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USDA's Farm Service Agency, Second Harvest Heartland collaborate on food shelf donations

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency and Second Harvest Heartland are collaborating in an effort to connect Minnesota farmers with the regional food bank network.

The partnership has the unique ability to connect individual farmers who may have excess produce that could be donated to food banks, with Second Harvest Heartland.

The Farm Service Agency has offices in 79 Minnesota counties where farmers regularly do business. Meanwhile, Second Harvest Heartland, the largest of six food bank organizations serving Minnesota, has an efficient and effective distribution system to get fresh produce from the farm to those in need.

Second Harvest Heartland and five other Minnesota Feeding America food banks have developed the "From Harvest to Home" initiative. The program collects locally grown, surplus produce from Minnesota farmers and then distributes the produce through their network of food shelves, soup kitchens and a variety of other programs that serve those in need.

Over the last several years, the food banks have collectively received and distributed more than 5 million pounds of produce through initiatives similar to "From Harvest to Home." But while the number of pounds collected has increased, so has the need for fresh, nutritious food.

To help those in need, additional information is available by contacting your local Farm Service Agency office, or by visiting Second Harvest Heartland's website at

USDA approves use

of insect-resistant soybean variety

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has granted non-regulated status for a soybean variety that has been genetically engineered for insect resistance.

Monsanto petitioned USDA for non-regulated status of its insect-resistant soybean variety in 2009. On June 28, USDA released for public review and comment a plant pest risk assessment and a draft environmental assessment. Only four comments were received during the 60-day comment period, which ended on Aug. 29.

Based on the agency's analysis of field and laboratory data submitted by Monsanto and peer-reviewed publications, USDA has determined that the soybean is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk, and therefore is no longer subject to regulatory control by USDA.

USDA study finds reduced levels of sediment, nutrients entering Great Lakes

A new USDA study indicates that farmers, using combinations of erosion-control and nutrient-management practices on cultivated cropland, are reducing losses of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus from farm fields, while also decreasing the movement of these materials to the Great Lakes and their associated waterways.

The study, prepared by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, estimates that the use of conservation tillage and other conservation practices has resulted in a 50 percent decline in sediment entering rivers and streams, along with 36 and 37 percent declines, respectively, in phosphorus and nitrogen loading.

The study identified slightly more than half of the cropland in the study area as having either a high or moderate need for additional conservation practices to lessen sediment and nutrient losses. The remaining cropland had a low need for additional conservation.

The study area included the entire U.S. side of the Great Lakes Region, or nearly 174,000 square miles, including nearly all of Michigan and parts of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Data for the study were obtained through a survey of farming and conservation practices conducted by USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service during the years 2003 to 2006, using more than 1,400 sample points as the statistical basis for estimating conditions throughout the region.

The Great Lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, holding 95 percent of the United States' surface fresh water.

To view the entire findings of the study, visit

Minnesota milk production down slightly in September

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, Minnesota milk production during the month of September totaled 714 million pounds, down 0.7 percent from the 719 million pounds produced in Sept. 2010.

Minnesota's production per cow averaged 1,515 pounds in September, down 15 pounds from last September.

The average number of milk cows on Minnesota dairy farms during September was 471,000 head, unchanged from August, but up 1,000 head from one year ago.

Accumulated Minnesota milk production during the first nine months of 2011 was 6.72 billion pounds, down 1 percent from the same period one year ago.

Milk production in the 23 major dairy states during September totaled 14.8 billion pounds, up 1.9 percent from last September. Production per cow averaged 1,742 pounds for September, up 12 pounds from Sept. 2010.

For the first nine months of 2011, accumulated milk production in the 23 major dairy states totaled 137.4 billion pounds, up 1.9 percent from the same period one year ago.

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