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2011 farm program sign-up under way

WILLMAR -- Sign-up for the 2011 Direct and Countercyclical Payment program and the Average Crop Revenue Election program is now under way at local Farm Service Agency offices. Sign-up will continue through June 1.

Under the Direct and Countercyclical Payment program, participants can qualify for two types of payments, both of which are computed using a farm's base acres and payment yields.

The first type is called a direct payment. The direct rates are specified in the 2008 farm bill and are earned without regard to market prices. For that reason, the direct payment is sometimes referred to as the "guaranteed" payment.

The direct payment rates per bushel are as follows: barley - $0.24; corn - $0.28; oats - $0.024; soybeans - $0.44; and wheat - $0.52.

The second type of payment is a countercyclical payment. It is not guaranteed since the payment rates will vary depending on market prices. Therefore, countercyclical payments can be sizable during years when prices are low, with little or no payment when prices are high.

Program provisions also allow participants to request and receive a portion of their direct payment in advance. During sign-up, eligible producers may request an advance payment equal to 22 percent of the total direct payment for each commodity. Local Farm Service Agency offices will issue the advance direct payment as soon as practical after enrollment.

Authorized by the 2008 farm bill, the optional Average Crop Revenue Election program provides a financial safety net based on state revenue losses, and takes the place of the price-based countercyclical payments under the Direct and Countercyclical Payment program.

The decision to enroll a farm into the Average Crop Revenue Election program is irrevocable. Participation begins with the initial year of enrollment and continues through the 2012 crop year.

Since enrollment is irrevocable, all producers and owners of a farm must agree to participate.

By participating in the Average Crop Revenue Election program, producers agree to forgo countercyclical payments, accept a 20 percent reduction in their direct payments, and accept a 30 percent reduction in the commodity loan rates for all commodities produced on the farm.

New research reduces transfats in soybean oil

According to USDA's Agricultural Research Service, university scientists have developed two new soybean lines that contain higher levels of oleic acid, thereby lowering the amount of transfats present in the soybean oil produced from the soybeans.

Increasing the level of monounsaturated fat in soybean oil can reduce the need for hydrogenation, a process whereby liquid oil is converted into a solid, like margarine.

Hydrogenation helps improve shelf life and product quality. But it also generates transfats, which can alter the body's blood cholesterol levels by producing more "bad" LDL cholesterol than "good" HDL cholesterol.

Typically, soybean oil is 20 percent oleic acid. But the amount of oleic acid in soybean oil produced from the new soybean lines increases to more than 80 percent.

In 2008, soybean oil accounted for 70 percent of all edible oils and fats consumed in America, underscoring the importance of reducing transfats in cooking, baking and deep-frying.

Increasing the amount of oleic acid in soybean oil may also provide industrial benefits, such as improving cold-weather engine performance when using soybean-based biodiesel.

2011 price elections offered for organic corn and soybeans

Officials from USDA's Risk Management Agency have announced that they plan to offer organic price elections for four crops during the 2011 production year.

The four organic crops include corn, soybeans, cotton and processing tomatoes.

The agency is also eliminating a current five percent surcharge for organic crops insured under ten other crop insurance programs.

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