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Dates announced for request for referendum on soybeans

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it will offer soybean producers the opportunity to request a referendum on the Soybean Promotion and Research Order, more commonly known as the soybean checkoff program.

By law, the Secretary of Agriculture is required to conduct a request for referendum every five years after the initial referendum, which was held in 1994. The last request for referendum was conducted in 2004.

The request for referendum will be conducted at the county offices of USDA's Farm Service Agency beginning May 4 and continuing through May 29.

To be eligible to participate, producers must certify and provide documentation to verify that they produced soybeans and paid an assessment on the soybeans during the period of Jan. 1, 2007, through Dec. 31, 2008.

The only soybean producers that should participate in the request for referendum are those interested in having a referendum on continuing the soybean checkoff program.

Producers may obtain the necessary forms by mail, fax, or in person from the FSA county office where their administrative farm records are maintained.

USDA will conduct a referendum if at least 10 percent of the nation's 589,182 soybean producers support conducting a referendum. In addition, not more than one-fifth of the producers who support having a referendum can be from any one state.

The national soybean checkoff program is financed by a mandatory assessment of one-half of 1 percent of the net market price of soybeans.

Carcass disposal rule delayed 60 days

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's feed ban enhancement rule has been delayed 60 days from its original April 27 start day. The delay will allow FDA additional time to receive public comments.

The new FDA regulation will tighten the restrictions that livestock producers must follow when disposing of dead cattle. More specifically, it prohibits the rendering of cattle over 30 months of age for use in any animal food products, including pet foods, without first having all brain and spinal cord material removed and properly disposed of.

In anticipation of the enhanced feed ban rule, most rendering services in Minnesota have indicated that they will continue farm pickup of dead cattle. However, producers will be responsible for providing documentation to verify the age of the cattle. If verification cannot be provided, the cattle will be considered over 30 months of age and producers will be charged accordingly by the rendering service.

The feed ban enhancement rule was created to enhance the 1997 regulation, which prohibited the use of specific cattle materials in ruminant feeds. It is believed that the enhanced regulation will provide additional protection against bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as "mad cow" disease, by eliminating the risk of cross-contamination through contact between tainted non-ruminant feed with ruminant feed.

The added measure should also help decrease the risk of humans contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease through eating tainted beef.

Online tool compares conservation options

Minnesota farmers and landowners can now use a new online tool to obtain pertinent information about the financial assistance that is available from a number of federal, state and local conservation programs.

Developed by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the new Minnesota Comprehensive Funding Guide is a valuable source of information about a variety of agricultural and natural resource conservation practices, including the financial incentives they can provide.

The guide provides quick access to overviews of more than 50 soil conservation, water quality, feedlot management and wildlife habitat practices, with side-by-side payment comparisons. The guide will also help users find practices that best match their land management goals.

The Conservation Funding Guide is designed to help landowners research the various options on their own, prior to seeking advice from federal, state or local conservation experts.

A link to the guide can be found from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture home page at:

April interest rates increase

The interest rate on nine-month commodity loans disbursed during the month of April will be 1.625 percent, up from the March rate of 1.5 percent.

The interest rate on farm storage facility loans approved during the month of April will be 2.5 percent, also up from the March rate of 2.25 percent.

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