Monday, September 26, 2022

USDA to Provide up to $20 Million for Construction of On-Farm Grain Storage Facilities in Areas Impacted by Recent Natural Disasters


New Program to Address Local Grain Storage Deficits Heading into Harvest 2022

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2022 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will make available $20 million in cost-share assistance to help agricultural producers in Kentucky, Minnesota, South Dakota and surrounding areas to rebuild storage facilities damaged by devastating natural disaster events in 2021 and 2022. This assistance will help producers who were hard-hit by disasters and are currently struggling with a lack of available grain storage have the resources they need as they head into the 2022 crop harvest. 

“Over the past two years, weather events in several states caused catastrophic losses to grain storage facilities on family farms as well as a large, commercial grain elevator, leaving stored grain exposed to the elements and affecting commodity marketing options for many producers. USDA heard from congressional leaders, including Minority Leader McConnell, who identified a gap in our disaster assistance toolkit, and we went to work designing a new program to deliver direct assistance to producers who are struggling to meet their on-farm storage capacity needs in the wake of disasters,” Secretary Vilsack said. “Congress has provided USDA with important flexibility through the Commodity Credit Corporation, which gives us the tools to be nimble as we work to support the production and marketing of agricultural commodities and quickly respond to agricultural producers’ needs.”

This assistance from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) will be designed to help producers affected by the December 2021 tornadoes that passed through eleven counties in Kentucky, as well as producers in Minnesota and South Dakota affected by the derechos (severe thunderstorms and straight-line winds) that swept through these states in May 2022 and July 2022.   

Similar to other USDA cost-share programs, USDA anticipates that the funds announced today will cover 75% of the eligible expenses associated with building grain storage capacity or purchasing equipment such as grain baggers for a producer’s own use or for a shared-cost arrangement among a group of producers who want to use a common facility. The program will be primarily focused on supporting producers or groups of producers in their efforts to build new storage capacity in eligible areas where there is a shortage of local grain storage.  Details on the program and the process to seek cost share will be available in a future Federal Register notice, but USDA also has an existing Farm Storage Facility Loan Program that can immediately provide low-interest financing.  Producers should contact their local service center for details or to ensure they are on a list for updates.

To determine locations where producers may be eligible for emergency grain storage facility assistance, state impact area maps for Kentucky, Minnesota, South Dakota and surrounding areas are now available online. These maps depict damaged storage facility locations and counties within a 30-mile radius of these facilities where producers may be eligible for this new program. If a producer believes their county should also qualify for this program, there will be a procedure to consider and add additional counties.

Through proactive communications and outreach, USDA will keep producers and stakeholders informed as program eligibility, application and implementation details are made available in the coming weeks. 

More Information 

Additional USDA disaster assistance information can be found on, including the USDA Disaster Assistance Discovery ToolDisaster-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool. For FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service programs, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center. For assistance with a crop insurance claim, producers and landowners should contact their crop insurance agent.   

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit  

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Register Today for Free Webinars on Self-Employment Tax and Hobby Loss


Filing taxes for an agricultural operation can be challenging, and many producers may not have the funds to hire accountants or tax professionals to assist. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Oklahoma State University are offering two free webinars:

Monday, September 26, 2 p.m. Eastern: Self-Employment Tax and Farm Optional Self-Employment TaxMost taxpayers working for an employer have FICA and Medicare withheld from their wages, but the self-employed individual must pay self-employment (SE) tax to be entitled to similar benefits. Join USDA and JC Hobbs, Associate Extension Specialist, Department of Agriculture Economics, Oklahoma State University to learn how to file for SE tax. Register here.

Monday, October 17, 2 p.m. Eastern: Hobby Losses.  When filing an income tax return, it is important to determine if a venture is a business or hobby. Join USDA and JC Hobbs, Associate Extension Specialist, Department of Agriculture Economics, Oklahoma State University to learn how to determine and calculate hobby losses for tax purposes. Register here.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Texas Ranchers Forever Protect Property from Development


Deborah Clark and Emry Birdwell closed on a conservation easement with Texas Agriculture Land Trust in September 2022, forever protecting 11,800 acres and ensuring the Birdwell and Clark Ranch stays intact for generations to come.  Photo credit: Wyman Meinzer

Texas Agricultural Land Trust Holds Conservation Easement, Protecting Texas’ Rural Heritage


By Lydia Saldaña

Texas Agricultural Land Trust


Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark are partners in every way. Married since 1991, the two are also joined at the hip when it comes to running their Birdwell and Clark Ranch in Clay County in North Texas.

Birdwell has ranched his entire life. Clark’s family owned a telecom company, and after the family business was sold, Clark was restless to try something else. So, the couple decided to buy a ranch together. Birdwell sold his family land in Palo Pinto County, and Clark used her share of the proceeds of the sale of the telecom business to finance their dream. They bought a more than 14,000-acre ranch in Clay County in 2004.

“We were all in, and I didn’t have a clue what I was getting into,” recalled Clark. “I didn’t know a heifer from a steer back then. But we both saw it as an opportunity of a lifetime for us to come together and work as a couple toward a similar goal.”

