WILLMAR -- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest quarterly hogs and pigs report, as of Sept. 1, Minnesota had an inventory of 8.1 million hogs and pigs. That was up 3 percent from one year ago, and up 4 percent from June's report. It also represents the largest quarterly inventory in Minnesota's history.
Those statistics alone confirm that despite some unusually high feeding costs, Minnesota's hog industry continues to expand. But the inventory numbers alone don't convey the whole story regarding Minnesota's hog industry.
Since west central Minnesota is not considered the "heartland" of Minnesota's hog industry, we often fail to recognize the significant role that hogs play in terms of Minnesota's overall agricultural economy.
According to USDA's latest annual farm income report, Minnesota's cash receipts from hogs totaled $2.6 billion in 2011. That would make hogs Minnesota's largest livestock enterprise, far surpassing the amount of cash receipts generated from milk -- $1.8 billion; cattle and calves -- $1.3 billion; and turkeys -- $799 million.
The 2011 farm income report also indicates that the only Minnesota commodities that generated more in cash receipts that year were corn and soybeans, with $5.9 billion and $3.4 billion respectively.
Nationally, Minnesota currently ranks number 3 in the nation in hog production. North Carolina ranks number 2, with Iowa clearly the top hog producing state.
According to USDA's September quarterly hogs and pigs report, Iowa had an inventory of 20.6 million hogs and pigs, 12.8 million more than Minnesota, and more than the Minnesota and North Carolina inventories combined.
Emergency loans available for 2012 drought losses
On Oct. 24 the Secretary of Agriculture approved a natural disaster declaration whereby 10 Minnesota counties were declared primary disaster counties. The counties included Big Stone, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Pope, Sherburne, Stearns, Swift and Wright.
The declaration was the result of losses caused by disaster events including, but not limited to, drought conditions occurring since Oct. 16.
Farm families in the 10 primary disaster counties may qualify for the Farm Service Agency's Emergency Loan program.
Farm families in any county contiguous to the 10 primary disaster counties may also qualify for the Emergency Loan program. Local contiguous counties would include Lac qui Parle, Renville, Stevens and Yellow Medicine.
To qualify for an Emergency Loan, the applicant must be the owner or operator of a family farm that suffered at least a 30 percent loss in production for any single crop, or a physical loss to livestock, livestock products, real estate or chattel property.
In addition, producers must be unable to receive other credit, must demonstrate loan repayment ability, have acceptable credit history, and provide collateral to secure the loan.
Producers can borrow up to 100 percent of actual production losses to a maximum of $500,000. The current interest rate on Emergency Loans was recently reduced from 3.75 percent to 2.125 percent.
Loans are normally repaid in one to seven years. However, under special circumstances, loan terms of up to 20 years may be authorized.
Applications must be received by June 24. For additional information, contact the Farm Service Agency at your local USDA Service Center.
Deadline is Dec. 3 to return FSA election ballots
Ballots for the 2012 Farm Service Agency county committee election were recently mailed to all eligible voters. The deadline to return completed ballots to the county office, either by mail or in person, is Dec. 3.
To be eligible to vote, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by the Farm Service Agency. Owners of land producing agricultural commodities or products, including spouses that are listed on the property deed, are considered eligible to vote.
Eligible voters who did not receive a ballot in the mail can obtain one at their local office.
There are nearly 7,700 county committee members serving the 2,244 Farm Service Agency offices located nationwide. Generally, committees consist of three to five members who serve three-year terms.
Since the terms of county committee members are staggered, only about one-third of the county committee positions are up for election each year.
Committee members make many important decisions regarding the local administration of the various commodity, price support, conservation and disaster assistance programs administered by the USDA.
Class offered Friday for producers interested in raising bison
Nationwide, consumer demand for bison meat continues to outstrip the supply and has promoted an increased interest in raising bison as alternative livestock. To help those who might be interested in raising bison, the Minnesota Buffalo Association is offering, for the third straight year, a free educational class titled "Bison 101/Raising an American Icon."
Sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Minnesota Grown Program, the class will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday at the Central Livestock Sales Barn in Albany. The barn is located at 34412 County Road 10, just off of Interstate 94 at exit 147.
Although walk-ins are welcome, those interested in attending are encouraged to register and reserve a take-home educational packet by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 507-454-2813 with names of attendees.
Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.