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USDA forecasts lower crop yields, production in Minn.

WILLMAR -- The excessively wet field conditions of this spring and early summer have apparently taken a toll on Minnesota crops and will likely result in reduced yields and lower production levels for all four of the state's main crops.

In its August Crop Production report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting that Minnesota corn production will total 1.27 billion bushels, down 2 percent from 2010.

Based on Aug. 1 field conditions, corn yields in Minnesota are expected to average 166 bushels per acre, down 11 bushels from last year's record high yield of 177 bushels per acre.

Minnesota soybean producers are expected to harvest 284 million bushels this fall, down 14 percent from 2010. Soybean yields are forecast to average 40 bushels per acre, 5 bushels below last year's average.

Sugar beet production in Minnesota is estimated at 10.4 million tons, down 12 percent from 2010. Minnesota sugar beet yields are expected to average 22 tons per acre, down 4.6 tons from last year's record high of 26.6 tons per acre.

Minnesota spring wheat production is expected to total 79.6 million bushels, down 3 percent from last year. Spring wheat yields are forecast to average 51 bushels per acre, down 4 bushels from 2010.

In its August report, USDA forecasted that U.S. corn production will total 12.9 billion bushels, up 4 percent from 2010. This would be the third largest corn crop in U.S. history. Corn yields are expected to average 153 bushels per acre, virtually equal to last year's average of 152.8 bushels per acre.

Soybean production in the U.S. is expected to total 3.06 billion bushels this year, down 8 percent from 2010. Based on Aug. 1 field conditions, soybean yields are expected to average 41.4 bushels per acre, down 2.1 bushels from last year.

USDA deregulates genetically engineered Kentucky bluegrass

A recent decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to not regulate the sale and use of a genetically engineered variety of Kentucky bluegrass has resulted in an outcry from those who believe that the decision has set a precedence that could result in less regulating of genetically engineered crops in the future.

At issue was a September 2010 request from Scotts Miracle-Gro Company that USDA not regulate a variety of Kentucky bluegrass that had been genetically engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.

In its review and analysis, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service determined that the organisms used in generating Scotts' variety of Kentucky bluegrass are not considered plant pests since Scotts did not use a plant pest to genetically engineer the bluegrass. Furthermore, USDA has no reason to believe that the genetically engineered bluegrass itself is a plant pest.

To further support its position, USDA noted that the glyphosate tolerance is caused by a single gene insertion, which does not create a new species of Kentucky bluegrass.

In a 2002 petition from the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Center for Food Safety, the organizations asked USDA to regulate the genetically engineered Kentucky bluegrass under its federal noxious weed authority under the Plant Protection Act.

In response to the petition, USDA conducted a risk assessment to determine whether the impacts posed by the plant would warrant it being regulated as a federal noxious weed.

As a result of its assessment, USDA determined it would not regulate Kentucky bluegrass, genetically engineered or traditional, as a federal noxious weed.

USDA reports 17 percent increase in farmers markets

According to an annual report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 1,000 new farmers markets have been recorded across the country, a 17 percent increase from one year ago.

According to the 2011 National Farmers Markets Directory, there are a total of 7,175 farmers markets operating throughout the United States. Last year, 6,132 markets were listed.

The directory recently listed 160 farmers markets in Minnesota, up from the 133 that were listed in the 2010 directory.

The states with the largest number of recorded farmers markets include: California - 729; New York - 520; Michigan - 349; Illinois - 305; and Ohio - 278.

The USDA National Farmers Markets Directory can be found at Since the beginning of 2011, the site has had over 1.8 million page views.

Users can search for markets based on location, available products and types of payment accepted, including participation in federal nutritional assistance programs. A new feature will allow users to locate markets based on proximity to zip code.

Results from the directory are based on voluntary reporting by managers of farmers markets. Updates to USDA's Farmers Markets Directory are continually being made.

Minn. sweet corn and green pea acreage increases

The number of contract acres planted to sweet corn for processing in Minnesota this year totaled 123,800 acres, up 1 percent from the 122,900 acres planted in 2010.

Minnesota's green pea acreage for processing totaled 69,400 acres, an increase of nearly 11 percent from the 62,700 acres planted in 2010.

Minnesota accounts for 37 percent of the sweet corn and 43 percent of the green pea acreage devoted to processing in the United States.

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