"This is the earliest we have announced the marketing assistance loan rates for these commodities," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "This exemplifies our commitment to providing timely information to enable producers to better utilize these programs in their planting and marketing decisions."

She said the 2004 county loan rates announced also continue the market-oriented approach established in 2002 following enactment of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002.

The relative levels of the county loan rates for each commodity reflect the most recent information available about price relationships around the country and will enhance the market orientation of the corn, grain sorghum and soybean loan and loan deficiency payment programs.

In establishing this year's rates, USDA continued to focus special attention on minimizing neighboring-county loan rate variances that are not justified by current market forces.

The farm bill established specific national loan rates for each commodity. For corn and grain sorghum, the 2002 and 2003 national rates are $1.98 per bushel. Beginning in 2004, these rates will be $1.95 per bushel and will remain at that level through 2007.

“These changes are reflected in the county loan rates announced today,” said Veneman.

The national soybean rate remains unchanged at $5.00 per bushel, as set forth by the farm bill.

Commodity Crop Year Change (2004 vs. 2003)
2002-2003 2004-2007
Corn ($/bu_ $1.98 $1.95 -$0.03
Grain Sorghum $1.98 $1.95 -$0.03
Soybeans $5.00 $5.00 0

Loan rates for other crops, such as pulse crops, will be announced in the near future. The 2004-crop county loan rates for wheat, barley, oats and other oilseeds were announced on Dec. 9, 2003.

The 2004-crop county loan rates for corn, grain sorghum and soybeans will be available on the Farm Service Agency Web site within four business days of this announcement, USDA officials said. The Web site is located at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/psd/LoanRate.htm.

County loan rates for wheat, barley, oats and other oilseeds are also available on this site.

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