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Study verifies effectiveness of USDA's market development work

WILLMAR -- An independent study by IHS Global Insight Inc. found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's international market development programs have had a positive and significant impact on U.S. agricultural trade.

The study evaluated the effectiveness of the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program administered by USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service.

The report updated a larger study conducted in 2006 and focused on the period of 2002 through 2009. The report concluded that since 2002, the additional spending on market development increased our nation's export market share by 1.3 percentage points and increased the annual value of U.S. agricultural exports by $6.1 billion.

The study also concluded that for every additional $1 expended by government and industry on market development, U.S. food and agricultural exports increased by $35.

The export gains associated with the programs increased the average annual level of U.S. farm cash receipts by $4.4 billion and net cash farm income by $1.5 billion.

At the same time, U.S. domestic support program payments were reduced by roughly $54 million annually due to higher prices from increased demand abroad, thereby reducing the net cost of the programs.

Farm Service Agency accepting nominations for committees

Local Farm Service Agency offices are now accepting nominations of candidates for the 2010 county committee election. Eligible voters can nominate, by petition, candidates of their choice. Producers may also nominate themselves.

Nationwide, there are more than 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving as county committee members. Committees consist of three to five members who are elected by local agricultural producers.

Committee members make many important decisions regarding the local administration of commodity and price support programs, including eligibility for several conservation and disaster assistance programs.

Under the county committee election process, each county is divided into election districts known as local administrative areas. Each area has one representative serving on the county committee.

Since the terms of county committee members are staggered, only one local administrative area conducts an election each year. Your local Farm Service Agency office will announce which area will be holding an election this year.

To be eligible to serve on the county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by the local Farm Service Agency office. In addition, the candidate must be of legal voting age and considered an eligible voter in the area that will be holding an election.

According to the election requirements, a county committee member cannot serve more than three consecutive three-year terms.

Spouses listed on a property deed are eligible to vote, and therefore may also qualify as candidates for the county committee.

Since the Farm Service Agency is committed to promoting diversity on its local county committees, nominations of individuals that represent minorities and other under-represented agricultural producers, including women, are being encouraged.

To become a nominee, eligible individuals must complete and sign the required nomination form, which can be obtained from any Farm Service Agency office, or online at:

The deadline for submitting nominations is Aug. 2. Election ballots will be mailed to all eligible voters by Nov. 5. Newly elected committee members and alternates will begin serving a three-year term on Jan. 1.

New 'Minnesota Grown Directory' available in print, also online

More consumers are discovering both the nutritional benefits and the personal satisfaction that purchasing locally grown food can provide. In an effort to help connect consumers with local producers, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has released the 2010 edition of the Minnesota Grown Directory.

The 2010 directory has 840 listings, including 120 farmers markets, 107 apple orchards, 58 community-supported agriculture farms, along with many berry patches, garden centers and other places where you can purchase products directly from the farmer.

Consumers can receive a complimentary copy of the Minnesota Grown Directory by calling Explore Minnesota Tourism at: 1-888-868-7476. The guide is also offered online as a searchable database at: www.

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