Citrus Greening Pesticides Harm Honeybee Populations

Florida citrus growers have been dealing with the devastating effects of citrus greening for a while now without promising solutions coming to fruition. The only solution thus far to counter this bacterial infection (spread by tiny invasive insects known as Asian citrus psyllids) has been to dramatically increase the use of pesticides.

Years ago, it was standard to spray the fields only a few times per year. Now, with this expanding infestation, citrus growers are spraying their citrus groves monthly. Some growers recently pushed the limits, dousing their grove every four days with various chemicals. This excessive spraying led to further devastation, killing off honeybee populations and leading to a $1,500 fine.

Hopefully, this chemical splurge on behalf of citrus growers won’t happen again. However, the Florida apiary industry is not happy. Floridian citrus growers and beekeepers are not on pleasant terms due to this isolated incident and the increase of chemical spraying in general.

Beekeepers benefit by setting up their hives in close proximity to the groves. During citrus bloom, beekeepers involved in the honey production business place their hives in or near groves so the bees create citrus-flavored honey, one of the varieties in high demand. Many beekeepers think this traditional practice is long gone because the pesticides continue to pose a threat to their hives.

Unfortunately, solutions in response to this issue are sparse. The ideal solution is to discover a way to stop this seemingly unshakable citrus bacterial infection. Researches, however, seem far off from that result. In the meantime, citrus growers can’t help but spray their fields, though they should definitely not do so to excess. Beekeepers will have to sit back and see how the citrus greening research continues to pan out. Hopefully, better citrus greening treatment and management will emerge in the future. Only time will tell.

Admittedly, it’s not an easy time to be a citrus grove owner in Florida. If your operation needs financial assistance, contact Agamerica Lending, an ag lending company based in Florida. We offer Florida agricultural loans through our AgAmerica Lending Program. Contact us to learn more about our ag loans and/or if you’d like to refinance your ag loan. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176

 

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Reasons to Invest in Timberland

I’m sure you’ve heard this long-standing saying: “Land—no one can make it.” The implication here is that land is a limited resource. Though limited, it is a resource that is in constant demand, especially as the population and commercial development expands.

As an investment, land offers individuals the opportunity to expand their portfolios with a solid income-producing asset. Sooner or later, purchased land will increase in value. Sure, it won’t do so in a predictable way like a cash savings account building interest, but it will grow in value eventually. As it does, you can use it. You can build on it, farm on it, hunt on it, log on it, and/or use it for recreational purposes. The uses are limitless and the economic advantages are strong.

Sure, you can purchase any land you desire and do with it as you fit, but I’m sure you want to discover wealth-building opportunities.

One such wealth-building option is direct investment in commercial timberland. In fact, timberland investment returns are equal to or better than other asset classes.

How readily available is timberland? Where can you easily purchase it?

Seven-Tenths of U.S. forest lands, or 514.2 million acres of the total 751.2 million acres of forest land, are labeled as timberlands. Timberlands are classified as forest lands used for the production of commercial wood products. Commercial timberland may be used for recurrent growing and harvesting of trees.

Many regions in the United States are especially rich with timberland. For example, the state of Alabama has the third most timberland acreage in the 48 contiguous states, coming in behind Georgia and Oregon. As far as private timberland acreage goes, Alabama comes in second behind Georgia. That being said, Alabama and Georgia are excellent regions to seek out timberland property.

Bottom-line: Timberland is an investment that is in continual demand due to population growth and the need for continued commercial development. As such, it’s a great money-making investment to consider.

AgAmerica Lending offers financing of timberland for investment and/or recreation. Whether you’re looking at 1,000 acres of hunting property or 100 acres managed for pine production, AgAmerica Lending is here to assist you. Contact us with any questions regarding our timberland loans, Alabama land loans, Georgia lands, and other ag loan products. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

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HLB Research Continues to Restore Florida Citrus Crop

Strategies to Reduce Citrus Greening

Scientists are relentlessly working to curb the continued proliferation of HLB, otherwise known as “citrus greening.” Solutions are slim and the research is moving incredibly slow; however, some findings have offered citrus growers hope amidst the growing HLB devastation, including:

  • Taking a greenhouse approach. Scientists have discovered that heating potted citrus seedlings in greenhouses will kill the HLB bacterium and may rid the seedlings of HLB symptoms for up to two years.
  • Putting tents in the groves. Scientists have discovered that heating HLB-infected trees in the sun by encasing them in solar, plastic “tents” can extend their productivity and resistance to HLB.
  • Growing a wider citrus selection. Adding variety has proven effective. Selections explored fall into the orange-like category, including orange hybrids (with complex lineage) that demonstrate varying degrees of obvious (or possible) resistance to HLB. These selections are incredibly close to the appearance of a typical orange and, in most cases, also taste and smell similar to an orange.
  • Controlling psyllids. Having a zero tolerance policy for psyllids in the grove is key. Regular ground applications, aerial applications, and perimeter sprays around the groves can be an effective approach in keeping psyllids at bay.
  • Protecting young trees. Growers that use neonicotinoids on younger trees have greatly mitigated the risk of HLB.

