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USDA report finds U.S. food supply safe from pesticide residue

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WILLMAR — The recently released results of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2011 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary confirms that overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested were at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency and do not pose a safety concern.


By Wes Nelson

USDA Farm Service Agency

WILLMAR — The recently released results of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2011 Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary confirms that overall pesticide chemical residues found on the foods tested were at levels below the tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency and do not pose a safety concern.

Each year, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and the Environmental Protection Agency identify foods to be tested on a rotating basis. In 2011, surveys were conducted on a variety of foods including fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, soybeans, eggs, dairy products and water.

The 2011 report did show that in 0.27 percent of the samples tested, residue levels exceeded the established tolerances set by the EPA. However, similar to findings of previous years, the 2011 report showed that overall pesticide residues found on the foods tested were well below the tolerance levels.

In May of 1991, USDA initiated the Pesticide Data Program to test commodities in the U.S. food supply for pesticide residues. Since passage of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act, one of the program’s focuses has been on testing foods that are most likely consumed by infants and children.

Since its inception, the program has tested 109 commodities. Tested for the first time in 2011 were samples of canned beets, papayas, snap peas and tangerines.

The findings can be downloaded at

USDA-proposed plan IDs threats from feral swine

Recognizing the risk of disease introduction from feral swine, USDA has drafted a proposed action plan that will include modifications to domestic programs regarding swine brucellosis and pseudorabies.

No states have had recent outbreaks of swine brucellosis and pseudorabies in commercial swine production. Therefore, all states are currently considered free of the diseases and no restrictions exist on the interstate movement of any swine in the United States for these diseases.

In recent years, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has identified several swine herds throughout the U.S. that were infected with swine brucellosis and pseudorabies. None of those herds were involved in commercial production, but the infections were all attributed to exposure to feral swine or to herds which may have had feral swine exposure.

Feral swine are a known reservoir of swine brucellosis and pseudorabies, but current USDA regulations do not address the disease risk that they pose to commercial swine production.

USDA proposal sets interest rate thresholds on guaranteed loans

The USDA’s Farm Service Agency recently announced an interim rule with the goal of benefiting lenders and producers alike by setting thresholds on the interest rates charged by lenders on guaranteed farm ownership and operating loans.  

Lenders have expressed a desire to see greater clarity regarding the agency’s interest rate policy. At the same time, the Farm Service Agency seeks greater consistency with industry standards and other government agencies that administer similar programs.

Farm Service Agency-guaranteed loans reduce the risk of loss to lenders by guaranteeing up to 95 percent of the loss of principal and interest on a loan. By reducing the lender’s risk, borrowers benefit from a lower interest rate.

In January, USDA also announced a new microloan program to help small, beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000 using a simplified loan application process. The new program hopes to enhance the success and progress of producers through their start-up years by providing the needed resources to eventually graduate to commercial credit.

Conservation compliance provisions remain in effect

The 2008 farm bill officially expired on Sept. 30, 2012. Congress then approved a nine-month extension of the 2008 farm bill on Dec. 31, 2012. During the three-month period following expiration of the 2008 farm bill, some confusion may have arisen regarding the legality and enforcement of USDA’s wetland and conservation compliance provisions, often referred to as the “swampbusting/sodbusting” provision.

The conservation compliance provisions were initially authorized by the 1985 farm bill, officially titled the “Food Security Act of 1985.” The wetland compliance provisions of the act state that anyone who converts a wetland for the purpose, or to have the effect, of making the production of an agricultural commodity possible, shall be ineligible for specified program benefits during the crop year equal to the calendar year during which the conversion took place, and each subsequent year until the converted wetland is restored or mitigated.

Farmers and landowners are reminded that the conservation compliance provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985 remained in effect after Sept. 30, 2012, and will continue to be enforced during the extension of the 2008 farm bill.

Therefore, anyone who converted a wetland during the 2012 calendar year is considered ineligible for 2012 and any subsequent year benefits. Likewise, anyone who converts a wetland during calendar year 2013 will be ineligible for benefits in 2013 and any subsequent years.

When considering the need to install new tile, or replace an existing drainage system, farmers and landowners are encouraged to request a certified wetland determi-

nation, and review their drainage plans with the personnel at their local USDA Service Center.

The wetland compliance provisions do not require that landowners receive approval prior to undertaking any drainage activity. However, an up-to-date certified wetland determination issued by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide the most accurate information on the location of protected wetland areas.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.