Issue Update: Partial Government Shutdown

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, provides an update regarding the partial government shutdown.

For additional information regarding this and other issues related to public policy and politics, please contact RDL & Associates at rdlassociatesga@gmail.com.

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Issue Update: Rural Development Provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill

Issue Update: Farm Bill 2018

Dave Ladd, president RDL & Associates CRPD board member, talks about the recently passed Farm Bill. Dave discusses some of the high points of the bill, including the rural development section, which addresses both physical and technological infrastructure.

Link: https://www.ruralmn.org/farm-bill-2018/

Issue Update: Farm Bill Good For Indian Country

Fred Starzyk with Aronnax Public Strategies (APS), a strategic partner of RDL & Associates, provided the following summary of key provisions within the 2018 Farm Bill for his tribal clients.

The partnership between APS, with expertise in Native American issues, and RDL & Associates expertise in issues related to agriculture and rural America provides a unique opportunities for clients to engage on these and other issues at the federal and state levels of government.

For additional information, please contact us at rdlassociatesga@gmail.com.
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The House of Representatives today passed a Farm Bill compromise by a vote of 369-47 following passage yesterday in the Senate by a vote of 87-13. There was an historic level of lobbying on this bill from Indian Country and it shows in the final legislation.

What follows is a brief, title-by-title, summary of some of the key provisions in the bill for Indian Country that APS prepared for some of its tribal clients.

Title I.            Commodities

Adds Indian Tribes and tribal organizations as an eligible producer for assistance for coverage under the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) for the death of unweaned livestock due to adverse weather, makes available funding through ELAP for inspections of cattle tick fever and increases the cost share available under the Tree Assistance Program (TAP) to 75 percent for beginning farmers, ranchers and veterans.

Title II.           Conservation

Deletes subsections (a) and (f) of the 1985 Farm Bill, providing an authority for the review and guidance for practice costs and payment rates, amending the authority for alternative funding arrangements for Indian Tribes.

Title III.          Trade

Section 18 of the Trade Title directs the Secretary of Agriculture to support greater inclusion of Tribal agricultural and food products in trade-related activities.

Title IV.          Nutrition

The bill reauthorizes the Traditional and Locally-Grown Food Fund in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), adding the concept of regionally grown food, eliminating the requirement to conduct a survey of traditional foods, and authorizing funds made available to carry out FDPIR for two fiscal years. 

There is authorized an 80 percent floor for the Federal share of administrative costs and authorization for funds made to carry out FDPIR for States and Tribes for two fiscal years. The bill also establishes a demonstration project for one or more tribal organizations to enter into a self-determination contract to purchase agricultural commodities for FDPIR. 

The intent is for tribal organizations to have an increased role in procuring and distributing more locally, regionally and tribal produced foods under FDPIR.

The bill recognizes that access to healthy food may require a variety of retail settings in some areas, particularly rural areas and Tribal communities. To encompass a broader variety of Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) projects that will increase the supply of and demand for healthy foods in underserved communities, the bill expands eligible projects to include healthy food enterprises. 

These enterprises could include food hubs, mobile markets, direct to consumer markets, or food business incubators.

Provides authority to the Secretary to allow a tribal agency to use certain types of federal funds for non-federal program matches.

The bill establishes a study to look at the impact of fraudulent foods that mimic traditional foods or Tribal seeds that are available in the commercial marketplace.

Title V.             Credit

Requires GAO (Government Accountability Office) to study the agricultural credit needs of farms and ranches owned or operated by Indian tribes or tribal members, and whether the Farm Credit System has the authority and resources to meet such needs.

Title VI.          Rural Development

Reauthorizes the Tribal College and University Essential Community Facilities Program through FY 2023.

Establishes a technical assistance program to improve access by Tribal entities to rural development programs.

Title VII.         Research

Establishes a “New Beginnings Initiative” in consultation with the Office of Tribal Relations. These funds to land-grant colleges or universities are to provide Indians educational programs and services or tuition at such colleges. These grants are targeted toward Tribal students.

Reauthorizes endowment funding, capacity-building grants, and research grants for the 36 tribal colleges for FY 2019 through FY 2023.

Includes Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program grants through Smith-Lever Community Extension Program.

Allows Indian Tribes eligible for grants through the Farm and Stress Assistance Network.

