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USDA's food programs benefit nearly 10B worldwide

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WILLMAR -- Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that two of its international food assistance programs will together benefit more than 9.7 million people worldwide during the 2012 fiscal year. The two programs are USDA's Food for Progress and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition programs.

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Under the programs, USDA purchases U.S. commodities and donates them to government agencies and private-voluntary organizations in targeted countries.

Food for Progress recipients in developing countries and emerging democracies sell the commodities and use the funds to introduce and expand free enterprise in the agricultural sector.

The McGovern-Dole Program focuses on low-income, food-deficit countries that are committed to universal education. Participants either use or sell the donated U.S. commodities to support education, child development, and food security.

The commodities USDA is donating include U.S. produced corn-soy blend, cornmeal, dehydrated potato flakes, dried beans, lentils, rice, sorghum, soy oil, soybeans, soybean meal, vegetable oil and wheat.

The Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole programs are administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. More information can be found at www.fas.usda.gov.

Internet registry available to help prevent accidental pesticide damage

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is making the online "Driftwatch" registry available to Minnesota specialty crop producers for the 2012 growing season. By providing a registry of the locations and descriptions of pesticide-sensitive specialty crops, it is hoped that the new service will help growers avoid accidental pesticide damage from occurring.

The idea behind Driftwatch is to help provide specialty crop producers and pesticide applicators with a means of communicating more effectively about the location of crops that are particularly sensitive to pesticides. Examples of pesticide-sensitive crops would include vegetables, grapes and certified organic crops.

Producers of specialty crops can post on the registry information regarding the location of their crops and the types of crops. The information is then available to neighboring farmers and professional pesticide applicators, who can then take precautionary measures to reduce the chance of accidently injuring the sensitive crops.

Minnesota is one of seven states to offer the Driftwatch registry. Participation is voluntary and open to all Minnesota specialty crop producers and pesticide applicators, and there is no cost for participation.

The registry can be accessed online at www.driftwatch.org.

Driftwatch is not intended for residential locations or sites with crops less than half an acre in size. Registry data integrity is managed by an independent data steward, who performs a safeguarding role by receiving, reviewing and approving all field sites prior to their being posted on the Driftwatch map.

For 2012, there will be Minnesota data stewards for certified organic farms, Christmas trees, fruits, grapes and vegetables. It is anticipated that more categories will be added in the future.

For more information and assistance, farmers can contact the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at 651-201-6349.

Application deadline for 2010 crop disaster program is June 1

Farmers who suffered crop production or crop quality losses during the 2010 crop year will need to apply for assistance at their local Farm Service Agency office by the application deadline of June 1.

The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program is one of the five permanent disaster programs authorized by the 2008 farm bill. It provides assistance to producers who suffered qualifying crop production or quality losses due to adverse weather conditions.

The program assists producers in managing revenue losses by reducing the threats of lower than expected yields and prices by providing a revenue guarantee for a producer's farming operation.

If disaster related conditions result in a producer's total farm revenue being less than the farm's total revenue guarantee, the producer is paid 60 percent of the difference.

One requirement is that the producer must suffer at least a 10 percent production loss on at least one crop of economic significance. A significant crop is defined as a crop that contributes at least 5 percent of a farm's expected revenue.

Another requirement is that the producer must have an interest in a crop that was produced in either a county, or a county contiguous to a county that received a natural disaster declaration for crop production losses.

The only county in Minnesota to receive a disaster designation in 2010 was Freeborn. Also receiving disaster designations were several counties in far eastern North Dakota and South Dakota, including some counties that border Minnesota.

Because of the disaster designation, producers that had a 2010 farming interest in a crop produced in Freeborn County, or any county contiguous to a declared county, may qualify for assistance. Contiguous counties in Minnesota would include Clay, Dodge, Faribault, Kittson, Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Marshall, Mower, Norman, Polk, Steele, Traverse, Waseca, Wilkin, Winona and Yellow Medicine.

Producers who did not have a 2010 farming interest in Freeborn County, or any of the named contiguous counties, may still qualify for assistance. However, they would need to verify that their farming operation suffered at least a 50 percent overall reduction in production.

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

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