio. Here’s what they discovered.

https://aede.osu.edu/sites/aede/files/publication_files/AgCensus_Ebook_V5.pdf

 

Farm Office Live Continues!

by: Barry Ward, David Marrison, Peggy Hall, Dianne Shoemaker – Ohio State University Extension

“Farm Office Live” continues this winter as an opportunity for you to get the latest outlook and updates on ag law, farm management, ag economics, farm business analysis and other related issues from faculty and educators with the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

Each Farm Office Live begins with presentations on select ag law and farm management topics from our specialists followed by open discussions and a Q&A session. Viewers can attend “Farm Office Live” online each month on Wednesday evening or Friday morning, or can catch a recording of each program.

The full slate of offerings remaining for this winter are:

  • March 10th 7:00 – 8:30 pm
  • March 12th 10:00 – 11:30 am
  • April 7th 7:00 – 8:30 pm
  • April 9th 10:00 – 11:30 am

Topics to be addressed in March include:

  • Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)
  • Proposed Stimulus Legislation
  • General Legislative Update
  • Ohio Farm Business Analysis – A Look at Crops
  • Crop Budget & Rental Rates

To register or view past recordings, visit https://go.osu.edu/farmofficelive

For more information or to submit a topic for discussion, email Julie Strawser at strawser.35@osu.edu or call the farm office at 614-292-2433. We look forward to you joining us!

Communication Infrastructure Leasing and Purchase Agreements

by: Mike Estadt, OSU Extension Educator in Pickaway County and Jeffrey Lewis, Research Specialist, OSU Ag and Resource Law Program

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed to rural Ohioans that broadband internet is no longer a luxury but a requirement for work, school, and daily activities.  Recent legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives and policy from many organizations and governmental agencies are calling for the buildout of communications infrastructure to address the discrepancies in broadband technology.

One of the proposed alternatives is increased 5G cellular network coverage. Many current cell towers will be converted, but additional towers may be required to increase the range of this high-speed wireless technology. Landowners in deficient areas may receive inquiries into the purchase of or rental of a parcel of land to construct a tower on.  The questions of how much is my land worth and should I sell it or lease the property will arise.

The benefit to SELLING the tower site is your ability to get all your money now, instead of later. Think of the lottery.  Most people take the cash option because they can get a better return with other investments than they can with the lottery’s annuity payment. It is the expectation of an improved future Return on Investment (ROI) that motivates them more than the ROI itself, which often does not materialize. If the time value of money is a motivation, a conversation with a financial advisor is advised because the flip side is you could be selling something now that could provide you with a more profound benefit later.

The biggest advantages to LEASING the cell tower site is your long-term stability of income and the ability to negotiate lease terms.  Leases will vary upon length and terms.  As the final renewal term comes close to expiration the tenant might be very motivated to negotiate newer terms. It generally will be financially advantageous to keep the same site, since vacating the site would require the cell tower company to remove the tower and remediate the site to its original condition, then buy/lease a new site and install a new tower at the new site.

The downside to leasing the tower site is the site remains a part of the parent tract. If the fee owner of the parent tract tries to get a loan against the property, the tower site could affect the type of financing available. Residential lenders might have concerns with blended-use properties. One might consider subdividing the tower site from the parent tract to mitigate this issue.

General considerations of a cell tower lease include:

  • Value. The lease amounts will always depend upon various factors. The dollar amount will depend on the type of tower, location, and availability of other sites. Some sites may fetch rates of a thousand dollars per year, while others can garner six figures.
  • Legal Description and Access. The lease needs to include a detailed legal description that specifically identifies the tower site and the means of access. Will you be granting the network company an easement to access the tower site? Or is the network company dropping the tower in the back yard next to your pool and using your driveway? If so, you may be damaging the value of your house.
  • Maintenance and Taxes. Who maintains the access driveway, takes care of noxious weeds and pays the real estate taxes? Will your property taxes increase? Will your insurance premium increase? Contact your insurance provider to determine if you may need to increase your liability insurance. Make sure increased operating expenses are either factored into the rent or you can work an expense pass-through into the lease.
  • Duration, renewal options, and escalation clauses:
    • Usually, long-term. Initial term may be as short as 5 years or as long as 15.
    • Renewal terms could be anywhere from 1-10 years in duration. Some leases may contain a series of renewal options that could total the term of 30 years if all renewal options are exercised.
    • Escalation clauses sometimes activate with each renewal. An escalation allows the landowner to increase the rental rate according to a pre-agreed timeline. This escalation could be a negotiated as a percentage every year or an adjustment every 5 years according to Consumer Price Index.
    • If the lessor chooses not to renew the lease, make sure the lease clearly states who is responsible for the removal of the tower and remediation of the property back to its original state.

It goes to say that before entering into any type of lease or purchase agreement, have an attorney review the documents.