Fifteen percent of rural Americans surveyed in the past week said they had either lost their job or were laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic, and an additional 14 percent said they were worried they would lose their jobs, according to the results of a survey released on Thursday. (No paywall)
Some 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop is refined into ethanol, but over the last two weeks, Covid-19 has joined a host of other disrupting factors to create what Geoff Cooper, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, calls “not just a perfect storm for ethanol, but a perfect tsunami.” Since the outbreak, ethanol prices have plunged to an all-time low of 88 cents a gallon and manufacturers are warning of more plant closures and reduced run rates.(No paywall)
Farmers and ranchers would see $23.5 billion in aid under the coronavirus bill agreed on by the Senate and the Trump administration on Wednesday. The two largest U.S. farm groups welcomed the aid but said more may be needed to survive the looming economic slowdown. (No paywall)
Farmland in Nebraska is worth 3 percent more than it was a year ago, an average of $2,730 an acre, said an annual report by the University of Nebraska on Wednesday. It was the first increase in agricultural land values in the state since they peaked in 2014.
U.S. milk production is projected to top 220 billion pounds this year as a long-running structural shift puts production in the hands of fewer, but larger, dairies. At the same time, the USDA said there were 34,187 dairy herds licensed to sell milk in 2019, a drop of 9 percent from the previous year.
The USDA estimates there were 2.023 million farms in the nation in 2019, a tiny decline of 5,800 farms from the previous year. The change is more dramatic when the time frame is widened — there are 3 percent fewer farms now than there were in 2014, and the amount of farmland fell 1.3 percent during that five-year period.
Although ag bankers in the Midwest and Plains say the administration's multibillion-dollar trade war payments were a boon to farmers and ranchers, some lenders are still concerned about underlying weaknesses in the sector.
In what it described as its biggest step yet to close the digital divide, the Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to establish a “rural digital opportunity fund” to provide up to $20 billion over 10 years for high-speed internet networks in rural America.
Agricultural lending declined during the second half of 2019, and while that reflected lower production costs, it “likely also was due to an increase in revenue from government payments (Market Facilitation Program) connected to trade disputes that lingered through the year,” said the Federal Reserve on Thursday.