These results, though promising, are not a cure-all for HLB. The hope is that continued research evaluation, combined with collaborative efforts and research funding, will eventually shed light on a more concrete approach in battling deadly citrus greening.

Before this solution surfaces, however, citrus growers can expect to see a drop in production for 2013-2014, due in part to HLB and other environmental factors (hurricanes, freezes, etc.). So, while huge efforts have been made to control HLB, it is clearly not enough. Scientists and growers most come together, sharing strategies and research, to win the war on HLB.

Are you a Florida citrus grower? Do you need help financing your agricultural land? Contact Bankers South to discuss our citrus loans and other ag loan products.

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Ag Demand Growing in Florida

Have you heard the news? According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau figures, Florida is now the fourth most populated state in the United States at 19.3 million people. Who knew? What’s more, the population growth rate is surmised to continue climbing at a lively rate, perhaps surpassing New York in populous by 2016.

But why is Florida agriculture booming in light of this population increase? Isn’t farmland shrinking in size due to increased population and development?

Yes, it is true. Agricultural land in Florida has reduced in size, but maybe not as much as you think. In fact, Florida is still rich in agricultural and rural areas. Sure, you might have to get off the beaten path to realize the abundance of land, but it is most definitely out there and ready to be utilized.

Why the high agricultural land demand?

Agricultural and rural land is still going strong in Florida, even better than expected, because the economic strength and value of the sector promotes its continued strength and success. The demand is currently there and will realize even greater strength and value as Florida’s population expands and there’s more hungry mouths to feed.

While the agricultural land itself might be consolidating and shrinking, its value is not. In fact, more than ever, agriculture is becoming an industry of great importance for future survival. The industry is at a turning point. Urban farming is becoming a thing of the future. Great change in the agricultural industry is on the horizon.

Are you considering purchasing agricultural land in Florida?  Contact AgAmerica Lending, LLC to discuss your Florida farmland financing options. We provide Florida producers and growers a variety of loan products, including conventional agricultural real estate loans. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

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Research Reveals Natural Bean Pest Remedy

Recently, new findings have surfaced regarding a particular pest which feasts on bean plants. These findings have provided fresh information on how to better manage the proliferation of these relatively new pests.

These particular pests, called kudzu bugs, invade several types of bean plants. Soybean producers are especially impacted. These pests were first spotted in 2009 in two Georgia counties. Unfortunately, Kudzu bugs are highly mobile and, thus, continued to proliferate, invading 10 other Southeast states, including Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi.

To get a handle on these bugs, researchers are heavily investigating the bug’s feeding, mating, and migratory habits. Hopefully, the information collected will shed light on effective strategies to implement to better control the spread of these bean-invading pests.

In July 2013, findings suggested that kudzu bugs may have some competition. A native parasitoid – a parasitic fly – may have the ability to bring down the number of these pests. Research indicated that these parasitic flies feed inside kudzu bug adults, particularly the female bugs. Findings show that the population of these parasitic flies is fairly large, offering an opportunity to effectively reduce the population of kudzu bugs.

Knowledge of this parasite means that there is now a potentially effective way to introduce natural enemies into the fields, allowing nature (versus chemical treatments) to better manage infestations and obliterate kudzu bug populations.

Pest management involves strategy and other, oftentimes costly, practices such as crop rotations, cover crops, field borders and irrigation water management. If you are a farmer seeking to implement a better pest management program, contact AgAmerica Lending to discuss ag loan options. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

 

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Good News for Young/Beginning Farmers

Oftentimes, farm loans are difficult to access for young or beginning farmers. Many agricultural loan programs have proven effective in financing farmland – FSA (Farm Service Agency) loans for example – yet now there is an additional, promising solution.

With the Senate passage of the Farm Bill, also came the potential for a new amendment – the Casey-Harkin-Johanns Microloan Authorization Amendmentthat offers young and beginning farmers up to $35,000 to get their agricultural operation up and running. This amendment has the power to allow young and beginning farmers to get the ball rolling and offers a plan to effectively realize their number one biggest concern: financial capital to start and sustain their farm businesses.

The Casey-Harkin-Johanns Microloan Authorization Amendment offers new and beginning farmers promising potential including:

  • Less heavy paperwork
  • An extended payment period
  • Low-interest farm operating loans for military veterans
  • A quicker turnaround in profit (fingers crossed!)

