Weather Forecast


USDA approves Minnesota's request for TB-free status

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved Minnesota's application for statewide bovine tuberculosis-free status, effective Oct. 4. The approval comes six years after the discovery of an infected beef herd in July 2005.

In recent years, status downgrades have been the cause of increased testing and movement requirements for Minnesota cattle, both in-state and out. With USDA's approval, the status upgrade will bring relief to most Minnesota cattle producers.

While Board of Animal Health requirements will be reduced, livestock producers should call the state of destination prior to interstate movement of animals. Other states may require additional testing, permits or official identification of livestock.

The Department of Natural Resources will also continue management of deer populations and surveillance of hunter harvested wild deer in the bovine TB area until testing indicates that the disease has been eliminated in deer.

2010 was the first calendar year since 2005 with no confirmed cases of bovine TB in wild deer.

CRP participants receive annual rental payments

During the month of October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency will issue $1.7 billion in annual rental payments for 31.1 million acres of farmland enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.

Included in the 31.1 million acres are 5 million acres of high-priority conservation practices that were enrolled under the continuous sign-up provisions of the Conservation Reserve Program. Filter strips, riparian buffers, unique wildlife habitat practices and wetland restorations are examples of high-priority conservation practices that can be automatically enrolled without having to wait for an announced general sign-up period.

Farm Service Agency offices in Minnesota will issue $110 million in annual rental payments for the 63,180 contracts that are in effect on 33,158 Minnesota farms.

In terms of total acres enrolled, Minnesota ranks seventh in the nation with 1,636,094 acres. Texas leads all states with 3,457,594 acres. Other leading states include: Montana -- 2,855,606; Kansas -- 2,732,723; North Dakota -- 2,648,422; Colorado -- 2,246,492; and Iowa -- 1,663,593 acres.

Locally, the Conservation Reserve Program would have to be considered the premier voluntary conservation program. Within an eight-county local area, there are 207,789 acres currently enrolled.

Kandiyohi County has the most acres enrolled locally with 38,482 acres. The number of acres enrolled in other local counties include: Pope -- 38,188; Swift -- 33,566; Stearns -- 27,743; Yellow Medicine -- 20,755; Meeker -- 18,430; Chippewa -- 16,072; and Renville -- 14,553 acres.

Certified wetland determinations encouraged for all drainage activity

After an unusually wet spring, farmers may have discovered areas in fields where additional drainage would be beneficial, or an existing tile line is in need of repair. And now that the weather has turned drier, the opportunity may exist to complete some drainage activity before winter freeze-up.

When considering the need to install new tile, or replace an existing drainage system, farmers and landowners are encouraged to request a certified wetland determination and review their drainage plans with the personnel at their local USDA Service Center.

The USDA wetland compliance provisions do not require that landowners receive approval prior to undertaking any drainage activity. However, an up-to-date certified wetland determination issued by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide the most accurate information on the location of protected wetland areas.

Producers who choose to make drainage improvements without a certified wetland determination need to be aware that any drainage activity performed in an area without previous cropping history, or in areas that are consistently wet, pose a high risk of resulting in the converting of a wetland area.

The USDA requires that farmers self-certify their compliance with the wetland compliance provisions. This includes disclosing all new drainage plans that have not been previously evaluated by USDA. The converting of protected wetland areas could result in the loss of USDA program benefits on all land the producer operates.

To start the process, farmers and landowners should request a certified wetland determination as soon as possible. The Natural Resources Conservation Service is committing additional staff and resources to be able to provide a shorter response time to complete certified wetland determinations. However, the agency's ability to provide a timely response will depend on the number of outstanding requests received.

2011 sugar beet loan rates announced

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that the 2011 national average loan rate for refined beet sugar will be 24.09 cents per pound, which is up from 23.77 cents per pound in 2010.

The national average loan rates are then adjusted regionally to reflect marketing cost differentials. For Minnesota and the eastern half of North Dakota, the 2011-crop loan rate will be 24.06 cents per pound. In 2010, the loan rate for this region was 23.64 cents per pound.

All of the sugar beet growing regions have higher loans for the 2011 crop than last year, due to an increase in the national average loan rate that was mandated by the 2008 farm bill.

Under USDA's sugar loan program, nine-month price support loans are provided to processors of sugar beets. The loans are nonrecourse loans, which affords the processor the option of delivering the pledged sugar collateral to USDA as repayment at time of loan maturity.

Sugar beet processors who receive a loan are required to make minimum grower payments, as specified in the growers' contracts, for all sugar beets received from growers.

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