WILLMAR -- There's no doubt that the last several years have been very good years for American agriculture, and especially here in Minnesota where we've been blessed with favorable weather, good crops and higher prices for both grain and livestock products.
Those good times were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual farm income report, which indicated that net farm income received by Minnesota farmers in 2011 was up 25 percent from 2010. The increase in farm income was largely due to increases in the production value of feed crops and dairy products, up 36 percent and 24 percent respectively.
Total 2011 cash receipts for Minnesota farmers totaled $18.5 billion or 17 percent above the 2010 level of $15.7 billion.
The total value of crops sold, at $11.5 billion, increased 19 percent from 2010. Corn, the state's largest crop in terms of cash receipts, increased 37 percent, while soybeans increased by 9 percent and wheat by 32 percent.
Cash receipts from livestock and livestock products, at $7 billion, were up 4 percent from 2010. Hogs, the state's largest livestock commodity in terms of cash receipts, increased 14 percent. Cash receipts for dairy and cattle and calves increased by 24 percent and 7 percent respectively.
Government payments received by Minnesota farmers in 2011 totaled $488 million in 2011, down 14 percent from 2010.
Sign-up for 2011 crop disaster begins Monday
Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that farmers who suffered crop production or crop quality losses during the 2011 crop year can now apply for assistance at local Farm Service Agency offices.
One of the five permanent disaster programs authorized by the 2008 farm bill, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program, provides assistance to producers who suffered qualifying crop production or quality losses due to adverse weather or other environmental conditions.
As the name implies, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program assists producers in managing revenue losses by reducing the threats of lower-than-expected yields and prices by providing a revenue guarantee for a producer's farming operation.
If because of disaster-related conditions a producer's total farm revenue is less than the farm's total revenue guarantee, the producer is paid 60 percent of the difference.
For program purposes, a farm is defined as all crop acreage that is planted and intended to be planted for harvest for commercial sale or on-farm livestock feeding purposes. The farm definition includes all crops, produced from all land, and in all counties.
There are several eligibility requirements that producers must meet to qualify for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program.
One requirement is that the producer must suffer at least a 10 percent production loss on at least one crop of economic significance. A significant crop is defined as a crop that contributes at least 5 percent of a farm's expected revenue.
Another requirement is that the producer must have an interest in a crop that was produced in either a county, or a county contiguous to a county, that received a natural disaster declaration for crop production losses.
For the 2011 crop year, all local counties were either declared primary natural disaster areas or were contiguous to a declared county. Therefore, local producers would need to have a 10 percent production loss on one crop of economic significance to meet the eligibility requirements.
Producers that did not have a 2011 farming interest in either a county, or a county contiguous to a county receiving a natural disaster declaration, may still qualify for assistance. However, they would need to have suffered at least a 50 percent overall reduction in production.
As of Sept. 30, 2011, USDA's authority to operate the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program expired, along with four other disaster assistance programs. Therefore, any crop production, livestock or forage production losses after that date are not eligible for disaster program coverage or assistance.
USDA announces Hispanic and women farmer claims period
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that Hispanic and women farmers who allege discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in past decades can file claims between now and March 25, 2013.
The process offers a voluntary alternative to litigation for each Hispanic or female farmer who can prove that USDA denied their application for a loan or loan servicing assistance for discriminatory reasons between the years 1981 and 2000.
As announced in February 2011, the voluntary claims process will make available at least $1.33 billion for cash awards and tax relief payments, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief, to eligible Hispanic and women farmers. There are no filing fees to participate in the program.
The department will continue its outreach efforts to assure that all potential Hispanic and female claimants have the opportunity to participate.
Claimants must register to receive a claims package, which will be delivered by mail. Those interested in learning more about the claims process, or wish to register for a claims package, can do so by calling 1-888-508-4429 or visiting the website www.farmerclaims.gov.
Independent legal services companies will administer the claims process and adjudicate the claims. Although there are no filing fees to participate and a lawyer is not required to participate in the claims process, persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.
Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.