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Number of farmers markets up 13 percent in 2009 in U.S.

WILLMAR -- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets in the United States is up more than 13 percent from a year ago. A recent update of USDA's online Farmers Markets Directory now lists 5,274 markets nationwide, up from 4,685 reported in 2008.

USDA's support of farmers markets is just one component of its "Know Your Farm, Know Your Food" initiative to help local and regional food systems and spur economic development.

By successfully restoring the link between consumers and producers, new income opportunities are provided for local agricultural producers and the money that those opportunities generate is more likely to stay within the local community.

Since USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service began tracking farmers markets in 1994, the number has grown by nearly 4,000 nationwide. A national directory of farmers markets is available at

Updates to USDA's farmers markets listing are continually being made. New information about markets and market contacts should be sent to Velma Lakins at

FSA's maximum guaranteed loan limit increased to $1.1 million

Officials from USDA's Farm Service Agency have announced that the loan limit for its Guaranteed Loan Program has been increased to $1,112,000, effective Oct. 1. The limit is adjusted annually based on the "Prices Paid to Farmers Index," compiled by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The increased limit will enhance the agency's ability to meet the credit needs of farmers throughout the country.

The Guaranteed Loan Program allows commercial and farm credit lenders to extend credit to qualified applicants, who otherwise would not meet their standard lending criteria.

Participating lenders can use the Guaranteed Loan Program to strengthen a loan's viability through a government guarantee of up to 95 percent of the loan amount. Farmers interested in a guaranteed loan should apply through a commercial lender.

The FSA also offers a Direct Loan Program as an alternative for those unable to obtain financing from commercial credit sources.

The loan limit for these government-funded loans is $300,000. Farmers interested in applying for a direct loan should contact their local FSA office.

Minnesota net farm income up 101 percent in 2008 from 2007

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, net farm income received by Minnesota farmers in 2008 was up 101 percent from 2007.

The higher net income was largely due to the increased value of crop production in 2008, which outpaced the rise in production expenses.

Farm expenses for seed and fertilizers were up 20 and 30 percent respectively, while the cost for pesticides was up 14 percent from 2007.

Government payments to Minnesota farmers in 2008 totaled $544 million, up 13 percent from 2007.

USDA projecting higher production and yields for Minnesota

According to USDA's October Crop Production Report, corn production in Minnesota is projected to total 1.21 billion bushels, up from the 1.18 billion bushels produced in 2008.

Based on crop conditions as of Oct. 1, corn yields in Minnesota are expected to average 170 bushels per acre, up 6 bushels from last year.

Minnesota farmers are expected to harvest 7.1 million acres of corn for grain, down 100,000 acres from 2008.

Minnesota soybean production is forecast to total 284 million bushels, up 7 percent from last year. Soybean yields in Minnesota are expected to average 40 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels from 2008.

Minnesota sugar beet production is expected to total 11.03 million tons, up 12 percent from 2008. Sugar beet yields are expected to average 24.5 tons per acre, down slightly from last year's record yield of 24.7 tons per acre.

Dry bean production in Minnesota is estimated at 2.52 million hundredweight, down 11 percent from last year. Dry bean yields are expected to average 1,800 pounds per acre, down from the 1,950 pound average in 2008.

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