Forest Carbon Symposium

Forest carbon markets are expanding rapidly in the commonwealth. If you are a forester, landowner, county leader, or just interested in this topic, please consider attending the first ever Forest Carbon Symposium hosted by the Virginia Department of Forestry.

In this symposium, you will learn about the importance of forest carbon markets, what this market means to Virginia, and what opportunities are available for our state’s forestry community.

Registration is $30 and includes lunch.

Takeaways from the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade

The 14th Annual Virginia Governor’s Conference on Agricultural Trade was held on March 29 in downtown Richmond. This conference was started at the Virginia Farm Bureau West Creek headquarters and continues to be co-sponsored by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation (VFBF), Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Several VFBF staff members attended the conference and learned a great deal from presentations related to U.S. agriculture trade and domestic policy updates, adapting to more extreme and variable weather patterns, looking beyond the Phase One trade agreement, supply chain challenges and opportunities, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the effect on world trade, and current events in Europe and their effect on global and U.S. agriculture. Here are a few thoughts and takeaways from VFBF staff:

Brett Bruen used the term “Post-American era”, to refer to our current time where other countries are uncertain of America’s willingness to intervene in geopolitical situations around the globe. While that term was challenging to hear, it was also motivation for the agricultural industry to intensify diversification efforts and increase resiliency both for sourcing inputs and finding new and varied markets for outputs. In this age of increasing volatility, developing effective risk management strategies will be vital for Virginia agriculture to stay competitive on the global stage. In short, times of great uncertainty are also times of great opportunity.

-Elijah Griles, Commodity Specialist

The session on supply chain challenges impacting U.S. ports was insightful, especially with the state-specific data supplied by the representatives from the Port of Virginia, including how well the Port of Virginia is rising up to current challenges, compared to the other major U.S. ports. The two last sessions on the Russian invasion of Ukraine provided helpful information on diplomatic efforts to put a halt to Russia’s encroachment efforts, and how the last four weeks may disrupt Ukrainian farmers’ harvest and planting seasons; along with the impacts the invasion will likely have on worldwide food supply.  I gained a better understanding of the major agricultural exports of the Ukraine and Russia and the countries they supply those exports to.

-Kathleen Early, Corporate Secretary

I considered the speakers to be of a very high level—first class—and appreciated the Q&A part of each presentation. There was great discussion on the answers by the speakers. In addition, the networking, building, and food were so special. We are all so thankful for how good we have it! There was amazing attendance by the target audience, including a continued presence of students who received much recognition. The conference still has a great reputation as a “time well spent” meeting.

-Robert Harper, Grain Division Manager

I was interested to hear about the emerging markets in southeast Asia and projections that 50% of the population growth in the next 15 years will be in Africa. I’ve heard prior statements to this growth, but 50% in Africa seems very high. Similarly, I’ve been aware of the droughts and struggles on the west coast, but I wasn’t aware of the planting restrictions, which are very concerning.

-Matt Nuckols, District 7 Field Service Director/Fundraising Specialist

Having spent much of her career leading agriculture trade negotiations for the United States, Sharon Bomer Lauristen’s insight into the development, monitoring, and enforcement of the U.S.-China Phase One Trade Agreement was incredibly interesting. She indicated that China appears committed to improving food safety, but has a lack of understanding of the U.S. science-based system, which leads to a distrust of certain products. Looking to the future, there is a need for U.S. agriculture to diversify its markets through market access in new trade agreements, as well as separate geopolitical issues and food security.  

-Stefanie Taillon, Senior Assistant Director, Governmental Relations

For more details on the conference, be sure to read VFBF News Leads:

Virginia farm exports reached all-time high in 2021

Impact of Ukrainian conflict on U.S. agriculture discussed at trade conference

VALOR Now Accepting 2022 Applications

We are excited to announce that Virginia Agriculture Leaders Obtaining Results, VALOR, Applications are open, and are due by May 1, 2022! The next cohort will be selected following interviews this summer and will begin in September. 

