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USDA releases 2010 yield, production estimates

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released the county yield and production estimates for 2010. The estimates confirm what many local corn and soybean farmers already knew -- that the 2010 crop may have been their best ever.

In addition to the exceptional yields, an earlier-than-normal planting season and an abundance of growing degree days allowed farmers to harvest a crop with outstanding test weights and unusually low moisture content, reducing substantially the need for artificial drying.

In nearly all cases, local county average yields for corn and soybeans were higher than the 2009 county averages, and in many instances, set new record highs.

But local farmers were not alone in being blessed with another exceptional crop. As a whole, Minnesota corn and soybean farmers also enjoyed outstanding yields and record-breaking levels of production.

According to the annual crop summary released by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, Minnesota corn production in 2010 totaled 1.29 billion bushels, breaking the previous record of 1.24 billion bushels set in 2009.

Minnesota's average corn yield also set a new record high of 177 bushels per acre, up 3 bushels from the previous high set in 2009.

Soybean production in Minnesota totaled 329 million bushels in 2010, a new record high and up 16 percent from a year ago.

Minnesota's average soybean yield was estimated at 45 bushels per acre, up 5 bushels from 2009.

But on the national level, USDA's final corn and soybean production estimates were less than record-breaking.

Corn production in the United States totaled 12.4 billion bushels in 2010, down 5 percent from the record high of 13.1 billion bushels set in 2009.

Corn yields in the U.S. averaged 152.8 bushels per acre, down 11.9 bushels from the record high of 164.7 bushels per acre set in 2009.

Soybean production in the U.S. totaled 3.33 billion bushels in 2010, down 1 percent from the 2009 record high.

Nationally, soybean yields averaged 43.5 bushels per acre, down 0.5 bushel from the record high in 2009.

Foreigner owners must report land transactions to USDA

Foreign persons with an interest in agricultural land are required to report such transaction to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency within 90 days of transaction.

Under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, any foreign person who either fails to report, or is late in reporting such transactions, could face a possible fine of up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land.

For reporting purposes, USDA defines agricultural land as any tract of land more than 10 acres in size and currently devoted to farming, ranching, forestry or timber production. Foreign investors who own or have an interest in 10 or fewer acres are not required to report such transactions unless annual proceeds for the sale of agricultural products from those acres exceed $1,000.

Disclosure reports are also required when there are changes in land use. For example, reports are required when land use changes from non-agricultural to agricultural or from agricultural to non-agricultural.

Foreign investors must also file a report when there is a change in the status of ownership.

Data obtained from the disclosure reports is used to prepare an annual report to the president and Congress concerning the effect of such holdings on family farms and rural communities.

Congress passed the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 in response to concerns about foreign ownership of U.S. farmland.

Despite those earlier concerns, data collected by USDA indicate that foreigners have consistently owned only about 1 percent of all U.S. agricultural land during the past two decades.

According to USDA's Economic Research Service, forestland accounted for 48 percent of all foreign holdings, pasture and non-cropped agricultural land represented 32 percent, cropland 17 percent, and non-agricultural land 3 percent.

Individuals and corporations from Canada hold the largest percentage of foreign owned farmland and forestland, followed by Germany and the United Kingdom.

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