WILLMAR -- As required by the 2008 Farm Bill, and in response to numerous requests from the general public, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released county-level cash rent data for the 2009 calendar year.
The data includes non-irrigated cropland average rental rates for every county in the nation. In addition, rental rate data were provided for counties that have significant acres of irrigated cropland and pastureland.
USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service had published land values and rental rate data only at the state level since 1997. As of 2008, data are now being provided annually at the county level.
Following several years of steady increases, the latest survey data would seem to indicate some stabilizing of local cash rental rates. When compared with 2008, average cash rental rates in some counties continued to increase, while several counties witnessed a decline.
The data provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service on an annual basis have a multitude of uses. The Farm Service Agency uses the cash rental rate data to determine market-based rates in administering USDA programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program.
Other state and federal governmental agencies, universities and research organizations use the data for economic analysis. In addition, the annual survey provides farmers and landowners with current information about rental rates in their county.
The rental rate data were provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service from 700,000 agricultural producers who completed a variety of surveys that were conducted during the 2009 calendar year.
Data collection for the cash rent survey is conducted by mail and telephone. The initial mailing occurs in mid-July, followed by a postcard and second mailing by mid-August. Follow-up with non-respondents is conducted throughout the fall, principally by telephone.
Cold storage facilities now qualify for loan program
Under the recently expanded provisions of the USDA's Farm Storage Facility Loan program, producers may now qualify for loans to build cold storage facilities suitable for storing fresh fruits and vegetables.
To be eligible, new structures and equipment must be suitable for cold storage and must have a useful life of 15 years or more.
New walk-in prefabricated coolers, with permanently installed coolers, may also qualify.
Additions or modifications to existing cold storage facilities may also be eligible.
Permanently affixed cooling, circulating and monitoring equipment may qualify for a loan, including electrical equipment integral to the proper operation of the cold storage facility.
Loans are not authorized for any portable structures or equipment. Likewise, used or pre-owned structures and equipment do not qualify.
Loan applications should be submitted to the Farm Service Agency office that maintains the records of the farm or farms to which the application applies. If the commodities are produced on land for which farm records have not been established, the applicant should apply at the office for the county where the facility will be located.
Occidental approved as crop insurance provider
Officials from USDA's Risk Management Agency have announced that Occidental Fire and Casualty Company of North Carolina will become the 16th crop insurance company approved to operate under the government's Standard Reinsurance Agreement.
Occidental Fire and Casualty Company has met the financial and operational requirements of the federal crop insurance program. Occidental has received an "A" rating from the A.M. Best Company, and was a previously approved federal crop insurance provider from 2004 to 2006.
Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.