New loan program can assist farmers with conservation needs
WILLMAR -- Farmers can often identify the need for a conservation practice to help conserve a valuable natural resource. However, the implementation of the needed conservation practice may be cost prohibitive without being able to locate and secure affordable financing.
For that purpose, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it was launching a new loan program to provide farm owners and farm business operators with the needed credit to implement conservation practices that will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and promote sustainable and organic agricultural practices.
Administered by USDA's Farm Service Agency, the Conservation Loan Program can provide loans of up to $300,000 to farm owners and farm-related business operators. In addition, guaranteed loans of up to $1,112,000 are available from commercial lenders working with USDA.
Loan funds can be used to implement a variety of conservation practices that are determined by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to be environmentally beneficial.
Examples of conservation practices that could qualify include conservation structures; installation of water conservation measures; low-pressure irrigation conversions or installations; transitioning to organic production; high-tunnel structures; manure management, including manure digestion systems, implements and manure pits; pasture renovation or grazing systems, including the removal of woody vegetation; or the adoption of emerging or existing conservation practices, techniques or technologies.
The interest rate on loans issued by the Farm Service Agency will be the rate in effect either at time of loan approval or loan closing. October's interest rate is 4.375 percent.
The interest rate on guaranteed loans will vary, but may not exceed the rate charged the lender's average farm customer.
Loan terms will vary and will be based on the life of the security offered, but not to exceed 20 years for real estate security, and seven years for chattel property.
Unlike traditional farm ownership and operating loans issued by the Farm Service Agency, the eligibility requirements for the Conservation Loan Program have been expanded to allow financing of applicants that have larger-than-average farming operations, or who are financially strong. For many of these operations, the application process has been streamlined.
For more information on the Conservation Loan Program, contact a local Farm Service Agency office, or visit www.fsa.usda.gov.
Prevalence of biotech varieties confirmed by USDA survey
The first genetically modified seed varieties to be sold commercially became available in the mid to late 1990s. Following their introduction, farmers were quick to see the benefits that the new technology provided.
Not only did the biotech varieties lower the risk of yield loss due to insects and weeds, but farmers also found that the varieties reduced the need for tillage, herbicides and insecticides.
A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates how prevalent the use of biotech varieties is today.
In June, USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Service randomly selected farmers across the United States and asked them if they planted corn or soybean seed that had been genetically modified for resistance to herbicide, insects or both.
For survey purposes, the only insect-resistant varieties considered were those containing bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), the trait that provides resistance to corn borers.
According to the survey, 18 percent of Minnesota's 2010 corn crop was planted to varieties with insect resistance; 28 percent was herbicide-resistant; and 46 percent consisted of stacked gene varieties, which are defined as varieties containing biotech traits for both herbicide and insect resistance. Together, 92 percent of Minnesota's corn crop was planted to biotech varieties.
Nationwide, 86 percent of the 2010 corn crop was planted to insect-resistant, herbicide-resistant or stacked gene varieties.
In terms of soybeans, 93 percent of Minnesota's 2010 soybean crop was planted with biotech varieties with herbicide resistance, which is equal to the national average.
Optimum AcreMax I products qualify for insurance program
The board of directors of USDA's Federal Crop Insurance Program recently approved Optimum AcreMax I products as eligible for its pilot biotechnology endorsement program, beginning with the 2011 crop year.
Optimum AcreMax I products are comprised of a combination of a Pioneer hybrid with Herculex XTRA insect protection, and a Pioneer hybrid with the Herculex I trait in the same bag.
The pilot biotechnology endorsement program reduces the premium rates for corn producers who meet program eligibility requirements and plant qualifying hybrids.
States in the pilot program include Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.