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USDA releases county cash rent data for '08

WILLMAR -- As required by the new farm bill and in response to numerous requests from the general public, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released county-level cash rent data for the 2008 calendar year.

The data includes non-irrigated cropland average rental rates for every county in the nation. In addition, rental rate data were provided for counties that have significant acres of irrigated cropland and pastureland.

Since 1997, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service has published land value and rental rate data only at the state level. This is the first time that data has been provided at the county level.

The rental rate data were based on information gathered by NASS from 700,000 agricultural producers who completed a variety of surveys that were conducted during the 2008 calendar year.

According to USDA, Minnesota's average cash rental rate for non-irrigated cropland in 2008 was $109 per acre.

The non-irrigated per-acre average rental rate for area counties during the 2008 calendar year was: Chippewa - $128; Kandiyohi - $128; Lac qui Parle - $106; Meeker - $123; Pope - $82.50; Renville - $155; Stearns - $84; Swift - $113; and Yellow Medicine - $123.

Minnesota organic acres increasing

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Minnesota had 718 farms that had land used for organic production. In 2007, organic crops were harvested from 74,299 acres and organic pastureland totaled 15,146 acres.

The census information also indicates that 20,702 acres of Minnesota cropland was converted to organic production in 2007.

Minnesota organic producers reported nearly $40 million in organic sales of crops, livestock, poultry and related products in 2007. That would put Minnesota ninth in the nation in organic sales value. The leading states in organic sales were California, Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Seventy percent of the primary operators on Minnesota farms with organic production have been on their present farming operation for more than 10 years.

The average age of primary organic operators was 51 years in 2007, compared to 55 years for all Minnesota primary operators.

Women comprised nearly 12 percent of the primary operators on Minnesota farms with organic production, versus 9 percent for all Minnesota farms.

Nationally, there were 20,437 organic farms utilizing 2,577,418 acres for organic production in 2007.

USDA provides $50 million to encourage organic farming

As part of a new initiative to encourage more organic agricultural production, $50 million in funding is being made available nationwide through USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Minnesota's portion of the funding will total nearly $1.8 million.

The organic initiative can provide financial assistance to either certified organic producers, or those still in the process of transitioning to organic production. Organic producers may also qualify for assistance under the general program provisions.

Under the initiative, minimum core conservation practices will be determined by specific resource concerns. Examples of minimum core practices could include crop rotation; nutrient management; pest management; prescribed grazing; and forage crop management.

Applications will be accepted through May 29 at USDA Service Centers. Following the application deadline, all applications received will be ranked to determine funding priority.

The 2009 national Environmental Quality Incentives Program organic initiative is being administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

New 'Minnesota Grown Directory' available in print and online

More consumers are discovering both the nutritional benefits and the satisfaction that purchasing locally grown food can provide. In an effort to help connect consumers with local producers, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has released the 2009 edition of the Minnesota Grown Directory.

To keep up with consumer demand, the Minnesota Grown Program printed 190,000 copies of the directory this year, 5,000 more than last year.

Consumers can receive a complimentary copy of the Minnesota Grown Directory by calling Explore Minnesota Tourism at: 1-888-868-7476. The guide is also offered online as a searchable database at:

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