Hemp, depressed markets and mitigation payments dominate talk in the ag sector

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 214 views 

The new realities of hemp and the hard realities of a down farm economy are among the issues speakers brought to the sixth annual Mid-South Agricultural and Environmental Law Conference held in early June in Memphis.

“Hemp is no longer a controlled substance,” USDA General Counsel Stephen Vaden told the crowd. “But the big issue now is transportation. No state can stop the interstate transport of hemp.”

When Vaden transitioned to the topic of trade aid, he gave a recap of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s stance on trade mitigation payments.

“Trade is very much on everyone’s mind,” Vaden said. “The Secretary has been very clear on what to do. You should put the possibility of a government payment out of your mind and do what you normally would do based on market signals. You should focus on harvesting a crop, not a government program. The trade mitigation program for 2019 has been announced and we will begin to implement that immediately,” he said. “Payments will not be based on which crop affected by trade you plant. It will be based on where you plant, on a county-by-county basis.”

Michael O’Neal, Deputy General of GreenStone Farm Credit Services, discussed how his business acknowledges the difficulties American farmers are facing. GreenStone remains mindful of personal and emotional issues that affect producers, as well as difficulties specific to beginning farmers, he added.

“We keep in mind suicide rates and depression on the farm,” O’Neal said. “We have a no-surprise rule and our customers receive personal communication. For our younger customers we have a mentorship program.”

Greg Cole, president and CEO of AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, gave an update on the current economical struggles agriculturalists are facing today.

“I can sum up this year in two words: too much,” Cole said. “Too much water, too much excess global supply of certain crop commodities, too late on planting, too much fighting with trade, and farmers have to rely too much on politicians. There’s still a lot of time in this game, we’re still in business, but some are on their last breath.”

Cole addressed farming tactics and which are the most effective.

Jim Noles, partner at Barze Taylor Noles Lowther, LLC in Alabama, gave an overview on environmental issues affecting attorneys, lenders and landowners, beginning with the Endangered Species Act.

“You’ve got a lot of endangered species out there,” Noles said. “A lot of those species are in one small area and that’s a challenge you may face. These listings become death by 1,000 cuts.”

Ultimately, Noles said it is important to be familiar with environmental laws and regulations because “the penalties are just so great.”

“You need to comply with these laws and regulations as well as track them and decide if you want to weigh in on them as they’re developed,” he said. “Work to make sure that there are laws going out with which you can comply.”

Fred Clark, senior counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Prescott Martin, senior counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture also gave updates on agricultural law and policy from Washington.

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