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USDA-certified organic sales exceeded $3.5 billion in 2011

WILLMAR -- According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2011 Certified Organic Production Survey, USDA-certified organic growers in the United States sold more than $3.5 billion worth of organically grown agricultural commodities in 2011.

The survey found that crops accounted for 63 percent of the total organic sales in 2011. Receipts from livestock and poultry products represented 30 percent, with livestock and poultry inventory accounting for the remaining 7 percent.

Like its conventional counterpart, corn was the leading field crop with sales accounting for more than $101.5 million in 2011. The only other field crops having more than $50 million in sales were alfalfa dry hay and winter wheat, accounting for $69.5 million and $54 million in sales respectively.

In terms of organic acreage, Wisconsin led the nation with more than 110,000 harvested acres in 2011. Other leading states included New York, with more than 97,000 harvested acres, and California, with more than 91,000 acres.

In addition to looking at organically produced crops, the survey also gathered information on organically raised livestock, which accounted for $1.31 billion in sales in 2011.

Organic milk was the top livestock commodity last year, accounting for $765 million in sales. Other key organic livestock commodities were chicken eggs and broiler chickens, earning $276 million and $115 million in sales respectively.

Information obtained from the survey will be used by USDA's Risk Management Agency to assess the federal crop insurance program and its impact on the organic industry, and then refine its insurance products for organic producers.

USDA to interview soybean and wheat growers

As part of its Agricultural Resource Management Survey, USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service will be collecting chemical usage data from soybean and wheat growers in 26 states.

Since the use of fertilizers and chemicals for crop production is one of the most studied topics regarding U.S. agriculture, USDA will be conducting the survey to ensure that any and all decisions about agricultural chemical use are based on current and unbiased data from agricultural producers.

Unlike most other USDA surveys, the requested information will be gathered only through face-to-face interviews. Over the next three months, hundreds of USDA interviewers will visit selected growers to gather information about chemical use.

The interviewers will ask producers to report on nutrient or fertilizer use, bio-control or pesticide applications, pest management and irrigation practices on one randomly selected field.

Growers can safely respond to the survey with the certainty that their responses will remain fully confidential.

The results of the survey will be released by USDA on May 15, 2013.

Dairy producers receive payments for August milk

Due to the combination of unusually high feeding costs and lower milk prices, dairy producers will qualify for payments under the USDA's Milk Income Loss Contract program for milk produced and sold during the month of August.

According to the provisions of the 2008 farm bill, the $16.94 trigger price for milk is adjusted upward whenever the monthly national average cost for a 16 percent protein feed ration is greater than $7.35 per hundredweight.

According to USDA, feeding costs for the month of August warranted an upward adjustment of the $16.94 trigger price to $23.08, resulting in a final payment rate of approximately $1.47 per hundredweight.

According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average price received by Minnesota dairy producers during August was $19.60 per hundredweight.

Based on milk futures prices and projected feeding costs, it appears likely that dairy producers will qualify for Milk Income Loss Contract program payments for milk produced and sold through the month of September, when the program expired.

Minnesota corn prices decline slightly in September

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, prices received by Minnesota corn farmers during September averaged $7.35 per bushel, down 19 cents from the August average price. In September 2011, Minnesota corn prices averaged $6.43 per bushel.

Minnesota soybean prices increased slightly during September to an average of $16.70 per bushel, up 10 cents from the previous month. Last September, Minnesota soybean prices averaged $11.90 per bushel.

Minnesota milk prices during September averaged $20.40 per hundredweight, up 80 cents from the August average. One year ago, Minnesota milk prices averaged $21.10 per hundredweight.

U.S. turkey production up 2 percent

According to USDA, the number of turkeys raised in the United States during 2012 will total 254 million, up 2 percent from the number raised in 2011.

Minnesota continues to be the largest turkey producing state with 46 million turkeys, down 1 percent from last year.

Turkey production in North Carolina, our nation's second largest turkey producing state, increased by 13 percent in 2012 to 36 million turkeys.

Estimated 2012 production numbers from other large turkey producing states include: Arkansas - 29 million; Missouri - 17.5 million; Virginia - 17 million; and Indiana - 16.5 million.

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