Title VIII.       Forestry

Gives authority to Indian Tribes to request to conduct forest management activities on Federal lands where they have a tribal interest by authorizing a demonstration project by which Indian Tribes may contract to perform certain functions and programs.

The bill authorizes counties and Indian Tribes to enter into good neighbor agreements.

Authorizes new enrollment consideration of acreage owned by Indian Tribes for the Healthy Forests Reserve Program.

Title X.            Horticulture

The Secretary is authorized to provide technical assistance to Indian Tribes in the development of a tribal plan related to hemp production.

Title XI.          Crop Insurance

Provides a premium subsidy at the rate of 90 percent for a member of an Indian tribe for the first purchase of Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage insurance.

Title XII.         Miscellaneous

Establishes USDA Tribal Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary on tribal agricultural topics and annually report recommendations to the Secretary.

Codifies the Tribal Promise Zones program and provides for the continuation of currently existing Tribal Promise Zones to leverage public-private investment.

Client Spotlight: 40 Square Cooperative Solutions Sprinting to the Finish

40 Square Cooperative Solutions, Minnesota’s independent agricultural health plan cooperative, is reminding agribusinesses that they too can enjoy the option of self-funded health insurance for their families and business employees. But the health plan enrollment deadline is quickly coming up and will close on Wednesday, December 19, 2018.

According to Minnesota state law, in order to become a member of the 40 Square health plan cooperative a farmer/employer must file either Form 1065 or Schedule F with their income tax return. In addition, entities which provide direct services to production agriculture in Minnesota are also eligible for membership. The 40 Square Board of Directors has defined this as, “Small businesses that predominately derive their income from services provided to production agriculture in Minnesota, as allowed by Minnesota State Statute.” This definition also includes farm corporations which file a Form 1120, such as S Corporations, C Corporations and LLCs.

The key factor is that the business must derive a minimum of 70% of their income from providing services to production agriculture.

Small businesses and professions with less than 50 employees which may qualify for 40 Square Cooperative Solutions, can include:

  • Livestock hauling
  • Grain and feed trucking
  • Drain tiling
  • Hoof trimmers
  • Soil testers
  • Grain elevators
  • Crop consultants
  • Agricultural implement dealers
  • Large animal veterinarians
  • Milk haulers
  • Custom harvesters
  • Mechanics – ag machinery/equipment, large trucks, etc.
  • Manure haulers
  • Seed dealers

This is not an exhaustive list and interested businesses should contact 40 Square to learn if they qualify for membership.

Char Vrieze, Executive Director of 40 Square, encourages small ag businesses to take a look at 40 Square’s plan options. “In order to strengthen and help preserve the proud tradition of farming and agribusiness in Minnesota, we are striving to provide health plan solutions that give those in the ag community more health plan choices and a larger provider network in their local area,” said Vrieze.

Structure of Cooperative and Health Plan

The 40 Square co-op is governed by a board of directors, elected by its members/patrons. Fifty-one percent of governance is members and patrons, 49 percent is investment partners.

Participant members pay into the co-op to self-fund the health plan. Those premium dollars are then placed into a Trust, only to be used for health plan expenses. All health plan participants have 100 percent ownership interest in the Trust

Health Plan Details

In 2019 40 Square will offer seven health plans, including health savings account (HSA) eligible plans. A new high deductible plan has been added that will have the lowest monthly premium compared to other 40 Square plans, giving the opportunity to save on monthly expenses. Two other 40 Square plans will also have individual and family out-of-pocket limits reduced for 2019.

Similar to traditional individual health insurance, 40 Square’s self-funded plans have an annual deductible, coinsurance and copays. The amount of coverage received depends on the plan selected. Additional benefits being offered include vision, dental and life. Other products to enhance the health plan include hearing benefits, free telemedicine doctor visits, care navigators that help explain tests, claims or billing, and a partnership with TASC’s AgriPlan/BizPlan products, which offers the ability to declare medical expenses as a business expense on taxes.

Membership Criteria

To become a member of 40 Square, farm families and agribusinesses must meet certain criteria. They must:

  • Actively work in production agriculture in Minnesota
  • File either Form 1065 or Schedule F with their income tax return or provide direct services to production agriculture in Minnesota. This includes farm corporations and businesses who predominantly receive their income from providing their services to production agriculture
  • Purchase Voting Stock in an amount of $100 (one-time, only for the farm/business/employer)
  • Purchase Common Stock of $1,000 over the first year (one-time, only for the farm/business/employer)
  • Have a minimum of one “Common Law” employee. (In general, someone who you provide a W-2, does not have to be a full-time employee; for example, it may be a spouse who does the farm books.)

