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Sign-up begins April 27 for ACRE

WILLMAR -- Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have announced that producers will be able to elect and begin enrolling farms into the new Average Crop Revenue Election program on April 27.

Authorized by the 2008 farm bill, the program is a new and innovative alternative to the traditional counter-cyclical payments provided under the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program. However, producers will need to carefully consider their options before deciding if this new program will provide them with better financial protection than what the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program currently affords.

With the spring planting season about to begin and because the decision to elect Average Crop Revenue is irrevocable, many producers have expressed the need for additional time to study and weigh their options. In response to those concerns, USDA recently announced that the sign-up deadline for both programs of June 1 was being extended to Aug. 14.

The decision to elect Average Crop Revenue binds the farm to the program through the remainder of the 2008 farm bill, which continues through the 2012 crop year.

By participating in Average Crop Revenue Election, producers agree to forgo counter-cyclical payments, accept a 20 percent reduction in direct payments and receive a 30 percent reduction in their commodity loan rates for all commodities produced on the farm.

Commodities eligible for payments include wheat, corn, soybeans, oats, barley, grain sorghum and a number of minor oilseed crops.

Producers may elect and enroll for the 2009 crop year, even if they've already enrolled in the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program and received an advance direct payment. However, to be effective for the 2009 crop year, producers will need to elect Average Crop Revenue by this year's extended deadline of Aug. 14.

Stimulus bill provides state $7.6 millionin direct loan funds

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided USDA's Farm Service Agency with $173 million in additional funds for its Direct Operating Farm Loan Program. Minnesota received nearly $7.6 million of those dollars, which FSA has now obligated to 91 borrowers within the state.

Loan funds were used to purchase items such as farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel and other operating expenses. The maximum loan amount was $300,000.

Applications were considered on a first-come, first-served basis, with special emphasis placed on beginning farmers and socially disadvantaged applicants.

Nearly half of Minnesota's loan funds went to beginning farmers, with more than 5 percent provided to socially disadvantaged farmers.

Minnesota hog inventory down 3 percent

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, Minnesota hog producers had an inventory of 7.3 million hogs and pigs on March 1, down 3 percent from one year ago. That number is also down 3 percent from Dec. 1.

Breeding hogs totaled 580,000 head, down 2 percent from a year earlier. Market hogs and pigs totaled 6.72 million head, down 3 percent from one year ago.

According to USDA, hog producers in Minnesota intend to farrow 280,000 sows during the March to May and June to August quarters of 2009. This would represent a 2 percent decline from the actual number of sows farrowed during the same quarters in 2008.

The U.S. inventory of hogs and pigs totaled 65.4 million head on March 1, down 3 percent from one year ago and down two percent from Dec. 1.

March corn prices increase, soybeans decline

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, prices received by Minnesota corn farmers during March averaged $3.85 per bushel, an increase of $0.16 from February's average price. Meanwhile, soybean prices during March declined $0.68 to an average price of $8.65 per bushel.

Hog prices averaged $44.50 per hundredweight during March, down $0.20 from February's price.

March beef cattle prices averaged $71.20 per hundredweight, a decline of $0.30 from February.

Minnesota milk prices during March averaged $12.40 per hundredweight, up $0.30 from February's average price.

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