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Eight percent of U.S. farms enrolled in new revenue program

WILLMAR -- According to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, approximately 8 percent of the total number of farms in the United States enrolled in the new Average Crop Revenue Election program in 2009. The farms enrolled represent nearly 13 percent of the nation's total base acres.

Of the 22 different crops eligible for enrollment, corn had the highest number of base acres enrolled, followed by wheat and soybeans.

The states with the largest number of base acres enrolled were Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

In Minnesota, approximately 6 percent of the farms were enrolled in Average Crop Revenue Election, representing about 10 percent of the state's total base acres.

The new optional program, which was authorized by the 2008 farm bill, offers a revenue-based safety net payment that is rather different than the price-based safety net provided by the traditional counter-cyclical payments under the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program.

Producers participating in the Average Crop Revenue Election program do qualify for direct payments and marketing assistance loans. However, the direct payment rates are reduced by 20 percent and loan rates are reduced by 30 percent for farms enrolled.

While the decision to participate in the optional program can still be made for the crop years 2010-2012, once a farm's operator and owner agree to participate, the decision becomes irrevocable for the remainder of the 2008 farm bill or through the 2012 crop year.

USDA to purchase $50M in pork

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that USDA will purchase $82.6 million worth of pork, cherry, plum and apple products for a number of federal food nutrition assistance programs.

USDA intends to purchase $50 million of pork, $12.2 million of tart cherries, $1.8 million of dried plums and $18.6 million of apples.

The pork purchases will help farmers reduce their sow herd in a market where production costs continue to exceed market value.

The tart cherry, dried plum and apple purchases will help alleviate the stress caused by higher inventories and low prices that farmers are receiving for their commodities.

The department will seek the lowest overall costs by surveying potential suppliers and publicly inviting bids to assure contracts are awarded to responsible bidders.

The commodities purchased must meet specified grade requirements and be USDA-certified to ensure they meet government standards of quality. In addition, USDA will purchase only commodities produced in the United States.

USDA proposal allows interstate shipping of meat, poultry products

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed the implementation of a new voluntary cooperative program that will allow select state-inspected establishments to ship meat and poultry products in interstate commerce.

The proposal, which was mandated by the 2008 farm bill, will allow state-inspected plants with 25 or fewer employees to ship products across state lines.

Currently 27 states, including Minnesota, operate state meat and poultry inspection programs. The Food Safety and Inspection Service verifies that the state programs are implementing requirements that are at least equal to those imposed under the federal meat and poultry products inspection acts.

Meat and poultry products produced under the cooperative program will bear an official USDA mark of inspection, thereby enabling interstate shipment of the products.

USDA increases Minnesota corn and soybean yield estimates

According to USDA's November Crop Production Report, corn production in Minnesota is projected to total 1.22 billion bushels, up from the 1.21 billion-bushel forecast in October and up from the 1.18 billion bushels produced in 2008.

Based on crop conditions as of Nov. 1, corn yields in Minnesota are now expected to average 172 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels from last month's forecast and up 8 bushels from last year.

Minnesota soybean production is forecast to total 298 million bushels, up 5 percent from the October forecast and up 13 percent from last year. Soybean yields in Minnesota are now expected to average 42 bushels per acre, up 2 bushels from last month's estimate and up 4 bushels from 2008.

Minnesota sugar beet production is expected to total 10.5 million tons, down 5 percent from October's forecast, but still up 6 percent from 2008. Sugar beet yields are now expected to average 23 tons per acre, down 1.5 tons from last month and down 1.7 tons from last year's record yield of 24.7 tons per acre.

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