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USDA study finds ozone levels affect soybean yields

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WILLMAR -- According to the findings of a recent study released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, current atmospheric ozone levels are already suppressing soybean yields.

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With the assistance of researchers from the University of Illinois, scientists from USDA's Agricultural Research Service developed the necessary technology to measure how the projected increases in carbon dioxide and ozone will affect soybean production.

From their studies, the scientists found that soybean yields increased by about 12 percent at the elevated carbon dioxide levels predicted for the year 2050 -- which is only half of the increase that previous studies have estimated.

The researchers also found that increased levels of ozone can be quite harmful to soybean yields, reducing them by about 20 percent. Even at current levels of ozone, the study found that soybean yields are already being suppressed by up to 15 percent.

From their research, scientists were able to more closely examine the combined effects of carbon dioxide and ozone on soybean yields. They found that elevated levels of carbon dioxide are partially offsetting the effects of ozone damage.

These results also indicate that much more is to be learned about how the interacting factors of carbon dioxide and ozone will impact soybean yield potential in the future. However, the results from this study will help geneticists develop soybean varieties better adapted to the changing climate.

USDA may update crop production

Officials from USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Service have announced that they may release updated corn and soybean acreage, yield and production estimates in its next crop production report, scheduled for release on March 10.

When producers were surveyed in late November and early December, there was a significant acreage of un-arvested corn in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In addition, there was a significant acreage of unharvested soybeans in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

When USDA released its 2009 crop production summary report on Jan. 12, the data included expected production from the unharvested acres.

Respondents from the above mentioned states who reported unharvested acres will be resurveyed. If the newly collected data justifies any changes, the Statistical Service will update the January estimates for the affected states, except for South Dakota and North Dakota. Since inclement weather has persisted there, producers will be resurveyed at a later date.

The supply estimates provided in the January report will also be reviewed for possible updating, as the expected production from the unharvested acres were included in the on-farm supply estimates for corn and soybeans.

$234.5 million allocated to promote exports

To help promote American food and agricultural products overseas, USDA has allocated $234.5 million to 70 U.S. trade organizations.

The funding was allocated under the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, both administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

Under the Market Access Program, USDA will share the cost of overseas market development and promotional activities with U.S. nonprofit trade organizations, state or regional trade groups and cooperatives. Activities include market research, consumer promotions for retail products and seminars to educate overseas customers.

Under the Foreign Market Development Program, USDA establishes a partnership with nonprofit U.S. agricultural trade organizations, with the focus on reducing market impediments, improving the processing capabilities of importers, modifying restrictive regulatory codes, and identifying new markets or uses for U.S. products.

New cattle import requirements

In order to improve the ability to trace animals during disease investigations, all cattle imported into Minnesota must now have official identification. Exceptions are allowed for beef-breed feeding cattle less than 18 months of age; or cattle going directly to slaughter at a federally inspected slaughter plant that are identified with an official backtag.

All cattle imported into Minnesota must be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection unless they are going to slaughter at a federally inspected slaughter plant; or coming from a farm and moving directly to a federally approved market.

Cattle originating from Mexico or states that are not tuberculosis- or brucellosis-free, as well as any cattle for use in rodeos or timed events, are subject to additional requirements.

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

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