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USDA: 97 percent of farms are family-owned o About 97 percent of U.S. farms are family-owned, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA defines a family farm as any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and ...

USDA: 97 percent of farms are family-owned

• About 97 percent of U.S. farms are family-owned, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA defines a family farm as any farm where the majority of the business is owned by the operator and individuals related to the operator, including through blood, marriage or adoption, says Hubert Hamer, director of the statistics division for USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. He cites five key facts on the topic from the 2012 Census of Agriculture Farm Typology report: 2.1 million of the nation's farms are family-owned; 88 percent of all U.S. farms are "small" family farms, meaning gross cash farm income is less than $350,00o per year; 58 percent of direct farm sales to consumers come from small family farms; 95 percent of vegetables and 66 percent of dairy sales come from the 3 percent of farms that are "large or very large" family farms, with more than $1 million in gross cash farm income; and 18 percent of principal operators of family farms in the U.S. started in the past 10 years.

Romania gets approval to export pork to China

• BUCHAREST, Romania -- European Union member Romania, has gained approval to export frozen pork to the Chinese market, the agriculture ministry says. "China's decision to import pork from Romania is a great achievement for our economy ... today we can talk about a concrete step towards durable develoopment of our farming sector," minister Daniel Constantin says. Smithfield Romania SA, a unit of U.S. group Smithfield Foods Inc. has an official letter from Chinese authorities regarding approval for its registration in the Asian state, he adds.

Cattle, goats killed in Minnesota barn fire


• THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. -- A barn fire near Thief River Falls claimed several animals. The Thief River Falls Volunteer Fire Department responded to the alarm, which sounded at 3:12 a.m. March 14, at the farm of the Jay Lizakowski. "When we rolled into the yard, all the walls were down," Co-Fire Chief Jerry Stenseth says. "It had been burning for quite some time. It's a pretty sad day." The metal building, which measured 40-by-68 feet, was destroyed. The farm is about 10 miles west of Thief River Falls. Damage is estimated at $40,000. While several animals escaped the blaze through an open door, others, including cattle, several goats and chickens, died in the fire, some of which have been involved in 4-H programs, says Van Swanson, 4-H director for Pennington and Marshall counties. "They're active in 4-H. They show goats and chickens," he says. "It's too bad." An exact cause of the fire might never be determined, Stenseth says.

Poultry farm near Hawley, Minn., to expand

• MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A poultry farm near Hawley, Minn., was given approval March 17 by the Clay County Planning Commission to build a new barn and manure storage building that will allow the addition of 200,000 birds. The Baer Poultry Co. farm in Eglon Township has a 63-by-522-foot barn housing 135,000 birds, and a 63-by-252-foot manure storage area. The company was allowed to build a 460-by-59-foot barn to house 200,000 additional pullets -- the name for a layer hen before it lays its first egg -- and a 200-by-40-foot manure area. An environmental review of the proposal found that "there was no adverse impact to air quality," says Tim Magnusson, director of planning and environmental programs for Clay County. The company is owned by Amos Baer, a member of the planning commission, who recused himself from the vote.

USDA: Outbreak of bird flu found in California

• PARIS -- The U.S. reported an outbreak of low-pathogenic H7N3 bird flu on a turkey farm in California, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says in a report posted on the OIE website that a commercial turkey flock had exhibited coughing with a slight increase in mortality. Samples were submitted for laboratory testing and were confirmed positive for H7N3 avian influenza. The infected premises was placed under quarantine after preliminary findings and an epidemiological investigation was initiated, it says. Follow-up surveillance and testing on 10 epidemiologically associated farms was negative for bird flu. California had found the highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza strain in a turkey farm in January.

New funding for Minnesota wolf management

• The Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association welcomes the March 18 announcement the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state of Minnesota will jointly provide $220,000 for wolf management in the state. "This agreement is great news," says MSCA president Tim Nolte. "MSCA is very pleased with the efforts our association leadership and our leadership in D.C. have taken to ensure Minnesota family farms have every possible resource to provide protection to their livestock." He says the $220,000 will allow USDA's Minnesota Wildlife Services staff to fight wolf depredation. Wildlife Services may begin removing wolves after verified reports of wolf damage to domestic animals. Wildlife Services also is available, as in the past, to investigate wolf damage claims at the discretion and availability of the local Minnesota Department of Natural Resources county officer. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., first announced the new funding. He says it's good news for farmers and ranchers, who haven't been able to shoot or trap wolves that threaten their livestock after a judge's ruling in December that restored federal endangered species protection to wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Peterson says he will continue to work to return wolf management to the states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to appeal the court ruling.

Bill to double beef check-off passes ND Senate


• BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota Senate lawmakers on March 18 approved a bill that would double the beef check-off from $1 to $2 in the state. Beef producers already pay $1 per head under a federal check-off collected by the North Dakota Beef Commission. Half of the funds are used nationally -- sent to a Cattlemen's Beef Board or to the Federation of State Beef Councils -- while the Beef Commission keeps the other half. House Bill 1238 would add $1 per head that would be controlled at the state level for research and promotion. It could be refunded at the producer's request. Opponents, including the Independent Beef Association of North Dakota, say ranchers should be able to vote on the check-off increase. The Senate approved the bill 45-2 after making minor changes. The bill now returns to the House, which passed it 69-22 last month.

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