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New USDA study identifies local gaps in meat processing

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a preliminary study revealing existing gaps within regional food systems regarding the availability of slaughter facilities for small meat and poultry producers.

The study, by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, is a first attempt to identify areas in the U.S. where small livestock and poultry producers are concentrated, but may not have access to a nearby slaughter facility.

An interesting feature of the study are maps that provide a county-by-county view of the continental United States, indicating the concentration of small farms raising cattle, hogs and pigs, and chickens. In addition, the maps also note the location of nearby state slaughter facilities, and small and very small federal slaughter establishments.

The USDA defines small slaughter establishments as those having between 10 and 499 employees, and very small slaughter establishments as having fewer than 10 employees, or less than $2.5 million in annual sales.

For the purpose of this study, small livestock and poultry producers are those who have annual sales of $250,000 or less.

To view the entire report, including the maps, visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service website at:

Dairy producers to receive April payments

Due to abnormally low milk prices during the month of April, dairy producers will qualify for payments under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Milk Income Loss Contract Program.

Initially authorized by the 2002 farm bill, and then reauthorized under the 2008 farm bill, the program provides financial assistance to dairy producers whenever the Boston Class 1 milk price falls below the payment trigger price of $16.94 per hundredweight. In that case, producers qualify for a payment equal to 45 percent of the price difference.

The Boston Class 1 milk price for April was $16.47 per hundredweight. Therefore, dairy producers will receive a payment of $0.21 per hundredweight for milk produced and sold during the month of April. Local Farm Service Agency offices will begin issuing the payments in early June.

The Boston Class 1 milk price for the months of May and June has already been announced by USDA. The price for May was $17.05 per hundredweight, and $18.53 for June. Since the price for both months exceeds the $16.94 trigger price, dairy producers will not qualify for payments for either month.

Assistance available for orchard, nursery tree losses

Orchardists and nursery tree growers who need to replant or rehabilitate trees, bushes and vines damaged or destroyed by natural disasters can now apply for benefits under the Tree Assistance Program.

To be eligible, producers must have suffered more than a 15 percent death loss due to a natural disaster, after adjusting for normal mortality. Eligible losses must have occurred on or after Jan. 1, 2008, and before Oct. 1, 2011.

The program can provide up to 70 percent of replanting costs, and up to 50 percent of pruning, removal and other salvaging costs for the replacement or salvaging of damaged trees.

To qualify for assistance, producers must also have purchased a policy or plan of insurance under the Federal Crop Insurance Act or the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

The 2008 farm bill expanded the eligibility of the Tree Assistance Program to include Christmas tree and nursery tree growers that were ineligible under prior legislation. Trees grown for pulp or timber, or not grown for commercial purposes are ineligible.

For more information, contact your local Farm Service Agency office or visit the agency's website at:

NRCS recognized on its 75th anniversary

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved a resolution recognizing the 75th anniversary of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In response to a national disaster known as the Dust Bowl, which devastated vast regions of our nation's farmland, Congress established the Soil Conservation Service in 1935. The agency's name was changed to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 1994 to more accurately reflect the agency's role in protecting all natural resources.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to landowners at the local level, recognizing the diverse needs across the country and the unique concerns in each local area.

There is a field office in almost every county in the United States, and those offices help local communities carry out thousands of conservation projects.

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