NAFTA renegotiations present opportunity and challenge

Agriculture has been waiting with anticipation, and some trepidation, for the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations to finally begin. Now that the negotiations are free to begin on August 16th, the next logical question is what happens next during the actual NAFTA renegotiations?

NAFTA Renegotiations

Ambassador Darci Vetter, former chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, has a lot to say about the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations, slated to begin on August 16th. Contributed Photo by Craig Chandler / University Communication

Darci Vetter was the lead agricultural trade negotiator for the Obama administration. She has firsthand experience in this situation as she was heavily involved in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership that new president Donald Trump withdrew from. Vetter says the renegotiations are an opportunity to improve the landmark trade agreement, but there are serious pitfalls to watch out for.

“It’s an opportunity to update an agreement that’s been around for 25 years,” Vetter said, “but it’s also an opportunity, if not done carefully, to reopen the terms of trade between three countries that really rely on each other. I’m hoping that the three countries will focus on bringing an agreement that’s dated in some ways up to the standards we need in 2017.”

Vetter said negotiators need to keep in mind that the economies of three separate countries have really integrated themselves based on duty-free access for almost all products in each other’s markets. She doesn’t want the flow of trade interrupted.

Certain segments of NAFTA do need to be updated. She compares it to the recently abandoned Trans-Pacific Partnership. There are chapters in TPP that simply didn’t exist when NAFTA was signed over two decades ago. The digital economy is a big development that needs to be addressed in the renegotiations.

“Look at the digital economy and the importance of the free flow of data,” she noted, “making sure that goods sold over the internet can be easily exchanged between the countries and that people can do business across borders no matter where their brick-and-mortar locations may be. We didn’t have the internet and e-commerce back in the early 90’s.”

The way countries protect intellectual property is more robust than it was in the 90s. There are whole classes of products like pharmaceuticals and crops that just didn’t exist back then. Vetter says we may want to bring the standards for protecting intellectual property from any of the three countries up to today’s standards. She notes there are a lot of good foundations in the original agreement that America can build on to make it a more current agreement.

Here’s the complete conversation with Darci Vetter:

Farmer answers needed on possible dicamba damage

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is gathering information on plant damage that may have been caused by the use of the herbicide dicamba. The MDA is encouraging anyone with damage to complete a survey. The survey will be open until September 15.

dicamba

“We are trying to gather as much information on this issue as possible,” said Assistant Commissioner Susan Stokes. “Often, neighbors don’t want to file a formal complaint regarding crop damage against their neighbors. This survey, along with information we’re gathering from the product registrants, applicators, and farmers, will help us collect info to assess the scope of the situation. We’re asking for everyone’s cooperation on this issue.”

Dicamba is a herbicide used to control broadleaf weeds in corn and a variety of other food and feed crops, as well as in residential areas. In 2016, the United States  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conditionally approved the use of certain new products on dicamba tolerant (DT) soybeans.

It’s a highly volatile chemical that can drift and/or volatilize. Drift may cause unintended impacts such as serious damage to non-DT soybeans, other sensitive crops, and non-crop plants. This survey looks to gather information about these unintended impacts to other crops and plants.

dIcamba

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is looking for information on possible damage to soybeans caused by dicamba drift. This is an example of what it looks like. Producers who have this in their bean fields are asked to fill out the MDA survey as soon as possible. (photo from dtnpf.com)

As of Thursday, August 3, the MDA had received 102 reports of alleged dicamba damage; not all of those reports requested an investigation. Those who have already submitted a report to the MDA are encouraged to complete the survey.

If you believe dicamba was used in violation of the label or law, and you wish to request an MDA investigation, you will also need to complete the pesticide misuse complaint form or call the Pesticide Misuse Complaint line at 651-201-6333.

You can find out more information on dicamba at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/dicamba.

2017 drought continues to expand coverage area

Agriculture and weather go hand in hand. One (agriculture) watches the other (weather), while one (weather) has a big effect on the other (agriculture). Weather, specifically the 2017 drought, is hitting agriculture hard. That’s why it’s time to talk weather with my guy, Ryan Martin, who you can find at his personal website address, weatherstud.com. By the way, if you needed any more credibility, he’s also the Chief Meteorologist for the Hoosier Ag Today radio network in Indiana, so he’s established.

2017 drought

Meteorologist Ryan Martin, shown here giving a presentation at the 2017 American Farm Bureau Federation national convention, says there’s not much relief in sight for states hit hardest by the 2017 drought. (photo from twitter.com)

We’ve talked an awful lot about what’s going on with the 2017 drought in the Dakotas. Both North and South Dakota have suffered under immense heat and non-stop dry weather. What you may not realize is the coverage area of the drought is still expanding. While the focal point is at its worst in North and South Dakota, it’s also into a good deal of Montana (have you heard about the wildfires?) and well up into the Canadian prairies.

I caught up with Ryan on the phone while he was actually driving through the Canadian prairies for work, so he saw firsthand just how far north the 2017 drought went. The drought is in Saskatchewan and western Manitoba, where it’s been going on for some time now. The Saskatchewan wheat crop is starting to turn color but it’s not even at all. There are bands that actually look dead along the outside edges of some fields while still green in other places. The lack of rain has hit Canada’s wheat fields pretty hard.

