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Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions declined slightly in 2008

A recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that agriculture accounted for approximately 6 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2008, slightly less than USDA's previous report for the years 1990-2005.

The report, "U.S. Agricultural and Forestry Greenhouse Gas Inventory: 1990-2008," provides detailed estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration from the management of livestock, croplands and forests, including emissions from energy use in agriculture.

It also includes reports of state, regional and national estimates and categorized them by variables such as land ownership and management practices.

Prepared and issued by USDA's Climate Change Program Office, the report details trends over time, updates the previous edition published in 2008 and reflects several improvements in estimation methods.

According to the 2008 inventory data, the biggest agricultural emission source was nitrous oxide from soil used for crop production and grazing. It accounted for 43 percent of agriculture's emissions in 2008.

The second largest source of emissions in 2008 was enteric methane from livestock, representing about 28 percent of agriculture's share.

To view the entire report, visit the USDA Chief Economist's website at

Without new research spending, ag productivity gains may decline

By 2050, global agricultural demand is projected to grow by 70 to 100 percent due to population growth, energy demands and higher income levels in developing countries.

Meeting this demand from existing agricultural resources will require raising the global agricultural productivity factor by a similar level.

The agricultural productivity growth factor of U.S. agriculture has averaged about 1.5 percent annually over the past 50 years. But since the 1980s, funding for public agricultural research has remained relatively stagnant when adjusted for inflation.

A report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture would seem to suggest that without additional public funding for agricultural research, agricultural productivity growth factors may decline in the future.

Simulations conducted by USDA's Economic Research Service indicated that if U.S. public spending on agricultural research and development remains relatively constant until 2050, the annual agricultural productivity growth factor will fall to under 0.75 percent, and U.S. agricultural output will increase by only 40 percent by 2050.

Under this scenario, raising output beyond this level would require bringing more land, labor, capital, materials and other resources into production.

To view the entire report, visit USDA's Economic Research Service website at

USDA to provide more funds

for producers with urgent

credit needs

A high demand for guaranteed farm ownership and direct farm operating funds has prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to transfer appropriated funds between programs in order to meet the urgent credit needs of producers, including beginning and minority farmers.

The transfer will make an additional $100 million in loan funds available for the direct operating loan program, providing 1,600 small, beginning and minority farmers with resources to establish and maintain their farming operations.

In addition, $400 million in loan funds will be made available for the guaranteed farm ownership loan program, giving an additional 1,000 family farmers access to commercial lending backed by USDA.

Both programs had run out of funds, resulting in a backlog of approved but unfunded loan applications.

Producers needing additional direct operating or longer term guaranteed farm ownership loan funds are encouraged to submit an application at their local Farm Service Agency office.

Claims period opens for American Indian farmers

American Indian farmers who believe that they were discriminated against when applying for loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture can now file a claim under a class-action settlement.

The 180-day claim period began June 29 and will continue until Dec. 27.

In a lawsuit titled "Keepseagle v. Vilsack," it was alleged that USDA discriminated against American Indian farmers in the way it operated its farm loan programs. The lawsuit was settled late last year, and the settlement has been approved by the court.

Up to $760 million will be made available in monetary relief, debt relief and tax relief to successful claimants.

There are two tracks for claims. Successful Track A claimants may receive up to $50,000, while successful Track B claimants may receive up to $250,000. However, the standard of proof for Track B claims is a higher standard than what will be applied to Track A claims.

Claimants must register for a claims package by either calling 888-233-5506, or visiting the website at Once registered, a claims package will be mailed to claimants.

This announcement does not relate to claims for African American, women or Hispanic farmers. Those claims will be subject to different processes, and information regarding them will be forthcoming.

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