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U.S. Navy to purchase 450,000 gallons of biofuel

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that the U.S. Navy has agreed to purchase 450,000 gallons of advanced drop-in biofuel, the single largest purchase of biofuel in government history.

While the Navy fleet alone uses more than 1.26 billion gallons of fuel each year, this biofuel purchase is considered significant because it helps accelerate the development of a homegrown fuel source that can reduce America's, and our military's, dependence on foreign oil.

The Defense Department will purchase biofuel made from a blend of non-food waste -- used cooking oil -- and algae.

The fuel will be used in the U.S. Navy's demonstration of a Green Strike Group in the summer of 2012 during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world's largest international maritime exercise.

The biofuel will be mixed with aviation gas or marine diesel fuel. It is a drop-in fuel, which means that no engine modifications are required to burn the fuel.

In preparation for this demonstration, the Navy recently completed testing of all aircraft, including F/A-18 and all six Blue Angels, and the V-22 Osprey. Testing was also performed on a variety of Navy watercraft vessels and gas turbine engines.

Renewable jet fuel has already been used in regularly scheduled commercial airline flights by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Finnair, Thomson Airways and Alaska Airlines.

FSA committee election results

Local Farm Service Agency offices recently tabulated the ballots that were returned for the 2011 county committee election. All election winners will begin serving three-year terms on Jan. 1.

In Chippewa County, Jason Norby of Milan was re-elected for a third term.

In Kandiyohi County, Harry Johnson of Sunburg was re-elected for a third term.

In Meeker County, Debbie Nelson of Darwin was elected to her first term.

In Pope County, Bruce Zavadil of Glenwood was re-elected to his third term.

In Renville County, Owen Anderson of Fairfax was elected to his first term.

In Swift County, Shawn Bonk of Holloway was re-elected to his third term.

In Yellow Medicine County, Benay Cole of Hazel Run was re-elected for a third term.

Nationwide, there are more than 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving as county committee members. Committees consist of three to five members who are elected by local agricultural producers.

Committee members make many important decisions regarding the local administration of the various commodity, price support, conservation and disaster assistance programs administered by USDA.

Agencies to use common reporting deadlines in 2012

For many years, two U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies have had different acreage reporting deadlines for Minnesota farmers. But beginning with the 2012 crop year, the two agencies have agreed to have the same reporting deadline of July 15.

The Risk Management Agency, which oversees the federal crop insurance programs of USDA, has required Minnesota farmers to report annual crop acreage to their insurance agents by June 30.

Meanwhile, USDA's Farm Service Agency, which administers a number of federal farm programs including the Direct and Counter-cyclical Program and the Average Crop Revenue Election Program, required farmers to report their crop acreage by July 15.

Over the last year, a team of representatives from both agencies have been examining the need to reduce USDA's operating cost, while also reducing the reporting burden for producers by sharing the acreage data provided by producers.

Previously, the Risk Management Agency had 54 different acreage reporting deadlines for 122 crops, while the Farm Service Agency had 17 acreage reporting deadlines for 273 crops. The two agencies have agreed to reduce the more than 50 reporting deadlines to only 15, which includes the July 15 reporting deadline for Minnesota farmers.

USDA to survey certified organic producers

As part of a cooperative agreement between USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service and the Risk Management Agency, all known USDA-certified organic producers will be asked to take part in a nationwide survey.

The survey will gather detailed production and marketing information on certified organic farming in the United States. The information gathered will be used by the Risk Management Agency to improve its federal crop insurance programs for organic crops by developing new insurance approaches.

In 2008, USDA reported that average production expenditures are higher for organic farms than for all farms nationwide. By collecting updated information and data, USDA will be able to re-evaluate its federal crop insurance programs and ensure that USDA certified organic producers receive equitable insurance rates and programs for the food and fiber they produce.

Survey data will be collected through April. Producers can respond by mail, Internet, telephone or in person. By law, respondents are guaranteed that their individual information is kept confidential.

For more information, producers should contact the Minnesota Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service at 800-453-7502.

USDA centers closed Jan. 2

Since New Year's Day falls on a Sunday this year, the official federal holiday will be observed Monday. All USDA Service Centers will be closed Jan. 2.

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