To be eligible for such government backed farm loan programs you must classify as a beginner or new farmer. To qualify you must:

  • Have not operated a farm or ranch for more than 10 years
  • Not own a farm or ranch greater than 30 percent of the median size farm in the county as described by the most recent Census for Agriculture
  • Meet the farm loan eligibility requirements of the program to which you are applying
  • Heavily participate in the farming operation

The number and types of farmland financing programs vary for new and beginning farmers. It’s good to be aware of your options so you’re able to get the farm loan that’s best for you and your farming operation. Sometimes, however, a government backed loan isn’t going to cut it. If you’re not able to acquire a government backed loan – USDA loans or FSA loans – or if these ag loan programs are not a good fit, contact us to determine a better solution. A part of our focus and concentration is getting beginning farms, ranches, and young producers the agricultural loans they need to get started with their business.

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Weddings, Tours, and a Winery Turn Farm Into Tourist Draw

It’s always good to see farmers who discover new ways to make an operation profitable. Oscar and Melinda Vizcarra of Becker Farms have one of those stories. According to this article, they also have a great slogan: “Get big or get out.”

How that translates for the Buffalo farmers was turning a farm that had nothing but a few cherry trees into an operation that draws millions of people a year. They did it by holding weddings on their property. They opened a winery and a brewery. And they added a you-pick-it apple vineyard.

Such additions to a farm would have been unheard of 40 years ago, and maybe even just two decades ago. Luckily people seem to have a new-found respect for farming, and that means farms have the new-found ability to be something of a tourist draw. Suddenly that unused piece of the back 40 could become a pick-your-own strawberry patch, or that old apple grove could become the path for hay rides.

If you’re wondering how a farmer could afford all those additions, that’s where AgAmerica Lending comes in to help with your ag lending needs. We specialize in all kinds of agricultural lending, from ranch financing, to timberland loans, to citrus loans.

For many farmers, our AgAmerica program is the way to go. Rates are comparable or lower than any other farm loan rates, and there’s often far less paperwork than similar commercial farm loans.

There’s also the option to refinance an existing ag loan in order to take equity out of a piece of property. This allows many farmers to fund needed repairs or to expand operations.

We also offer traditional lending options, or hard money loans, that often allow farmers to add new equipment or property. You can imagine a farmer, like that couple from Buffalo, using this type of loan to build an on-site brewery or a gazebo to hold weddings.

In that article, Oscar Vizcarra said his secret is listening to customers, sometimes walking among them without saying he owns the place. He said: “Nobody knows who the owner is. I wear my jeans. I do my homework. I’m sensitive to what people want.”

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Is Converting a Farm to Organic Worth the Costs?

There was a time not long ago when organic farming seemed like a new experiment for American farmers. Back in 1990, organic food and beverages grossed just $1 billion in sales. Twenty years later, that number has grown to nearly $27 billion. A whopping 4.8 million acres in the United States have now been dedicated to organic farming.

Farmers who have switched to organic production have seen big increases in the value of goods at market. A head-to-head comparison by the USDA found a wide difference in the cost of organic produce, from a 39 percent increase for carrots to a 200 percent markup on eggs.

Converting a farm to organic has several associated costs, including a yearly certification and increased labor expenses for weeding. Farms also must spend three years operating without chemicals before they can be certified. That can be costly considering crops sold during the switch can’t be labeled as certified organic.

Luckily, there are several agricultural loans that can help farms with an organic conversion. Low-interest AgAmerica loans fromAgAmerica Lending can provide a 25-year amortized program to help farmers pay back their conversion costs slowly, without a big hit to the wallet all at once. Or there’s the 10-year AgEquity Revolving Line of Credit, with rates as low as 2.69 percent.

Others may want to cover the costs of an organic conversion by refinancing an existing ag loan or USDA loan. By taking out equity during refinancing, a farm can cover the operational costs of an organic conversion and then benefit later from the increased profits.

What does a farmer stand to gain from organics? Carmen Fernholz, an organic research coordinator for the University of Minnesota, recently gave a presentation at the 24th annual Organic Farming Conference in Wisconsin. Fernholz is a longtime organic farmer himself. Among the costs of conversion, Fernholz said, are an initial investment of $5,000 to $10,000 for weed management that will be repaid simply in the money farmers save on fertilizer.

“It’s easier to achieve a profitable bottom line, if you do it correctly,” Fernholz said, according to an article from the LaCrosse Tribune. “You can get comparable yields, generally at more of a premium, and generally with less of a capital investment.”

If you’re thinking about converting your farm to organic, please call our loan specialists at AgAmerica Lending to talk about ways we can help you get there. You can reach us toll free at 844-516-8176.

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