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USDA forecasts record soybean acreage in 2010

WILLMAR -- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Prospective Plantings report, farmers intend to plant a record-high 78.1 million acres of soybeans in 2010, up 1 percent from last year's previous record.

The largest soybean acreage increases are expected in Kansas, up 400,000 acres, and Iowa, up 300,000. Increases of 100,000 or more acres are also expected in Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The report also indicates that U.S. farmers intend to plant 88.8 million acres of corn this year, up 3 percent from 2009. This would be the second-largest number of corn acres since 1947, exceeded only in 2007.

Expected corn acreage is up in many states due to reduced winter wheat acreage and growers' expectations of improved net returns.

Increases of 300,000 or more corn acres are expected in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. Iowa will continue to lead the nation with 13.5 million corn acres, despite an expected decline of 200,000 acres from 2009.

In addition to the expected increases in soybean and corn acres, USDA is also forecasting that U.S. farmers will increase their planted acres of cotton by 15 percent, to 10.5 million acres.

One crop that will see a significant decrease in acreage in 2010 is wheat, which is expected to decline by 9 percent, to 53.8 million acres, the smallest total acres since 1970. Much of the decline in wheat acres will be due to a 13 percent drop in winter wheat acres.

Overall, USDA expects that the total acres planted to principal crops nationwide will hold steady at 319.5 million acres in 2010. That follows a 5.7 percent decline in 2009.

The Prospective Plantings report provides the first official survey-based estimates of U.S. farmers' planting intentions for 2010. To create the report, USDA surveyed approximately 86,000 farm operators across the United States during the first two weeks of March.

China agrees to reopen market to U.S. pork, pork products

Officials from the United States and China have reached an agreement that will reopen the Chinese market to U.S. pork and pork products.

The agreement is welcome news for U.S. hog producers, who for several years have struggled with low prices, primarily the result of excess supplies and a significant drop in demand due to unfounded fears by some consumers and foreign governments regarding the safety of pork and pork products following the outbreak of the H1N1 virus.

Prior to the H1N1 trade constraints, U.S. pork and pork variety meats exported to China were valued at nearly $275 million in 2008. China was the United States' seventh largest market, accounting for 6 percent of U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports.

In 2009, 20 percent of U.S. pork production was exported.

USDA's Dairy Industry Advisory Committee to meet April 13-15

The first meeting of the newly established Dairy Industry Advisory Committee will be Tuesday through Thursday at USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Dairy Industry Advisory Committee was chartered to review farm milk price volatility and dairy farmer profitability.

The committee will make recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on how USDA can best address these issues to meet the dairy industry's needs, both short-term and long-term.

The committee will also provide feedback on how recent actions taken by USDA have affected the dairy industry.

April interest rates unchanged from March rate

The interest rate on commodity loans disbursed during the month of April will be 1.375 percent, unchanged from the March rate.

The interest rate on farm storage facility loans approved during the month of April will be 3.125 percent for a 7-year loan term; 3.625 percent for a 10-year loan term; and 4.000 percent for a 12-year loan term. The rates are also the same as March's.

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