Membership can be extended to include farm corporations as well as agricultural-related businesses who receive at least 70 percent their income from providing services to production agriculture. All members must commit to a three-year term with a risk of forfeiting a portion of their investment if they leave the co-op before their term has expired.

Contact

The open enrollment deadline is Dec. 19, so interested individuals should contact their local health insurance agent or visit www.40Square.coop to learn more. Contact info@40square or 844-205-9579 to get more information.

What is Your Game Plan for the 116th Congress?

With the onset of the 116th Congress in January of 2019 now is the time to develop your government relations and strategic communications plans that will guide you in taking advantage of public policy opportunities throughout the next Congress.
 
State lobbying and federal lobbying are not mutually exclusive.  We provide clients with a presence in the halls of Congress and within the Executive Branch while also engaging stakeholders and policymakers throughout the United States.
 
For additional information as to how we can assist in developing a game plan while ensuring your trade association, organization or company has a seat at the table, please contact RDL & Associates at rdlassociatesga@gmail.com or (651) 247-5458.

Media Release: FarmOp Capital Introduces Innovative Working Capital Product

As agriculture technology has revolutionized farming in the last two decades, producers have witnessed ag sectors racing to bring tangible and profitable solutions forward. FarmOp Capital is launching a new working capital product, that aligns ag lending with decades of AgTech innovation.

“Technology has caused major shifts in agriculture including efficiencies in production that have impacted farm size and ownership,” says Bill York, CEO and Founding Partner of FarmOp Capital. “While these trends are positive for the industry, we recognized they have left a gap in lending for many highly profitable farmers. FarmOp Capital was created to fill that void.”

York’s 40 years of ag lending experience (including serving as CEO of AgriBank, with over $100B in assets, and SVP of CNH Capital) informs his perspective on ag finance trends at FarmOp Capital. York noted that according to USDA, nearly 80 percent of “large” (1000+ acres) and “very large” (2000+ acres) producers today rent operated land. In fact, more than 50 percent of the land farmed in each of those categories is rented.

“Land has become an asset class separated from operators; the two are no longer synonymous,” adds York. “That shift in farm structure – moving from asset-heavy owners to tenant farmers – has left a gap in ag lending. That’s a long-term trend and something FarmOp Capital is addressing head on by looking at product, not assets.”

Ag lending has long relied on balance sheets with hard assets backing operating lines of credit for producers who own their land. But as the amount of farmland not owner operated increases, FarmOp Capital supplies operating capital to producers who have lighter balance sheets but a proven track record of production efficiency and profitability.

“Until now, producers who rent a majority of their land find themselves stacking credit from various sources – traditional lenders, input suppliers and others,” says York. “Piecing together credit adds undesirable costs and restrictions, while giving less negotiating power. FarmOp is changing that.”

FarmOp focuses on a producer’s ability to grow an efficient crop, rather than the value of the land they grow it on, as the basis for working capital loans. Beginning in crop year 2019, FarmOp will offer operating lines of credit giving producers the lending independence they need to run their operations.

“FarmOp provides right-sized working capital loans to provide farm operators with the bargaining power they need to lower costs and make the most efficient decisions throughout the crop year, and greater independence to run their operation,” adds York.

Producers interested in learning more about FarmOp Capital can visit FarmOp.com, email sales@foc.ag or call FarmOp at 1-833-FARMOPS (833-327-6677) to start a direct conversation.

About FarmOp Capital

FarmOp Capital provides working capital to farm operators. FarmOp products increase independence and buying power, aligning ag lending with decades of AgTech innovation to help growers make more profitable decisions. Founded in 2017 to address long-term trends in farm operations and fill a growing need within agricultural lending, FarmOp provides credit to growers based on their ability to grow an efficient crop. 2019 marks the first year of working capital offered by FarmOp, with loan financing available now.

More information can be found at http://www.FarmOp.com.

Follow FarmOp Capital on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

Issue Update: Mid-Terms Bring About Different Priorities for House Committees

Dave Ladd, President of RDL & Associates, was recently a guest on the Linder Farm Network to provide an assessment of the changes brought about in the United States House of Representatives committee priorities due to the mid-term elections.

