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Nonfat dry milk purchases planned by USDA to assist producers, the needy

WILLMAR -- With the dual purpose of supporting dairy producers who have been financially stressed by high feed costs and low milk prices, while also assisting low-income families struggling to put nutritious food on their tables, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it will purchase approximately 200 million pounds of nonfat dry milk.

The nonfat dry milk was acquired by USDA under its Dairy Product Price Support Program. The purchases will be utilized by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service for use in a variety of domestic feeding programs, including the National School Lunch Program.

In addition to the 200 million pounds, USDA also plans to make available another 2.5 million pounds of nonfat dry milk for other uses and purposes.

Those uses and purposes include at least 1 million pounds of nonfat dry milk offered on a competitive basis for the production of casein; about 500,000 pounds for use in the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program; and about 1 million pounds for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Products should begin moving through the supply chain starting this spring and continuing through 2009.

USDA has a long history of delivering nutritional assistance through domestic and international feeding programs. The department administers 15 different domestic nutritional programs that touch the lives of one in every five people in America each day.

USDA extends buy-in waiverfor 2008 disaster programs

The recently approved American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide producers with an extended opportunity to become eligible for 2008 disaster assistance, even if they did not obtain federal crop insurance or non-insured crop disaster assistance program coverage for their 2008 crops.

Producers will be able to pay, through May 18, a buy-in waiver fee of $100 per crop to assure their eligibility.

Paying the buy-in fee does not provide the producer with crop insurance or non-insured crop disaster coverage for the 2008 crop year, but merely permits the producer to become eligible for 2008 disaster assistance programs.

If producers have any questions regarding the extended buy-in waiver opportunity and their eligibility for 2008 disaster assistance programs, they should contact their local Farm Service Agency office.

ACRE meetings scheduled

Several additional public informational meetings have been scheduled regarding the new Average Crop Revenue Election program. Farmers and farmland owners are encouraged to attend these meetings to learn how the new program could potentially benefit them.

Authorized by the 2008 farm bill, the Average Crop Revenue Election program could provide producers with valuable revenue protection during periods of low grain prices. However, participants will see a reduction in some other farm program benefits to qualify for the additional revenue protection.

Officials from local Farm Service Agency offices will provide important information regarding the program, including several key factors that producers need to consider when deciding whether or not to participate in this optional program.

Meeting locations, dates and times include a meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Raymond Community Center and a meeting at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Atwater Community Center.

Applications being accepted for Farmers Market Promotion Program

Applications are now being accepted for competitive grants to help increase consumption of agricultural commodities by expanding direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.

This is the fourth year of the Farmers Market Promotion Program, which was amended by the 2008 farm bill. The primary objective of the promotion grants is to help eligible entities improve and expand domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agritourism activities and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.

Eligible entities include agricultural cooperatives, producer networks and associations, local governments, nonprofit and public benefit corporations, economic development corporations and regional farmers markets.

About $5 million is allocated for the Farmers Market Promotion Program. The minimum award per grant is $2,500, with a maximum of $100,000 for any one proposal. Matching funds are not required.

Applications and proposals must be received by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service by April 27. Information on how to apply is available at:

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