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Garlicky tour

Looking for a stinky way to celebrate summer? The Sustainable Farming Association Minnesota Premium Garlic Project will host a field day at Garlicky Bohemian Farm at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 30, at 12729 County Road 100, just south of Wadena.

The farm specializes in porcelain hardneck garlic, and is one of the Minnesota Premium Garlic Project field trial sites. Talks will be about trials on spring fertilization, seed dip treatment, planting dates and mulch removal.

To register for the free event, go to www.sfa-mn.org/the-garlic-project. A potluck social hour will follow the tour, so participants should bring food or drink to share and lawn chairs.

The project enhances profitability for existing and new farmers by improving premium garlic production in Minnesota through the advancement of best production and marketing practices, and by expanding markets and supply chains and conducting research on improved cultivation methods.

This project is made possible by a Specialty Crops Block Grant through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Minnesota strawberry season starting slow

Minnesota's strawberry season is off to a slow start due to cold temperatures, but farmers expect to see an abundant berry season, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture says.

Because conditions vary from region to region, the departments recommends checking with your local patch for information on availability before heading out to the farm.

Strawberry season in Minnesota is short and sweet, typically two to three weeks long, but the length of harvest varies depending on varieties planted, weather and soil type.

To find a local grower, check with the Minnesota Grown Directory, available in print or online at www.minnesotagrown.com/search-directory.

New Dairy Margin Coverage signup open

Dairy farmers are now able to sign up for the new Dairy Margin Coverage program, a federal program that pays farmers hurt by volatile milk and feed prices.

It replaces the Margin Protection Program for Dairy, which farmers said didn't protect them from several years of low milk prices. This new program offers protection to dairy producers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed cost falls below a certain dollar amount selected by the producer.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue called the new program "probably a no-brainer" for smaller dairies, as the program will provide coverage back through January.

"With an environment of low milk prices, high economic stress, and a new safety net program with higher coverage levels and lower premiums, it is the right time for dairy producers to seriously consider enrolling when signup opens," he said.

The Farm Bill also allows producers who participated in the old dairy program from 2014-2017 to receive a repayment or credit for part of the premiums paid into the program.

All dairy operations in the U.S. are eligible for the new program.

For more information, visit farmers.gov or contact the USDA service center in Alexandria, 900 Robert St. N., at 320-763-3191.

State rolls out dairy program

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is rolling out its new Dairy Assistance, Investment and Relief Initiative program to provide financial assistance for dairy producers who enroll for five years of coverage in the USDA Farm Service Agency's Dairy Margin Coverage program.

"Minnesota farmers are the cornerstone of our state's economy," said Governor Tim Walz. "We know that this has been a tough year for agriculture, and our dairy farmers need our support."

Applications to the program are being accepted through Oct. 1. In order to qualify, farmers must have produced less than 160,000 hundredweight of milk in 2018 and have signed up for five years of coverage through the USDA program during its current enrollment period between June 17 and Sept. 20.

Producers can expect to receive their first payments roughly two to four weeks after successfully applying. Producers may receive a second payment this fall after the application period has ended, depending on remaining available funds.

Find more information and application forms at https://www.mda.state.mn.us/dairi.

USDA raises farm loan limits

Higher limits are now available for borrowers interested in USDA's loans to buy farms or cover operating expenses. The 2018 Farm Bill increased the limits on Farm Service Agency loans and made changes to other loans, such as microloans and emergency loans.

Key changes are:

• The Direct Operating Loan limit increased from $300,000 to $400,000, and the Guaranteed Operating Loan limit went from $1.429 million to $1.75 million.

• The Direct Farm Ownership Loan limit doubled to $600,000, and the Guaranteed Farm Ownership Loan limit rose from $1.429 million to $1.75 million.

• Producers can now receive both a $50,000 Farm Ownership Microloan and a $50,000 Operating Microloan. Previously, microloans were limited to a combined $50,000.

• Producers who previously received debt forgiveness as part of an approved FSA restructuring plan are now eligible to apply for emergency loans.

• Beginning and socially disadvantaged producers can now receive up to a 95 percent guarantee against the loss of principal and interest on a loan, up from 90 percent.

For more information, visit www.fsa.usda.gov or call 320-763-3191, ext. 2.

Farm groups release solar guide

As farmers consider allowing large-scale solar and wind energy projects on their land, two farm advocacy groups have created a guide to help them navigate the contracts.

Minnesota Farmers Union and the St. Paul-based Farmers' Legal Action Group have written the Farmers' Guide to Solar and Wind Energy in Minnesota, available online now and soon to be in print.

"Solar and wind energy can be great value additions to some family farms, especially in a time of low farm income," said Gary Wertish, farmers union president.

The guide is online. The union will soon have copies available at their state office as well.

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