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OMAHA, NE

USDA to ask farmers what they plan to plant this spring

The Agriculture Department is getting ready to survey farmers about what they are planning to grow this year.

The USDA will survey about 84,000 farmers nationwide about their plans.

The survey will form the basis for the USDA's annual prospective plantings report. That report is scheduled to be released March 31.

The USDA's Dean Groskurth says this report is important because it is the basis for the projections officials will make about this year's crop.

ANDERSON, IN

Residential, commercial sprawl threatens farmland in Indiana 

Agriculture in rural Indiana has been negatively impacted by residential and commercial sprawl.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that between 1982 and 2012, residential and commercial developments claimed more than 740,000 acres of land that had previously been cropland, forest land and prairie.

Development can destroy wildlife habitat, increase environmental contamination and decrease the capacity to grow food. The farmland decrease can also lead to non-environmental problems, such as food prices increasing.

The rate of rural land conversion slowed after the housing market crash of 2008, but data from the department show the pace is picking back up as the economy recovers.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN

MN, SD governors attend Pheasant Summit 

The governors of Minnesota and South Dakota participated in the National Pheasant Summit in Minneapolis last week.

Govs. Mark Dayton of Minnesota and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota were joined by U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of MN, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. They discussed the process for drafting a new Farm Bill and initiatives for creating wildlife habitat.

The National Pheasant Summit is part of the National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic organized by Pheasants Forever. The group says Dayton and Daugaard are among the most visible public officials expressing concern over decreasing wildlife habitat in the upper Midwest.

Peterson has called for a big increase in acres protected under the Conservation Reserve Program, which Pheasants Forever supports as a way to restore habitat.

DES MOINES, IA

Farm numbers declining in Midwest

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual report on farms last week and the number of farms across the Midwest are declining.

There were 500 fewer farms in Iowa last year and the average farm size rose slightly but the amount of total land in farms remained at 30.5 million acres. The annual report says Iowa has 87,000 farms. The average farm size rose slightly to 351 acres from 349 in 2015.

The report shows similar trends in Nebraska where there were 300 fewer farms in 2016 with a total of 48,400 and the average farm size rose to 934 acres from 928. Land in farms remained at 45.2 million acres.

Minnesota has slightly fewer farms than a year ago but the ones that remain tend to be getting larger, following national trends. The total number of farms in Minnesota in 2016 was 73,300. That's down 300 from 2015.

The total amount of Minnesota farmland last year was 25.9 million acres, which hasn't changed since 2013.

But the acreage of farms with sales of $100,000 to $1 million increased by 100,000 acres from 2015. The number of farms with sales of $100,000 to $250,000 increased by 100 to 8,600.

Nationally the number of farms fell by 8,000 to 2.06 million.

AMES, IA

Field crop scout school offered

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will offer a Field Crop Scout School Saturday, March 25, at the Scheman Building in Ames.

Designed for beginning crop scouts, the day-long course features sessions on crop growth and development, scouting methods and techniques, and identification of weeds, diseases and insects.

The school provides a basic understanding of crop pests, how to identify them and field guides to help with identification. School officials say that the ability to identify insects, weeds and diseases is essential in order to carry out a successful integrated pest management plan, especially when margins are tight and it's critical to make management decisions including applications that are timely and cost effective.

Pre-registration is required and must be completed before midnight, March 17. The registration fee of $100 includes field guides, course handouts, lunch and breaks.

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