State is second in farm payment payouts

Minnesota ranked second in the nation in safety-net payments to crop farmers for the 2014 harvest, according to a report issued last week.

As of Nov. 5, Minnesota producers had received a total of nearly $602 million from the program during the past couple of weeks, administered by the Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Iowa ranked first at $865 million in payments. Others rounding out the top five included Nebraska with $551 million, Kansas at $260 million and South Dakota at $224 million.

The money is the first under a new program authorized by the 2014 farm bill that replaces the previous direct payments system. Under the older system, farmers received payments in good years and bad, whether or not they needed them.

Proponents of the new system say it is based on need, and pays farmers only when the combination of yields and prices falls below federal guarantees.

But critics have said the guarantees are too high, and the new, more complicated system still pays out roughly the same amount of taxpayer money as previous farm ­programs.

Last week's report listed the total national payments for 2014 crops at $4.5 billion.

Minnesota and Iowa received the highest payments largely because the late spring in early 2014 resulted in below-average yields, and corn and soybean prices were low.

Payments were triggered in all Minnesota counties where corn is grown, about one-third of the counties where soybeans are produced and in about one-fifth of the counties that grow wheat.


Target Christmas sweater offends some

Target was apparently trying to be cute. But some consumers have taken to social media to complain that the "Obsessive Christmas Disorder" sweater the Minneapolis-based retailer began selling in recent weeks is offensive.

Of course, Target didn't invent the phrase, which is a riff off obsessive-compulsive disorder, which affects about 2.2 million Americans. A cursory Google search finds goods with "Obsessive Christmas Disorder" being sold on other such sites as Amazon, Etsy and Cafe Press. But some critics say Target should hold itself to higher standards.

Still, Target is sticking by the shirts and has no plans to remove them.

"We never want to disappoint any of our guests and apologize for any discomfort," Joshua Thomas, a Target spokesman, wrote in an e-mail.

The reaction, as you might imagine, has been mixed. Not everyone agrees that Target went too far with the sweater.