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USDA data show 43 percent decline in soil erosion

WILLMAR -- According to the information contained in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest National Resource Inventory of non-federal lands, soil erosion on our nation's cropland has declined by more than 40 percent during the past 25 years.

Specifically, USDA's data indicate that total cropland erosion from water and wind declined by more than 43 percent, from more than 3 billion tons per year in 1982 to about 1.7 billion tons per year in 2007, with most of the reduction occurring between 1987 and 1997.

Other noteworthy findings include:

- Cropland acreage in the U.S. has declined by about 25 percent in the last 25 years, from 420 million acres in 1982 to 357 million acres in 2007. About half of this reduction is reflected by the enrollment of environmentally sensitive cropland in USDA's Conservation Reserve Program.

- There were about 325 million acres of prime farmland in 2007, compared to 339 million acres in 1982. The acreage of prime farmland converted to other uses, such as development, during that timeframe is greater than the combined area of Vermont and New Hampshire, and almost as large as West Virginia.

- About 40 million acres of land were newly developed between 1982 and 2007, bringing the national total to about 111 million acres. More development occurred in the Southeast region of the U.S. than in any other region.

- The total area of developed land in the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, is approximately equal to the combined surface area of Illinois, Iowa and Michigan.

- Land that was newly developed between 1982 and 2007 covered an area slightly larger than Iowa. The largest increase in development was 10.7 million acres between 1992 and 1997.

USDA issues $165M for biomass program

Through April 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had approved 4,605 agreements for the delivery of more than 4.18 million tons of biomass and had paid eligible biomass owners more than $165 million in matching payments under the first phase of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program.

Under the program, USDA's Farm Service Agency can assist those who own biomass by providing payments for the collection, harvest, storage and transportation of eligible biomass delivered to an approved facility for the conversion to biofuel usage.

Authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program was designed to spur new energy and economic development in rural America by reducing the financial risks for farmers and foresters who invest in the establishment, production, harvest and delivery of biomass crops to displace the use of fossil fuels.

Commodity loan deadline is June 1

The final day to request a nine-month commodity loan on 2010-crop corn and soybeans is June 1.

The interest rate on commodity loans disbursed during the month of May is 1.5 percent, up slightly from April's rate of 1.375 percent.

At 1.5 percent, the interest cost for a nine-month corn loan is about $0.02 per bushel. The cost for a nine-month soybean loan is less than $0.06 per bushel.

County loan rates vary slightly, but the loan rates for Kandiyohi County are $1.85 for corn, and $4.85 for soybeans.

March hog, cattle prices rise sharply

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, prices received by Minnesota hog producers during March averaged $54.70 per hundredweight, an increase of $4 from February's average.

March beef cattle prices increased to an average price of $83.10 per hundredweight, up $2.70 from February.

Minnesota corn prices during March averaged $3.60 per bushel, up $0.03 from February's average price.

March soybean prices averaged $8.90 per bushel, down $0.26 from the previous month.

Minnesota milk prices during March averaged $14.90 per hundredweight, down $1 from February.

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