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Foreign owners must report land transactions to USDA

WILLMAR -- Foreign persons who acquire an interest in agricultural land are required to report such transactions to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency within 90 days of the closing.

Under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, any foreign person who either fails to report, or is late in reporting such transactions, could face a possible fine of up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land.

For reporting purposes, USDA defines agricultural land as any tract of land over 10 acres in size and currently devoted to farming, ranching, forestry or timber production. Foreign investors who own or have an interest in 10 or fewer acres are not required to report such transactions unless annual proceeds for the sale of agricultural products from those acres exceed $1,000.

Disclosure reports are also required when there are changes in land use. For example, reports are required when land use changes from non-agricultural to agricultural or from agricultural to non-agricultural.

Foreign investors must also file a report when there is a change in the status of ownership.

Data obtained from the disclosure reports are used to prepare an annual report to the president and Congress concerning the effect of such holdings on family farms and rural communities.

Congress passed the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 in response to concerns about foreign ownership of U.S. farmland.

Despite those earlier concerns, data collected by USDA indicates that foreigners have consistently owned less than 2 percent of all U.S. agricultural land during the past two decades.

According to USDA's Economic Research Service, as of February 2009, approximately 22.8 million acres or 1.7 percent of all privately owned farmland or forestland in the United States was owned by foreigners.

Forestland accounted for 48 percent of all foreign holdings, pasture and non-cropped agricultural land represented 32 percent, cropland 17 percent, and non-agricultural land 3 percent.

Individuals and corporations from Canada and the Netherlands hold the largest percentage of foreign-owned farmland and forestland. Canada's percentage was 34 percent, with the Netherlands at 17 percent.

The state of Maine has the largest concentration of foreign owners. Other states with relatively high levels of foreign ownership include Hawaii, Washington, Nevada and Alabama.

Minority producers urged to join USDA Minority Farm Register

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency invites all minority farmers and livestock producers to voluntarily join the USDA Minority Farm Register to receive information and opportunities from USDA agencies.

By joining the Register, minority producers may receive outreach materials, newsletters and program announcements from USDA agencies. They may also receive information and assistance from other USDA-approved outreach partners, such as community-based organizations, faith-based organizations and minority-serving educational institutions.

Individuals wishing to join the Register must sign and date a form that provides their name and address. Providing phone numbers, email address, race, gender, ethnicity and farm location will be voluntary, although the additional information increases the producer's opportunities for receiving timely assistance.

Registration forms are available, in both Spanish and English, on the Farm Service Agency website ( under the heading "Forms." A registration informational pamphlet, which includes the registration form, can also be obtained at any local USDA Service Center.

New important requirements for New Mexico livestock

The first 2012 case of vesicular stomatitis was confirmed when two horses in New Mexico tested positive for the disease on April 30. Because of the confirmation, certificates of veterinary inspection must now accompany all equine, cattle, swine, sheep and goats coming into Minnesota from New Mexico.

The certificate must state that all animals have been examined and found to be free from vesicular stomatitis, and that during the past 30 days, the animals have neither been exposed nor located within 10 miles of an area where vesicular stomatitis has been diagnosed.

In affected livestock, the incubation period for vesicular stomatitis ranges from two to eight days. Symptoms of the disease include excessive salivation, blanched and raised vesicles or blister-like lesions in the mouth, which can swell and break, exposing raw tissue that is so painful that affected animals may refuse to eat or drink. Lameness and severe weight loss can sometimes result.

For more information, livestock producers can contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at 651-296-2942.

Minnesota's April milk production up slightly

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, Minnesota milk production during the month of April totaled 770 million pounds, up 1.3 percent from the 760 million pounds produced in April 2011.

Minnesota's production per cow averaged 1,655 pounds in April, up 35 pounds from last April.

Milk production in the 23 major dairy states during April totaled 16 billion pounds, up 3.3 percent from last April. Production per cow averaged 1,875 pounds in April, up 40 pounds from April 2011.

During the first four months of 2012, accumulated milk production in the 23 major dairy states totaled 63.4 billion pounds, up 4.8 percent from the same period one year ago.

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