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Limited haying or grazing of CRP acres is allowed

WILLMAR -- Livestock producers seeking additional supplies of hay should note that local Farm Service Agency offices are now accepting requests to allow limited haying or grazing of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

In accordance with those provisions, the use of CRP acres for haying or grazing is limited to specific conservation practices. For example, haying or grazing is prohibited on acres devoted to filter strips, tree plantings and wetland restorations.

Haying or grazing is also prohibited on program land located within 120 feet of streams or other permanent bodies of water. In addition, haying or grazing is allowed only on acres where the cover crop has been fully established for at least one year.

Haying or grazing is only permitted once every three years on the same acres, including any previous approvals under either the emergency or critical feed use provisions of the Conservation Reserve Program.

Haying or grazing cannot occur during the primary nesting or brood rearing season, which locally ends Sunday. Therefore, haying or grazing cannot begin until after that date.

A payment reduction of 25 percent of the Conservation Reserve Program annual rental rate will be assessed on the number of acres hayed or grazed.

Program participants who do not own livestock may rent or lease the privilege to hay or graze their acres to a livestock producer. However, any livestock producers renting or leasing those haying or grazing privileges must sign a statement agreeing that they will not sublease the Conservation Reserve Program acres.

Hay harvested under these provisions may be sold to anyone at any price.

Before haying or grazing can begin, program participants will need to visit their USDA Service Center and indicate on aerial maps which acres they wish to hay or graze, and sign all required documents.

New initiative to protect migrating birds

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is adversely affecting the marshes and coastlands used by shorebirds, waterfowl and other birds that will soon be traveling through the area on their annual migration south.

In an attempt to protect as many birds as possible from coming in contact with the oil spill, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have implemented a new program called the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative.

Administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the new initiative has been allocated up to $20 million that will be used to pay farmers and landowners that agree to flood up to 150,000 acres of land in eight Gulf Coast states that stretch from Texas to Florida.

Under the special initiative, USDA intends to offer payment incentives to landowners willing to flood existing farmed wetlands, prior converted wetlands or other land that can provide immediate habitat for migratory birds.

Rice fields are particularly suited for this initiative. Aquiculture farms that have been abandoned or that could be modified to provide additional habitat are also a focus, since they can easily be flooded and manipulated.

Wildlife and government officials hope that migrating birds and waterfowl will utilize the 150,000 acres of additional wetland habitat, rather than migrating further south into the marshlands that are now threatened by the oil spill.

Agreement reached on U.S. poultry exports to Russia

Trade representatives from the United States and Russia have reached an agreement that will resume the exporting of U.S. poultry to Russia.

Under the agreement, the U.S. will provide information on what disinfectants and pathogen reduction treatments are known to be approved by Russia for poultry processing.

In addition, the United States has agreed to provide Russia with information on the solutions that companies use on poultry shipped to their country, including an updated list of poultry processing facilities authorized to ship poultry to Russia.

In 2009, U.S. poultry exports to Russia were valued at $767 million.

Spring wheat production up 14 percent in Minnesota

Based on field conditions as of July 1, the Minnesota Agricultural Statistical Service is forecasting that Minnesota farmers will harvest 94.1 million bushels of spring wheat, up 14 percent from last year.

Yields are expected to average 57 bushels per acre, up 4 bushels from 2009.

According to USDA, Minnesota farmers will harvest 1.75 million acres of spring wheat, 100,000 acres more than 2009.

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