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IRS to assist USDA in enforcing income eligibility provisions

WILLMAR -- The Internal Revenue Service has agreed to assist the U.S. Department of Agriculture in reducing federal farm program fraud by enhancing its enforcement of the income eligibility provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Officials from USDA have finalized an agreement with the IRS to establish an electronic information exchange process to verify compliance with the adjusted gross income provisions of programs administered by the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

This agreement will ensure that payments are not issued to individuals or entities with average adjusted gross incomes that exceed limits.

The electronic process used by IRS will review data from federal income tax returns over a specified three-year period, perform a series of calculations to determine an average, and then compare the resulting value with the limits.

Local USDA agencies will be provided access to reports, indicating whether or not a specific individual or entity meets the income eligibility provisions. However, no actual tax data will be provided to USDA.

As part of the agreement, the IRS will require that individuals or entities submit a written consent allowing USDA to receive a verification of the income data. Further, failure to provide the IRS with the written consent may require a refund of previously issued federal farm program payments for 2009 and 2010.

The consent forms are for IRS purposes only and therefore must be sent directly to the IRS. To avoid any delays in the issuance of 2010 program payments, or the possible refunding of 2009 payments, the consent forms must be provided to the IRS by June 15.

There are two different IRS consent forms -- one for individuals and the other for entities. Both forms are available at local USDA Service Centers or online at:

New vaccines for E. coli bacteria

Immunizing calves with either of two forms of vaccine recently developed by scientists from USDA's Agricultural Research Service might reduce the spread of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.

The microbe can flourish in an animal's digestive tract, but it doesn't cause them to show any clinical symptoms of illness. In humans, however, E. coli can cause bouts of diarrhea, sometimes resulting in life-threatening conditions or even death.

Research microbiologists Vijay K. Sharma and Thomas A. Casey developed the novel vaccines in their laboratories at the National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, and are now seeking a patent for it.

Preventing the proliferation of the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria on the inside of cattle could help reduce the contamination of meat at packinghouses. But in addition, reducing the shedding of the microbe into the animals' manure would also reduce the chances of the E. coli bacteria contaminating drinking water supplies, or water used to irrigate vegetables or other crops, thereby also reducing a possible outbreak of food-borne illness.

In preliminary tests, Sharma and Casey found that Holstein calves immunized at 3 months of age, with either vaccine, had reduced or non-detectable levels of E. coli within only a few days of being inoculated with the bacteria.

January interest rate unchanged

The interest rate on commodity loans disbursed during the month of January will be 1.375 percent, unchanged from December's rate.

Farmers who received commodity loans during calendar year 2009 will have the interest rate on their loans adjusted to 1.375 percent, effective Jan. 1. This rate will remain in effect for the remainder of the loan period.

The interest rate on farm storage facility loans approved during the month of January will be 2.875 percent for a seven-year loan term; 3.375 percent for a 10-year loan term; and 3.750 percent for a 12-year loan term.

December corn prices decrease, beans increase

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, prices received by Minnesota corn farmers during December averaged $3.55 per bushel, a decrease of $0.02 from November's average price.

December soybean prices increased to an average price of $9.80 per bushel, up $0.48 from November.

Hog prices averaged $46.20 per hundredweight, an increase of $4.50 from November's average price.

December beef prices averaged $70.60 per hundredweight, down $1.10 from the previous month.

Minnesota milk prices during December averaged $17 per hundredweight, up $0.08 from November.

Closed Monday

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday will be observed on Jan. 18. All USDA Service Centers will be closed for business Monday in observance of the federal holiday.

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