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Eligibility for Farmable Wetlands Program expanded

WILLMAR -- In addition to reauthorizing the Farmable Wetlands Program through Sept. 30, 2012, the 2008 farm bill also expanded the amount of land that can qualify for the program.

Authorized under the provisions of the Conservation Reserve Program, the Farmable Wetlands Program is a voluntary program with a goal of restoring up to 1 million acres of U.S. farmable wetlands and associated buffers.

Under the program, agricultural producers enter into 10- to 15-year contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the contract period, participants must agree to restore the hydrology of the wetland and establish a specified vegetative cover crop on any adjacent buffer areas.

By entering into a contract with USDA, participants will qualify for a 20 percent increase in their annual rental payment from USDA. In addition, participants receive a $100-per-acre, one-time incentive payment at the time of contract approval; and a 40 percent increase in the amount of cost-share assistance normally received to cover the cost of restoring wetlands and planting the associated buffer areas.

The 2008 farm bill expanded the Farmable Wetlands Program land eligibility criteria to include land that after Jan. 1, 1990, and before Dec. 31, 2002, was cropped during at least three of 10 crop years.

In addition, the maximum allowable wetland acreage that can be offered under the program was increased from 10 acres to 40 acres. Also, the total of the wetland and buffer areas may now exceed 40 acres per tract.

The farm bill limits the amount of acreage that can be enrolled to 1 million acres, with no more than 100,000 in any one state. There are 188,000 acres currently enrolled nationwide.

Producers and interested landowners should visit their local USDA Service Center to determine if they have land that qualifies for the program.

Soybean check-off program to continue without a referendum

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that because too few producers requested a referendum, a vote on the continuance of the Soybean Promotion and Research Order, commonly referred to as the soybean check-off program, will not be held.

The request for referendum was held from May 4 to May 29 at USDA's Farm Service Agency offices.

The Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a request for referendum every five years after the initial referendum, which was conducted in 1994. A request for referendum period was used to determine if there was sufficient interest among soybean producers to have a vote on whether to continue the check-off program.

A referendum would have been held if at least 10 percent of the nation's 589,182 soybean producers had requested one. Only 759 soybean producers requested a referendum, far short of the required 58,918.

Illinois and Indiana had the most requests for referendum, with 112 requests each. Minnesota received 71 requests.

USDA study verifies cost of raising children

A recent study completed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that a middle-income family with a child born in 2008 can expect to spend about $221,190 -- or $291,570 when adjusted for inflation -- for food, shelter and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years.

Issued annually since 1960, USDA's report is a valuable resource to courts and state governments in determining child support guidelines and foster care payments.

For 2008, annual child-rearing expenses for a middle-income, two-parent family ranged from $11,610 to $13,480, depending on the age of the child.

The study also found that family income affects child rearing costs. A family earning less than $56,870 per year can expect to spend a total of $159,870, in 2008 dollars, on a child from birth through high school. Similarly, parents with an income between $56,870 and $98,470 can expect to spend $221,190; and a family earning more than $98,470 can expect to spend $366,660.

In 1960, a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 -- or $183,509 in 2008 dollars -- to raise a child through age 17.

Housing costs are the single largest expenditure for a child, averaging $69,660 or 32 percent of the total cost over 17 years. Food and child care/education -- for those with the expense -- were the next two largest expenses, each averaging 16 percent of the total expenditure.

The cost estimates provided in the report do not include the cost of childbearing or the cost of a college education.

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