This two-year-long adult leadership fellowship experience includes seminars around Virginia, elsewhere in the U.S., and an international experience. Professional development content is incorporated along with an exploration of social, political and economic issues facing agriculture and its related industries in each session.

More information about the program, including the application and seminar dates, can be found on the program website, www.valor.alce.vt.edu.

Each cohort has a range of participants from production, lending, education, government, service providing, manufacturing, etc. and proudly involves Farm Bureau members. This program is an opportunity to grow leadership skills around complex issues facing agriculture through decision-making and learning that transects traditional organizational silos.  Many Virginia Farm Bureau leaders and staff have completed this program in the past.

Any questions may be directed to VALOR Director, Megan Seibel, who also serves as Roanoke County Farm Bureau President, at mseibel@vt.edu or 540-315-2249.

USDA Offers Water Quality-Focused Program That Builds on CRP Contracts

Producers may apply for CLEAR30 through August 5, 2022

UPDATE:

FSA Stakeholder Webinar: Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers Initiative (CLEAR30) Enrollment Opportunity

Join USDA Farm Service Agency on April 12, 2022, to learn about a signup opportunity available through the Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers initiative (CLEAR30). CLEAR30 is an option available through Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is one of the largest voluntary private-lands conservation programs in the United States.

When: April 12, 2022, 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

*After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Landowners and agricultural producers currently enrolled in CRP have an opportunity to enroll in a 30-year contract. The program – a water-quality focused option – was originally introduced as a pilot in 2020 and made nationally available in 2021. Producers may apply for CLEAR30 from April 1 through August 5, 2022.Cropland and certain pastureland currently enrolled in Continuous CRP or CREP, and dedicated to an eligible water quality practice, may be eligible if their contracts are expiring by September 30, 2022. CLEAR30 contracts will be effective October 1, 2022. CLEAR30 was created by the 2018 Farm Bill to better address water quality concerns. Originally, CLEAR30 was only available in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. Now, access is expanded to agricultural producers nationwide.

To learn more or to apply, contact the local USDA Service Center before the August 5 deadline and visit online at fsa.usda.gov/crp.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is announcing the signup period for its Clean Lakes, Estuaries, And Rivers initiative (CLEAR30) — a nationwide opportunity for certain landowners and agricultural producers currently implementing water quality practices through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to enroll in 30-year contracts, extending the lifespan and strengthening the benefits of important water quality practices on their land.  

Producers may apply for CLEAR30, a voluntary, incentive-based conservation program, from April 1, 2022, through Aug. 5, 2022.   

Cropland and certain pastureland currently enrolled in Continuous CRP or the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and dedicated to an eligible water quality practice such as riparian buffers, contour strips, grass waterways or wetland restoration may be eligible if their contracts are expiring by September 30, 2022.  

CLEAR30 contracts will be effective beginning Oct. 1, 2022. These long-term contracts ensure that conservation practices remain in place for 30 years, which improves water quality through reducing sediment and nutrient runoff and helping prevent algal blooms. Conservation in riparian areas also provides important carbon sequestration benefits. Traditional CRP contracts run from 10 to 15 years. 

About CLEAR30 

CLEAR30 was established in the 2018 Farm Bill to better address water quality concerns. Originally, CLEAR30 was only available in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds; in 2021, FSA made CLEAR30 available to agricultural producers and landowners nationwide, and participation grew nearly seven-fold from 2020 to 2021. 

Annual rental payments for landowners who enroll in CLEAR30 will be equal to the current Continuous CRP annual payment rate plus a 20 percent water quality incentive payment and an annual rental rate adjustment of 27.5 percent.    

How to Sign Up 

To sign up for CLEAR30, landowners and producers should contact their local USDA Service Center by Aug. 5, 2022.  Contact information can be found at farmers.gov/service-locator. Additionally, fact sheets and other resources are available at fsa.usda.gov/crp.  

More Information 

CLEAR30 is an option available through CRP, which is one of the largest voluntary private-lands conservation programs in the United States. CRP was originally intended to primarily control soil erosion and stabilize commodity prices by taking environmentally sensitive lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing numerous conservation and economic benefits. In addition to CLEAR30, signups are also open for Continuous CRP and Grassland CRP.  

