Weather Forecast


USDA providing new satellite-based vegetation assessment

By Wes Nelson

FSA executive director

WILLMAR — The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that it was launching a new state-of-the-art, satellite-based crop condition vegetation assessment and monitoring service named “VegScape.”

Much like the popular “CropScape” geospatial product, VegScape delivers interactive vegetation indices so that web users can explore, visualize, query and disseminate current vegetative cover maps and data without the need for specialized expertise, software, or high-end computers.

With the new satellite-based data, which will be loaded on a weekly basis during the growing season, one can compare year-to-year changes over a span of 12 years. Among the many functions available is the ability to overlay a crop mask to help identify cropland versus non-cropland areas.

When viewing the maps, a deep green color typically indicates strong plant vigor, while yellow or brown indicates poorer plant conditions.

Vegetation indices, when compared with prior years, have proven to be useful in assessing crop conditions and identifying the land areas impacted by floods, droughts, major weather anomalies and vulnerabilities of early or late season crops.

Administered by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the data provided by VegScape can be directly exported to Google Earth or delivered to other applications via web services.

With VegScape, the agricultural community, policymakers, researchers and other interested parties now have a tool for scientific inquiry and educational efforts.

To access VegScape, visit

USDA to improve rural electric service in 13 states

For the purpose of improving rural electric service in 13 states, an official from USDA’s Rural Development agency announced that it would be providing nearly $280 million in funding for rural electric infrastructure projects.

Included in the funding is more than $6 million in smart-grid funding that will increase access to information to better manage electricity use. In addition, these funds will result in the construction of more than 1,900 miles of new or improved electric lines.

One of the rural electric cooperatives to receive funding is located in Minnesota. Wild Rice Electric Cooperative Inc., with offices in Mahnomen, will receive a $12 million loan to build more than 106 miles of distribution lines and fund $680,000 for smart-grid projects. This project will improve service to many American Indian customers in that region of Minnesota.

Rural Development administers a number of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents and farmers, while also improving the quality of life in rural America.

USDA conducting annual pesticide, fertilizer use survey

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is in the process of conducting its annual pesticide and fertilizer use survey of Minnesota farmers.

The data gathered from this annual survey, which has been conducted for the past 10 years, help track the use of agricultural chemicals on Minnesota farms.

The 2013 survey, which will target corn growers, is being conducted for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service out of their regional office in Missouri. The survey process is expected to be completed in May.

Farmers are reminded that responding to the survey is completely voluntary and all information provided by individual producers will be kept fully confidential.

If producers have any questions regarding this survey, they should call the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at 612-327-2607. To view the results from previous surveys, visit

Sign-up deadline for 2011 crop disaster program is June 7

Farmers who suffered crop production or crop quality losses during the 2011 crop year have until June 7 to apply for assistance at local Farm Service Agency offices.

Authorized by the 2008 farm bill, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program provides assistance to producers who suffered qualifying crop production or quality losses due to adverse weather or other environmental conditions.

As the name implies, the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program assists producers in managing revenue losses by reducing the threats of lower-than-expected yields and prices by providing a revenue guarantee for a producer’s farming operation.

If because of disaster-related conditions a producer’s total farm revenue is less than the total revenue guarantee, the producer is paid 60 percent of the difference.

For program purposes, a farm is defined as all crop acreage that is planted and intended to be planted for harvest for commercial sale or on-farm livestock feeding purposes. The farm definition includes all crops, produced in all counties.

There are several eligibility requirements that producers must meet to qualify for the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program. One such requirement relates to a minimum specified reduction in crop production.

If the producer had an interest in a crop produced in either a county, or a county contiguous to a county that received a natural disaster declaration for crop production losses, then only a 10 percent production loss is required on one or more crops of economic significance, which is defined as a crop that contributes at least 5 percent of a farm’s total expected revenue.

Producers that did not have a 2011 farming interest in either a county, or a county contiguous to a county receiving a natural disaster declaration may still qualify for assistance. However, they would need to have suffered an overall reduction in production of 50 percent or more.

For the 2011 crop year, all local counties were either declared primary natural disaster areas, or were contiguous to a declared county. Therefore, local producers would need only a 10 percent production loss on one crop of economic significance to meet this eligibility requirement.

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