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Published February 20, 2010, 12:00 AM

Sign-up deadline for vegetable program is March 1

WILLMAR — Minnesota fruit and vegetable growers have until March 1 to apply for a special program that will allow more flexibility in meeting the requirements of the farm bill, without sacrificing their eligibility for future benefits.

By: Wes Nelson, USDA Farm Service Agency , West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Minnesota fruit and vegetable growers have until March 1 to apply for a special program that will allow more flexibility in meeting the requirements of the farm bill, without sacrificing their eligibility for future benefits.

Authorized by the 2008 farm bill, the Planting Flexibility Pilot Project will allow producers to plant on a farm’s base acres specific crops of fruits and vegetables that are harvested for processing purposes. Eligible crops include cucumbers, green peas, lima beans, pumpkins, snap beans, sweet corn and tomatoes.

Without this unique program, planting the above mentioned crops on base acres would be prohibited without the producer agreeing to permanently reduce some or all of a farm’s base acres.

If approved for the program, a farm’s base acres would be temporarily reduced the year that an approved fruit or vegetable crop is grown. The reduced base acres would then be restored the following year.

Seven states, including Minnesota, were allotted a specific number of acres under the Planting Flexibility Pilot Program. Minnesota received 34,000 of the 75,000 total acres allowed annually — far more than any other state. However, only 4,929 total acres were utilized by Minnesota producers in 2009.

To qualify, fruit and vegetable producers will need to submit an application at their local Farm Service Agency office by the signup deadline.

When applying, producers will need to provide a copy of their contract with a processing plant.

U of M receives USDA research grant to study earthworms

Officials recently announced that USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will award $4.6 million to 13 universities to research and develop ecologically and economically rational strategies for the management, control or elimination of weedy or invasive species.

The University of Minnesota was the recipient of two grants, totaling $984,000, to conduct research on how to mitigate the impact of earthworms as an invasive species.

Researchers successfully sequence soybean genome

After more than 15 years of collaborative efforts, researchers from 18 federal, state, public and private organizations, including scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have successfully sequenced 85 percent of the soybean’s entire DNA code or genome.

This accomplishment will provide an unprecedented look into how this important legume crop converts sunlight, water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen into protein and oil, two fundamental components for a variety of consumer goods.

Examples include everything from food products — such as tofu, soy flour, meat substitutes and soy milk — to soybean oil-based printing ink and biodiesel.

The sequencing of the soybean genome will also provide researchers with a critical reference that can be used to decipher the genetics of some 20,000 other legume species.

Ultimately, this achievement is expected to enhance the development of new soybean varieties that will produce higher yields, have higher protein and oil content, adapt better to adverse weather conditions, and have improved disease resistance, particularly to Asian soybean rust, a major threat to America’s $27 billion soybean crop.

January crop prices decline, livestock prices increase

According to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service, prices received by Minnesota corn farmers during January averaged $3.35 per bushel, a decrease of $0.16 from December’s average price.

January soybean prices decreased to an average price of $9.10 per bushel, down $0.52 from December.

Hog prices averaged $50.20 per hundredweight, an increase of $2.80 from December’s average price.

January beef prices averaged $75.70 per hundredweight, up $2.50 from the previous month.

Minnesota milk prices during January averaged $16.50 per hundredweight, down $0.40 from December.

Minnesota sweet corn production up 12 percent in 2009 from 2008

The National Agricultural Statistics Service is estimating that Minnesota sweet corn production totaled 979,250 tons in 2009, up 12 percent from the 2008 estimated production of 876,980 tons.

Timely rains and no prolonged periods of extreme heat resulted in the highest yield in 12 years.

Harvested acreage totaled 122,400 acres in 2009, down 1,500 acres from the previous year.

Average crop value was $99.60 per ton, compared to $120.00 per ton in 2008.

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

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