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USDA announces CRP sign-up period beginning May 20

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news Willmar, 56201
West Central Tribune
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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — During the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic held recently in Minneapolis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that producers and landowners with Conservation Reserve Program contracts that expire this fall may submit offers to re-enroll their acres during a general sign-up period that begins May 20 and continues through June 14.

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By Wes Nelson

FSA executive director

WILLMAR — During the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic held recently in Minneapolis, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that producers and landowners with Conservation Reserve Program contracts that expire this fall may submit offers to re-enroll their acres during a general sign-up period that begins May 20 and continues through June 14.

Nationally, there are approximately 3.3 million contract acres that are scheduled to expire Sept. 30. Of those acres, Minnesota has 129,082 acres that will expire this fall.

Offers to enroll new land in the program will also be accepted during the announced sign-up period, which will be held at local Farm Service Agency offices.

This will be the fourth general sign-up period since the enactment of the 2008 farm bill. The most recent general sign-up was last March and April. During that sign-up period, 4.5 million acres were offered for enrollment and 3.9 million acres were accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The number of acres to be accepted during this general sign-up will not be determined until after the sign-up period has ended. All offers accepted by USDA will have an effective start date of Oct. 1.

During a general sign-up period, larger parcels of land will be considered for enrollment. However, bid offers will need to be submitted since acceptance is on a competitive basis and is not automatic. A bid offer consists of a per-acre rental rate that the producer or landowner is willing to accept as an annual payment from USDA.

To be eligible for enrollment, the participant must have owned or operated the land for at least 12 months prior to the close of the sign-up period. Exceptions can be made when land was acquired due to the previous owner’s death, foreclosure, or unique circumstances whereby land acquisition was not for the purpose of enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Program.

To qualify, land must have been planted or “considered planted” to an agricultural commodity at least four years during the years 2002-2007.

An environmental benefits index will be used to rank each offer submitted during the sign-up period. Only those offers having the highest index scores will be accepted for enrollment.

When determining the environmental benefits index score, USDA will consider the per-acre rental rate offered by the producer, plus five environmental factors. Those factors include soil erosion, water quality, air quality, enduring benefits and wildlife habitat.

By entering into a 10- or 15-year contract with USDA, participants receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance of up to 50 percent of the cost to establish the long-term conservation practices agreed to during the sign-up period.

The 2008 farm bill authorizes up to 32 million acres for enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program. Currently, there are 27 million acres enrolled.

Net farm income in 2013 expected to rise 14 percent

According to the latest economic forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, net farm income is forecast to rise nearly 14 percent in 2013.

After adjusting for inflation, net farm income is expected to reach $128.2 billion in 2013, the highest since 1973.

A return to trend yields would lead to record crop production levels, resulting in substantial year-end crop inventories. Since the value of inventory change is factored into USDA’s net farm income projections, those higher year-end crop inventories represent a key assumption in this rather optimistic forecast.

USDA is also projecting that total expenses will increase by $19.2 billion in 2013, continuing a string of large year-to-year increases since 2002. Rent, labor and feed are the expense items expected to increase the most in 2013.

As in the last several years, increases in farm asset value are expected to exceed increases in farm debt, with farm real estate the main driving force.

USDA’s Hispanic and women farmer claims period ends March 25

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that Hispanic and women farmers who allege discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in past decades have until March 25 to file a claim.

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 may register for a claims package by calling 1-888-508-4429, or by downloading the forms from the website www.farmerclaims.gov. Those interested in learning more about the claims process should also call the above telephone number between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Central time Monday through Friday.

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.

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