Merchandiser Minute: USDA Surprise and More Headlines

As Robert Harper with Virginia Farm Bureau’s grain division explains, the war in Ukraine, oil supply and avian influenza are a few issues impacting the markets this week. July corn is down 13 cents at $7.21. December corn is up 19 cents at $6.88. July soybeans are down $1.22 at $15.66. November soybeans are down 90 cents at $14.06. September wheat is down 95 cents at $9.74. December wheat is down 79 cents at $9.64.

Virginia Redistricting Update: Election Limbo

Will the House of Delegates have elections in 2022?

As the 2022 General Assembly session wraps up, this is the question on everyone’s minds. For a refresher on how we got to this point, check out the earlier blog post on 2021 Redistricting in Virginia and the subsequent update.

Due to the delays in Census data, the new redistricting maps were not completed and approved in time for the 2021 elections, as originally intended. Because of this, the argument has been made that the current seats do not accurately represent the population, and therefore, are invalid. In June 2021, an individual named Paul Goldman filed a lawsuit suing the Board of Elections for violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The outcome of this court case will determine whether members of the House of Delegates will be allowed to complete their current two-year term and wait for the 2023 elections or be forced to run again in 2022.

The timeline of this case has certainly showcased our judicial system at work. In October 2021, then-Attorney General Mark Herring filed a motion to dismiss the case due to sovereign immunity; however, a U.S. district judge ruled that the case could move forward with more narrowed defendants. The attorney general’s office then appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel heard oral arguments on March 8, 2022.  The current question at hand is whether Mr. Goldman has standing, meaning can he sufficiently demonstrate that he was “injured” by the old redistricting maps used in the 2021 election and is legally able to bring this lawsuit forward? If the answer is yes, then we go back to the original case determining if legislators must run again in 2022. If answer is no, and the court rules in favor of Attorney General Jason Miyares (who has taken over the case for Mark Herring), the case will be dismissed, and elections will be held in 2023.

However, as one might guess, the process continues to unfold without a resolution. A week after hearing arguments, the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit determined that the lower court, U.S. District Court, should actually be the one to answer the standing question. Both sides have been given until mid-April to file new briefs, continuing this legal saga.

While waiting for the court’s decision, you can stay aware of the potential candidates in each race, by checking out the Virginia Public Access Project’s unofficial list of House of Delegates candidates for the next general election. As a reminder, with nearly half of the incumbent delegates and senators paired or tripled with other sitting delegates and senators, this next election (whenever it is) is sure to have a significant impact on Virginia’s political landscape.

Fun Fact: The House of Delegates last had consecutive elections in 1981, 1982, and 1983 as the result of the Cosner v. Dalton case.

Current Federal Activity Impacting Trade and Markets

As the first quarter of 2022 rolls along, the supply chain, markets, and shipping continue to be major areas of concern for both consumers and farmers. These issues are nothing new, as the broader economy has struggled with these issues since the start of COVID, and the agriculture industry has done its best to remain flexible. However, 2022 has brought new challenges and concerns with the midterm election season looming, war in Eastern Europe, and new disruptions impacting the supply chain and markets. This article will summarize a few trade and market-related factors with the potential to impact your operation.

U.S. – UK Agricultural Trade Relations

Back in March, 2018, the United States imposed a 25% tariff on EU steel exports and a 10% tariff on aluminum exports. In retaliation, the UK imposed tariffs on approximately $500 million worth of annual imports from the United States, including important Virginia agricultural commodities like wheat, corn, whiskey, wines, and other products. In January 2020, the UK finalized “Brexit” and left the European Union; clearing the path for the UK to strike its own trade deals with international partners. However, these U.S.-UK trade tariffs remained.

This month, the U.S. and UK have resolved their steel and aluminum dispute with a tariff-rate quota for UK steel and aluminum products. In exchange, the UK will terminate the retaliatory tariffs it has imposed on U.S. agricultural products, reopening an extremely important overseas market for American farmers.

