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U.S. farm numbers increase, but newer farms are less typical

WILLMAR -- According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, not only has the number of farms in the United States grown by 4 percent in the last five years, but those new farming operations are also more diverse and less typical in nature when compared to other farms.

The latest census counted 2,204,792 farms in the United States, a net increase of 75,810 farms. Included in the latest count of U.S. farms were nearly 300,000 new farms since the last census was conducted in 2002. But when compared to all farms nationwide, these new farms tended to have more diversified production, fewer acres, lower sales and younger operators who also worked off the farm.

In the last five years, U.S. farm operators have also become more diverse demographically. The 2007 census counted nearly 30 percent more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent. The number of American Indian, Asian and black farm operators also increased.

The latest census results also show a continuation of the trend to both small and very large farms, but fewer mid-sized operations.

Between 2002 and 2007, the number of farms with sales of less than $2,500 increased by 74,000. The number of farms with sales of more than $500,000 grew by 46,000 during the same period.

Census results also show that the majority of U.S. farms are smaller operations. More than 36 percent are classified as residential/lifestyle farms, with sales of less than $250,000 and operators with a primary occupation other than farming. Another 21 percent are retirement farms, which have sales of less than $250,000 and operators who reported they are retired.

The 2007 Census of Agriculture also surveyed farmers about information regarding Internet access. The census found that 57 percent of all farmers have Internet access, up from 50 percent in 2002.

For the first time in 2007, the census also looked at high-speed Internet access. Of those producers accessing the Internet, 58 percent reported having a high-speed connection.

The Census of Agriculture, conducted every five years, is a complete count of the nation's farms and ranches, and the people who operate them. It provides the only source of uniform and comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the nation.

Census results are available online

FSA financing available for grain storage, handling

Farmers wanting to increase their grain storage capacity, or to upgrade their grain drying and grain handling equipment, may want to consider the financial benefits of the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program administered by the Farm Service Agency.

In addition to providing affordable financing terms, the program can provide additional marketing alternatives to producers, who due to a lack of storage space might be forced to sell their crops at harvest, a time of the year when prices are typically lower.

Producers can receive a loan for up to 85 percent of the cost of the necessary equipment, not to exceed $100,000. Loans in excess of $50,000 will require either a first lien on real estate or an irrevocable letter of credit.

Loan terms include seven years of financing at a fixed interest rate that is determined by the monthly rate in effect at the time. The interest rate on loans approved in February is 1.875 percent.

At the time of loan application, producers will need to provide purchase agreements or cost estimates, including a complete description of the proposed equipment and a diagram of the site where the equipment will be constructed or installed.

Applicants must provide a current balance sheet and cash flow statement to verify their ability to repay the loan.

There is a $45 non-refundable application fee.

Applications must be submitted and approval granted before any earthwork begins or equipment is delivered.

Sweet corn production up

The Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service is estimating that sweet corn production totaled 876,980 tons in 2008, up 10.3 percent from the 794,850 tons produced in 2007.

Favorable summer growing conditions produced the third highest sweet corn yield in 12 years.

Harvested acreage totaled 123,900 acres in 2008, up 3,400 acres from the previous year.

Average crop value was $120 per ton, compared to $82.90 per ton in 2007.

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