For additional information, please contact RDL & Associates at (651) 247-5458 or rdlassociatesga@gmail.com.

Energy and Commerce Republicans Not Done With RFS Yet (via Congressional Quarterly)

Energy and Commerce Republicans vowed to tackle the increasingly complicated EPA standard for biofuel use as part of their 115th Congress agenda. After almost two years of negotiations, the key subcommittee chairman responsible for the effort says they are close to releasing bill text when the House returns from recess.

 

That timing would appear to be too late for passage this Congress. But it may help shape the debate for the next one as lawmakers begin to take a more serious look at the controversial Renewable Fuel Standard, over which Congress loses substantial oversight in 2022.

 

Those efforts may also be doubly complicated by the Trump administration. Oil industry advocates ramped up rhetoric last week in response to rumors the EPA may seek to remove regulations that restrict the use of motor fuel made of 15 percent ethanol during the summer months – a key policy lever in Congress’ attempt to satisfy corn state and oil state lawmaker demands.

 

But according to Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., the chairman of the Environment Subcommittee, Republicans are in a position to have their staff construct bill language for release when lawmakers return from their October break.

 

“In other words, put language together over the break to drop something once we get back to either see if there is a sweet spot or kind of set the debate for the next Congress,” Shimkus told CQ. He added that his hope is to “make it palatable enough that at least there is some optimism that you might be able to do something. It’s very hard.”

 

The RFS program, established by Congress to mandate blending of certain amounts of biofuels like ethanol in the nation’s transportation fuel mix, has become a political headache for Republicans. With lawmakers split on the program more along regional lines than traditional partisan ones, the policy and its implementation has prompted calls for an overhaul to appease concerns from both corn state lawmakers who want to see wider ethanol use, and oil state lawmakers aiming to protect their share of the fuel market.

 

As part of the law establishing the standard, Congress set target thresholds for the annual amount of corn- and other plant-derived fuel that should be added into the mix. Those targets expire after 2022, when the EPA will be in control of how much biofuel is required, introducing some uncertainty into how the program will move forward.

 

“We still have RFS we are trying to work out,” said Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore. “In 2022, EPA gets all the authority. That might just bring people to the table that don’t want to spend a lot of time at the table now. We have had good discussions.”

 

Shimkus has teamed with Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, to find a solution that both sides can support. Flores, along with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., introduced legislation that would direct the EPA to set the maximum volume of ethanol blended into the transportation fuel supply at 9.7 percent – a starting point for negotiations.

 

E15

 

That would be a lower target than what is currently in law, angering the ethanol lobby, but it is widely expected that any comprehensive RFS overhaul bill would also include a provision to enable the year-long sale of E15.

 

The Trump administration is expected to issue a decision in the near future – likely lifting the summer ban on the sale of E15. Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley said in a Tuesday call with reporters that he has heard of conversations indicating that the White House is working on a decision, but that he has not heard anything “very definitive.”

 

Such an order may diminish the urgency for an RFS overhaul on the part of corn-state lawmakers.

 

“If we could have moved our legislation earlier, [E15] would be enshrined in code, and people understand that,” Shimkus said. “But when you do it from the EPA, then you don’t have the other benefits of language that mitigates the refiners’ concerns or anybody else. We are trying to get to that middle ground.”

 

Frank Macchiarola a director at the American Petroleum Institute, told reporters in a Friday call that he expects the EPA to issue a decision on E15 sometime in October. He said a waiver of the restriction would be “a flawed, anti-consumer policy.”

 

The petroleum group, which represent more than 600 oil and gas companies, strongly opposes higher ethanol blends and has mounted a campaign to push back against calls for lifting E15 restrictions.

 

The EPA has barred the sale of E15 between June 1 and Sept. 15 because it has been found to contribute to increased summer smog.

 

Under pressure from biofuel groups and Midwestern lawmakers including Grassley and Sen. Joni Ernst, whose state of Iowa is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the RFS, President Donald Trump in May announced that it would take steps to allow for the year-round sale of E15. That decision came after a series of meetings with lawmakers and industry representatives at the White House.

 

“We understand that the president wants to find a solution but we also understand that what the EPA is [proposing] is failing in regards to finding a win-win situation,” Macchiarola said. “Our view is that going above 9.7 percent of ethanol creates a series of cascading problems.”

 

The group, which would like to see the Renewable Fuel Standard expire in 2022, has argued that many cars are not compatible with higher ethanol blends.