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U.S. farm exports reach record high in 2010

WILLMAR -- According to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. farm exports during the 2010 calendar year reached an all-time high of $115.8 billion. The record high value reflects an increase in both the value and volume of U.S. agricultural exports worldwide.

In 2010, export sales of bulk commodities increased by 19 percent to $47.2 billion, and sales of consumer-oriented agricultural products increased 15 percent to $45.4 billion.

China, for the first time, became the top export market for U.S. agricultural exports in 2010 with $17.5 billion in sales. Canada was the second biggest market with $16.9 billion in sales.

Soybeans were the largest U.S. agricultural export product, reaching a record $18.6 billion in sales, surpassing the previous record of $16.4 billion in 2009.

China purchased 58 percent of all U.S. soybean exports in 2010. This is a significant increase from 2000, when China purchased 19 percent of the total U.S. soybean exports.

Farmers have until March 15 to qualify for 2011 disaster programs

With the passage of the 2008 farm bill, crop and livestock producers can qualify for two new permanent disaster programs. Those programs include the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program and the Livestock Forage Program.

The 2008 farm bill authorizes payments to farmers and livestock producers with crop production or quality losses under the revenue program, and grazing losses under the forage program.

While there is no sign-up or application period, producers who wish to have the protection provided by these disaster programs for the 2011 crop year will need to have federal crop insurance coverage on all their insurable crops, or a Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program policy for any uninsurable crops. The deadline to purchase either crop insurance or the non-insured program coverage for Minnesota's spring seeded crops is March 15.

Generally, the requirement to have either crop insurance or non-insured coverage for the 2011 crop year applies to all land and crops that a producer has an interest in, including land located in other counties. However, since the enactment of the farm bill, Congress has authorized the following exceptions to this policy.

To be eligible for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, producers are no longer required to obtain crop insurance or non-insured coverage for crops intended for grazing or pasture use. However, to remain eligible for the Livestock Forage Program, insurance or non-insured coverage on grazing or pasture acres will be required.

Producers can also waive the crop insurance or non-insured coverage requirement for a crop if the Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program fee exceeds 10 percent of the value of the coverage, or if the crop is not considered economically significant. An economically significant crop is defined as any crop that is expected to contribute 5 percent or more of the total expected value of all crops grown by the producer.

NAP application deadline is March 15

The Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program provides protection from weather-related losses for virtually all crops produced commercially that cannot be insured under the federal crop insurance program.

In addition to losses directly related to severe weather conditions, the program also provides coverage for losses resulting from insect infestations and plant diseases if their occurrence was the result of damaging weather conditions. Coverage for prevented planting is also provided if more than 35 percent of the crop is affected.

To be eligible for coverage, producers must pay the required service fee by the application deadline. The deadline to apply for coverage on pasture and spring seeded crops, including vegetables, is March 15.

The service fee for coverage is $250 per crop, per county, not to exceed $750 per county. In addition, the service fees cannot exceed $1,875 per producer for all counties where crops are produced.

Producers can qualify for payments if severe weather conditions result in a reduction of the producer's expected production by more than 50 percent. Lost production eligible for payment is paid at 55 percent of the value of the crop, as determined by USDA.

Minnesota apple production down 22 percent in 2010

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, utilized apple production in Minnesota totaled an estimated 15.8 million pounds in 2010, down 4.5 million pounds or 22 percent from 2009.

The value of production received for the 2010 crop was up 5 percent from 2009. The preliminary average price received for Minnesota apples was 79.6 cents per pound, up 20.5 cents from 2009.

The average price received includes fresh sales of both retail and wholesale apples, plus processing sales on a delivered wholesale basis.

Both production and price estimates are subject to revision when the updated annual summary is published on July 7.

Utilized apple production in the United States in 2010 was estimated at 9.21 billion pounds, down 3 percent from the previous year.

Utilized production in Washington increased 6 percent in 2010, to 5.5 billion pounds. New York's utilized production decreased 6 percent, and Michigan's utilized production decreased 41 percent.

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