The hardest hit areas are in what’s referred to as exceptional drought. In actual terms, that means many of the hardest hit areas have picked up .5-1.5 inches of rain over the past two months. In other words, not enough.

The biggest question is whether or not there’s any relief in sight, whether in the short or long term. Ryan describes it as a situation in which “dryness begets dryness.” Give a listen to the conversation.

 

Preseason Minnesota Volleyball rankings are out

Here are the first Minnesota volleyball preseason rankings of the year:

Class AAA Rankings
1. Eagan (8)
2. Prior Lake
3. Lakeville North
4. Stillwater
5. Champlin Park
6. Hopkins
7. East Ridge
8. Shakopee
9. Moorhead
​10. Blaine
Class AA Rankings
1. Maple Lake (8)
2. Stewartville
3. Kasson-Mantorville
4. Southwest Christian
5. Marshall
6. North Branch
7. Sauk Centre
8. Roseau
9. Totino-Grace
​10. Concordia
Class A Rankings
1. Mayer Lutheran (8)
2. Hayfield
3. Caledonia
4. Bethlehem Academy
5. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
​6. Rush City
7. Mabel-Canton
8. Wadena-Deer Creek
9. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
10. Underwood
Minnesota volleyyball

The first Minnesota volleyball rankings are out. Lots of good volleyball teams make their home in southeast Minnesota and we’ll have coverage on our website at bluffcountrynews.com. Spread the word for family and friends that live out of town.

Southeast Minnesota has several good teams in the Class A and Class AA rankings. The first official day of practice is August 14. Fall sports is basically upon us. Can’t wait to get going on the seasons again.

We’ll have lots of sports coverage in southeast Minnesota on our website, bluffcountrynews.com.

 

 

Spring Grove Lions fall sports teams ready

Boy, it’s hard to believe that fall sports are right around the corner. What happened to summer? The first official day of fall practice for high school sports is August 14. I’m already talking to southeast Minnesota coaches about doing previews of their teams for our newspapers and online at bluffcountrynews.com. My first stop this fall is a visit with the Spring Grove Lions’ coaching staff.

For those who don’t follow southeast Minnesota sports on a regular basis, the Spring Grove high school sports teams are generally very good year after year. The football and volleyball teams recently returned from their last summer camps of the year. I talked with volleyball coach Kelsey Morken and football coach Zach Hauser.

Spring Grove Lions

The Spring Grove Lions, shown here in action from last season, are readying for fall practice, which officially starts on August 14.

The volleyball team had a very good season last year, going 17-12 overall and 10-4 in the Southeast Conference, finishing at second in the East Division. The Lion girls bring back a lot of experience from last year’s squad. The Spring Grove football team went 9-2 last year, 7-1 in the 9 Man, District 1, East Sub-District football standings.

The football team went to its summer camp without its number one quarterback, Alex Folz, who was out with a biceps injury. But, don’t worry Lions fans. He’ll be okay come fall practice. Here’s the conversations with both coaches on the chadsmithmedia.com podcast.

Japan increases tariff rate on U.S. beef imports

Not good news for American beef producers to end the week on. Japan just announced it’s triggering a tariff increase on U.S.  beef imports, which means our product just got a lot more expensive for the consumers in what’s been a very valuable export market.A big part of the problem is not having a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. Thank Washington for not making that happen sooner. Here’s some reaction from agriculture:

The really interesting part is the note from the Meat Export Federation that says the increase in American beef imports really hasn’t hurt domestic supplies, with carcass and feeder cattle prices lower than in recent months, but prices are still at RECORD HIGHS.

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2017 – The government of Japan has announced that rising imports of frozen beef in the first quarter of the Japanese fiscal year (April-June) have triggered a safeguard, resulting in an automatic increase to Japan’s tariff rate under the WTO on U.S. beef imports.  The increase, from 38.5 percent to 50 percent, will begin August 1, 2017 and last through March 31, 2018.  The tariff would affect only exporters from countries, including the United States, which do not have free trade agreements with Japan currently in force.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue issued the following statement:

U.S. beef imports

USDA Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue isn’t happy to hear that the tariff rate on U.S. beef imports to Japan is taking a 12 percent jump because higher import totals this year triggered a “safeguard.” (photo from usda.gov)

“I am concerned that an increase in Japan’s tariff on frozen beef imports will impede U.S. beef sales and is likely to increase the United States’ overall trade deficit with Japan.  This would harm our important bilateral trade relationship with Japan on agricultural products.  It would also negatively affect Japanese consumers by raising prices and limiting their access to high-quality U.S. frozen beef.  I have asked representatives of the Japanese government directly and clearly to make every effort to address these strong concerns, and the harm that could result to both American producers and Japanese consumers.”