Right to Repair & Farm Equipment

The in ability to secure parts and labor has been an ongoing frustration on the farm for years, but the past couple years have elevated this issue to a boiling point. Far too often we hear about a farmer who was unable to plant or harvest a crop due to software issues, waiting on a part or technician to make a repair. Right to Repair legislation has been introduced repeatedly but has not advanced, as the various stakeholders continue to work out language and possible non-legislative solutions.

In a major move, John Deere has announced starting in May, their diagnostic service tool “Customer Service ADVISOR” will be made available directly to customers and independent repair shops. The tool will continue to be available through John Deere dealerships. Access to this software will unlock deeper system levels to allow those with the expertise and desire to tackle nearly all repairs themselves – giving farmers the ability to keep equipment maintained and repaired on the farm. While not a cure-all to Right to Repair issues, it shows equipment manufacturers are becoming more flexible and heading in the right direction.

Growing Opportunity for Corn Ethanol Sales to Brazil

This month, Brazil has suspended their 18% tariff on imports of ethanol for the remainder of 2022. The import tariff dates to December 2020 when the U.S. and Brazil were not able to reach an agreement to extend the tariff-free treatment for imports of U.S. ethanol, and oil was less than $50 a barrel.

Brazil’s goal is to fight inflation and increase competitiveness of the Brazilian economy by reducing domestic fuel costs. The suspension of the tariffs will likely mean more U.S. ethanol exports to Brazil, and drive the domestic corn market. A bushel of corn generates roughly 2.7 gallons of ethanol, along with other coproducts, so access to Brazil’s roughly 8 billion gallon per year market is significant.

It is important that U.S. agricultural trade negotiators keep working to pursue a long-term, tariff-free ethanol trading relationship with Brazil to avoid returning to the 18-20% tariffs we have seen in the past.

Ocean Shipping Reform Act

Virginia is blessed with naturally deep-water ports, located smackdab in the middle of the East Coast. Last year, while other ports around the country were riddled with supply chain issues, the Port of Virginia had its most productive fiscal year yet, processing more than 3.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units. By volume, agricultural and forestry exports account for more than half of these containerized exports.

However, port congestion and related logistical obstacles around the county and world threaten the ability of Virginia’s farmers to meet much-welcome increases in foreign demand for our products. Record shipping costs and harmful surcharges have further limited access to export containers, and significantly impacted the ability of farmers and ranchers to fulfill overseas contracts, with some estimations exceeding $4.2 billion in lost agricultural exports.

The ocean shipping industry has changed significantly in recent years to the detriment of U.S. exporters. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act (S. 3580) would take key steps to resolve these supply chain obstacles.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved the bill by voice vote, and the House version (H.R. 4996) passed by a bipartisan vote (364–60) in December. While the Senate version of the bill is not identical to the House-passed version, Farm Bureau supports both pieces of legislation in the hopes that both bills can be quickly conferenced. The legislation is the first major update of federal regulations for the global ocean shipping industry since 1998, and would:

  • Require ocean carriers to certify that late fees —known in maritime parlance as “detention and demurrage” charges—comply with federal regulations or face penalties;
  • Shift burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier;
  • Prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining shipping opportunities for U.S. exports, as determined by the FMC in new required rulemaking;
  • Require ocean common carriers to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import/export tonnage and 20-foot equivalent units (loaded/empty) per vessel that makes port in the United States;
  • Authorize the FMC to self-initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate; and
  • Establish new authority for the FMC to register shipping exchanges.

As the Senate bill heads to the floor, we urge the Senate to follow the House and the Commerce Committee’s lead and pass the Ocean Shipping Reform Act to ensure America’s farmers can continue to meet the needs of families at home and abroad, and Virginia can take full advantage of our ports.

**UPDATED 4/1/22: The Senate has unanimously passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. We encourage lawmakers from both chambers to work quickly to reconcile differences in each version of the legislation and get it to the president for his signature**