Birdwell is a champion of holistic ranch management and the value of rotational grazing. Clark hit the ground running to learn everything she could, and now she loves to share what she’s learned with others.

The ranch is a stocker operation, and about 5,000 head of cattle is moved through the ranch in an intensively managed grazing program. The focus is on improving rangeland conditions, holding water, increasing carbon sequestration, and improving soil health.

The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Native tallgrass prairie has emerged throughout the property, and the monoculture of Little Bluestem has diversified into various grasses, forbs and legumes.  Since 2004, bare ground on the ranch has decreased from approximately 25 percent to 5 percent. The healthy habitat now supports not only their cattle herd, but also an amazing array of wildlife.

Tallgrass prairies are the most rapidly disappearing ecosystem on earth, and the Birdwell and Clark Ranch protects an immensely productive biologically-diverse prairie. The East Fork of the Little Wichita runs through the west side of the ranch, and seasonal water runs in two creeks. The prairies are gently rolling landscapes that support a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, Rio Grande turkey, dove, bobcats, quail, and hawks.

Anyone who ranches in Texas knows there are good times and bad. A few years ago, Birdwell and Clark experienced one bad cattle year after another, and ended up with a large debt they needed to pay off. They made the incredibly difficult decision to sell off a portion of the ranch to cover the losses.

“It cut us both to the core and it ranks up there with one of the lowest points in my entire life,” said Clark. “We ended up selling 2,500 acres. It made us realize how important it was to us both not to ever lose another piece of the ranch, and that we would do anything we could to keep it intact.”

That realization, coupled with discussions with their financial advisor about succession planning, led them to begin exploring the idea of a conservation easement in 2021. Birdwell had some negative perceptions about conservation easements, but after meeting with representatives from the Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT), those perceptions shifted. 

The couple met with their children on Father’s Day 2021 to discuss the idea.

“We wanted them to understand what we were doing and why, and we did our best to convey why the ranch is so important to us and why we want to preserve it after we are gone,” said Clark.

Deborah Clark and Emry Birdwell closed on a conservation easement with TALT in September 2022, forever protecting 11,800 acres. It’s the first conservation easement in Clay County. A grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s Buffer Lands Incentive Program provided funding for a stewardship endowment that will help TALT monitor the easement in perpetuity.

“We are so grateful for TALT’s guidance, and the grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation helped us close the deal,” said Clark. “Ranching is Emry’s lifeblood and he has poured every ounce of himself into this ranch to make it better than we found it. We’ve seen the changes and it is living testimony to the benefits of good grazing management and that land can be restored back to health in one's lifetime. As a couple, we’ve had our share of hard times and disagreements. But in the end, this piece of land personifies the commitment we made to each other and to the land.”

The Texas Agricultural Land Trust is a private non-profit organization founded by farmers and ranchers for farmers and ranchers. As the largest state-based land trust in Texas with more than 250,000 acres under conservation easements, TALT promotes the conservation of open space, native wildlife habitats, and natural resources of Texas’ private working lands. Texas is losing agricultural land at a faster pace than any other state in the nation. In September 2022, the Texas Agricultural Land Trust (TALT) closed on a conservation easement with Emry Birdwell and Deborah Clark, forever protecting close to 12,000 acres in one of the fastest-growing areas of the state. This brings the total acreage of land protected by TALT easements to more than 250,000 acres.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Sept. 21 webinar corrals legal issues of fences and livestock

 By Mary Hightower

U of A System Division of Agriculture

Sept. 13, 2022 

Fast facts

AMARILLO, Texas — A fence is more than just posts and strands of wire; it’s the foundation of a whole class of laws about property, range and stray animals and the rights and responsibilities of ranchers.

The laws will be front and center Sept. 21 during a webinar hosted by the National Agricultural Law Center, titled “Fence Laws: Corralling Legal Issues and Livestock.” There is no cost to attend, and registration is available online. The hourlong webinar begins at 11 a.m. Central.

“What happens when a cow gets loose? Who foots the bill for maintaining fences between properties?” said Rusty Rumley, senior staff attorney with the National Agricultural Law Center.

“Fence laws aren’t particularly glamorous, but they are integral to the livestock industry.”

The webinar features Rumley and Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, agricultural law specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

“Questions about fence law are one of the most common phone calls I get in my role as an extension specialist in Texas,” she said. “It is also one of the areas I have found there to be the most misunderstanding of the law.”

Cody Burkham, executive vice president of the Arkansas Cattlemen’s Association, said

“it is imperative that landowners and livestock producers know and understand all applicable fence laws.

“This knowledge ensures that everyone involved knows their rights and responsibilities to their neighbors and livestock,” Burkham said. “I look forward to the National Ag Law Center covering this intricate but important topic."

For information about the National Agricultural Law Center, visit  or follow @Nataglaw on Twitter.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

About the National Agricultural Law Center

The National Agricultural Law Center serves as the nation’s leading source of agricultural and food law research and information. The Center works with producers, state and federal policymakers, Congressional staffers, attorneys, land grant universities, and many others to provide objective, nonpartisan agricultural and food law research and information to the nation’s agricultural community.

The Center is a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and works in close partnership with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, National Agricultural Library.