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USDA releases county cash rent data for 2011

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released the results of its 2011 cash rent survey, which indicates that the average cash rental rate for non-irrigated cropland has increased over the last year in most local counties. In some counties the increase in rental rates was rather significant, while a few counties had a slight decline.

As required by the 2008 farm bill, and in response to numerous requests from the general public, USDA now releases county-level cash rent data annually. The 2011 data mark the fourth consecutive year for which county-level data has been provided by USDA.

Since 1997, USDA's National Agricultural Statistical Service published cash rental rate data only at the state level.

The latest data include non-irrigated cropland average rental rates for every county in the nation. (See attached PDF for rates in area counties.) In addition, rental rate data are available for counties that have significant acres of irrigated cropland and pastureland.

The data being provided by USDA on an annual basis have a multitude of uses. For example, the Farm Service Agency uses the cash rental rate data to help determine market-based rental rates for the Conservation Reserve Program.

Other state and federal governmental agencies, universities and research organizations use the data for economic analysis. In addition, the annual survey provides farmers and landowners with current information about rental rates in their county.

Data collection for the 2011 cash rent survey was conducted in June. All responses were passed through a computer edit to check for consistency within the report. Any suspect responses were either confirmed or corrected by USDA.

USDA disaster program will cover losses caused by early frost

In accordance with the 2008 farm bill, the legislative authority for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance program ended on Sept. 30. Therefore, the only weather-related disaster events that will qualify for the program are those that occurred on or before Friday.

Many local farmers may have suffered crop losses because of colder-than-normal temperatures on the morning of Sept. 15. Because this event occurred before Sept. 30, crop quantity and quality losses that resulted from the frost will be covered under the Supplemental Revenue Assistance program provided the producer meets all eligibility requirements of the program.

Producers may qualify for 2011 crop year benefits if they have a crop of economic significance located in a county, or contiguous to a county, that received a secretarial disaster designation, and that crop suffered a production loss of 10 percent or more.

The sign-up period for the 2011 Supplemental Revenue Assistance program will not begin until after the national average market prices are determined for the 2011 marketing year. This information is normally not available until one year following the applicable crop year. Therefore, sign-up for 2011 crop year losses is not expected to begin until sometime next fall.

Researchers discover genetic link to cattle diseases

According to findings discovered by researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the origin of three costly cattle diseases is genetically linked.

Researchers from USDA's Agricultural Research Service have discovered a location on bovine chromosome 20 that is associated with the incidence of pinkeye, foot rot and bovine respiratory disease.

Bovine respiratory disease, most commonly referred to as pneumonia, accounts for 75 percent of feedlot illnesses and up to 70 percent of all deaths, with economic losses to cattle producers exceeding $1 billion annually.

The estimated costs for pinkeye are $150 million yearly, and losses to dairy producers due to foot rot range from $120 to $350 per animal.

Chromosome 20 is located near genetic markers related to other diseases and may have a significant effect on the overall health of cattle. Identifying genetic markers responsible for disease would provide an opportunity to produce cattle with increased disease tolerance, which also could reduce economic loss associated with diseases.

Farm Service Agency offers lending programs for farmers

The USDA's Farm Service Agency provides a variety of farm lending programs for farmers with credit needs.

The agency offers direct and guaranteed farm ownership and farm operating loans to family-sized farmers who cannot obtain commercial credit from a bank, a Farm Credit System institution or other lender.

Borrowers may include beginning farmers who do not qualify for conventional loans because they have insufficient financial resources, or even established farmers who have suffered financial setbacks from natural disasters or whose resources are limited to maintain profitable farming operations.

Loans can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed and supplies. Loans can also be provided for the construction of new buildings, or making improvements to existing buildings and facilities.

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