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Dairy producers qualify for milk program payments

WILLMAR -- The combination of unusually high feeding costs and lower milk prices have narrowed profit margins for dairy producers. And a sure indication that dairy producers are under financial stress is when they qualify for payments under the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Milk Income Loss Contract program.

Officials from USDA recently announced that qualifying dairy producers will receive a payment of approximately $0.39 per hundredweight for milk produced and sold during the month of February. The last time that producers qualified for a government payment was April 2010.

Initially authorized by the 2002 farm bill, and then reauthorized by the 2008 farm bill, the Milk Income Loss Contract program provides financial assistance to dairy producers when the monthly Boston Class 1 milk price falls below the payment trigger price of $16.94 per hundredweight. During the months when the Boston price is lower than $16.94, producers qualify for a payment rate equal to 45 percent of the price difference.

For the months when high feeding costs are unusually high, the $16.94 trigger price is adjusted upward. This upward adjustment occurs when the national average price of feed ingredients used to create a 16 percent protein feed ration exceeds $7.35 per hundredweight.

Since feeding costs during February exceeded the $7.35 base price, the $16.94 trigger price was increased to $21.15 per hundredweight. The Boston Class 1 milk price for February was $20.28 per hundredweight or $0.87 less than the adjusted trigger price.

Local Farm Service Agency offices have been issuing payments to qualifying dairy producers for their February milk production.

The Boston Class 1 milk price for March was $19.55 per hundredweight. The April price will be $18.91 per hundredweight.

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average price received by Minnesota dairy producers during March was $18.40 per hundredweight. Last March, Minnesota's average milk price was $20.90 per hundredweight.

USDA expects 75-year high corn acreage

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our nation's farmers intend to plant 95.9 million acres of corn in 2012, up 4 percent from 2011. This would be the largest corn acreage in the United States since 1937, when producers planted 97.2 million acres.

Driven largely by high corn prices, producers across many of the Corn Belt states are expected to plant a record high acreage of corn in 2012. According to USDA's Prospective Plantings Report, the states expected to set new record highs include Iowa, Idaho, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

The largest yearly increase is expected in North Dakota, where farmers recovering from last year's floods have indicated their intentions to plant 3.4 million acres of corn, up 52 percent from last year.

The corn acreage increase, coupled with unfavorable weather conditions in the Southern Plains, resulted in a soybean acreage decrease.

According to USDA's survey results, soybean growers intend to plant 73.9 million acres in 2012, down 1 percent from last year.

Due to drought conditions in Texas and Oklahoma, farmers in those two states anticipate significant soybean acreage reductions of 24 and 15 percent respectively in 2012. However, those decreases will be largely offset by acreage increases in other states, such as New York and North Dakota, where farmers are expected to set new record highs.

Also impacted by difficult weather conditions, U.S. cotton growers expect to plant fewer acres in 2012. According to USDA, farmers will plant 13.2 million acres of cotton in 2012, down 11 percent from last year.

Traps being set for emerald ash borers

In early April, state workers began hanging approximately 6,500 purple detection traps that will be placed throughout Minnesota in search of the emerald ash borer. This is about 2,000 more than were hung in 2011.

Placed in an ash tree, the trap is a three-paneled purple prism that inside contains a lure that smells like a stressed ash tree to the beetle. Once drawn to the trap, a sticky layer on the outside of the trap holds the emerald ash borer until the traps are later inspected.

Traps are being placed in areas identified by a risk-based model developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If required, traps may be placed on private property, but citizens are asked not to disturb the traps.

The trapping program has proven effective in the past. In August 2011, the presence of emerald ash borers in Winona County was confirmed because of a positive find in a trap. The finding helped officials from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture determine if any further action was needed to slow their spread.

Traps will not be placed in the four Minnesota counties currently under quarantine for emerald ash borer. The four counties include Houston, Winona, Hennepin and Ramsey.

The main purpose of the traps is to detect new areas of infestation that might need to be quarantined. Once an area becomes quarantined, it becomes illegal to move ash wood and all types of hardwood firewood beyond the quarantine boundaries.

Residents are encouraged to assist public officials by watching for signs of emerald ash borers on their ash trees. Potential signs include woodpecker damage, especially at the top of the tree; bark cracks or splits; S-shaped galleries under the bark; or leaves dying back in the upper one-third of the tree branches.

More information regarding the emerald ash borer can be found at

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