U.S. exports of beef and beef products to Japan totaled $1.5 billion last year, making it the United States’ top market.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Craig Uden issued the following statement in response to the tariff increase:

U.S. beef imports

NCBA President Craig Uden says the Japan announcement of a tariff increase on U.S. beef imports should send a message to Washington about the need for a bilateral trade agreement with the largest export customer of American beef. (photo from cattle business weekly)

“We’re very disappointed to learn that the tariff on U.S. beef imports to Japan will increase from 38.5 percent to 50 percent until April 2018. Japan is the top export market for U.S. beef in both volume and value, and anything that restricts our sales to Japan will have a negative impact on America’s ranching families and our Japanese consumers. NCBA opposes artificial barriers like these because they unfairly distort the market and punish both producers and consumers. Nobody wins in this situation. Our producers lose access, and beef becomes a lot more expensive for Japanese consumers. We hope the Trump Administration and Congress realize that this unfortunate development underscores the urgent need for a bilateral trade agreement with Japan absent the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Background: Japan was the top export market for U.S. beef, valued at $1.5 billion in 2016. According to data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, first quarter U.S. beef sales to Japan increased 42 percent over 2016. In addition to the United States, the 50 percent safeguard tariff also applies to imports from Canada, New Zealand, and other countries that do not have a free trade agreement with Japan.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation also weighed in on Japan’s move:

“USMEF recognizes that the safeguard will not only have negative implications for U.S. beef producers, but will also have a significant impact on the Japanese foodservice industry,” explained U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Philip Seng. “It will be especially difficult for the gyudon beef bowl restaurants that rely heavily on Choice U.S. short plate as a primary ingredient. This sector endured a tremendous setback when U.S. beef was absent from the Japanese market due to BSE, and was finally enjoying robust growth due to greater availability of U.S. beef and strong consumer demand. USMEF will work with its partners in Japan to mitigate the impact of the safeguard as much as possible. We will also continue to pursue all opportunities to address the safeguard situation by encouraging the U.S. and Japanese governments to reach a mutually beneficial resolution to this issue.”

As agreed to in 1994 in the WTO Uruguay Round, Japan maintains separate quarterly import safeguards on chilled and frozen beef, allowing imports to increase by 17 percent compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year. The duty increases from 38.5 percent to 50 percent when imports exceed the safeguard volume. Japan’s frozen beef imports in the 2016 Japanese fiscal year were lower than in previous years, thus the growth in imports during this first quarter of the current fiscal year exceeded 17 percent, driven in part by rebuilding of frozen inventories and strong demand for beef in Japan’s foodservice sector. The most recent quarter saw strong growth in imports from all of Japan’s main beef suppliers.

The implications for U.S. beef exports are significant because U.S. frozen beef now faces an even wider tariff disadvantage compared to Australian beef. The duty on U.S. frozen beef imports, effective Aug. 1, 2017 through March 31, 2018, will be 50 percent while the duty on Australian beef will remain at the current rate of 27.2 percent, as established in the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). The snapback duty of 50 percent will apply to frozen imports from suppliers that do not have an economic partnership agreement (EPA) with Japan, which are mainly the U.S., Canada and New Zealand.

U.S. beef imports

The U.S. Meat Export Federation isn’t happy to hear the tariff rate on U.S. beef imports is taking a twelve percent jump in Japan. They point out the move normally would protect domestic supplies. but carcass prices for feeder cattle are just off record highs.

Conditions have changed since the quarterly safeguards were established in 1994, and the growth in Japan’s imports this year has not adversely impacted Japan’s domestic beef producers. Prices for wagyu carcasses and wagyu feeder cattle are down from the record highs of last year, but are otherwise the highest in recent history. Japan has also moved away from the quarterly safeguard mechanism in its recent trade agreements. Through the JAEPA, Japan transitioned from quarterly safeguards to annual safeguards, which are much less likely to be triggered. The snapback duties on Australian beef have also been reduced, minimizing any potential impact on trade. Japan also agreed to similar terms in its economic partnership agreement with Mexico and in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Supplemental information on Japan’s imports of U.S. beef and possible implications of the safeguard are available in this brief USMEF fact sheet. Further analysis and charts are also available online.

Minnesota Twins buying at the MLB trade deadline

So, I was thinking it was a bit unusual for the our Minnesota Twins to evidently be buyers as the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches. They’ve supposedly all but done a deal for Jaime Garcia of the Atlanta Braves. I was excited about picking up a lefthander who could maybe eat up some innings. As you dig deeper, it looks like the Twins might need a refresher on how to be “buyers” rather than “sellers?”

MInnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are looking at Jaime Garcia as the MLB trade deadline approaches. Is a mediocre left-hander the answer to the team’s pitching woes? And if he is, he’s only here through the rest of the season. What gives? (Photo from riverablues.com)

The new regime in the Twin’s front office isn’t quite getting the whole “let’s improve our team at the trade deadline” principal. We’re just about to pick up the second Atlanta Braves pitching castoff (Bartolo Colon ring a bell? How’s that worked out?). The Atlanta lefty is 3-7 with a 4.33 ERA in 17 starts with the Braves. He’s not coming to Minnie on a hot streak either.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution sports section points out that Garcia was 1-2 with a hefty 7.45 ERA in his last five starts for the Braves who sit three games under .500 and 11 games behind the first place Nationals, the only team above .500 in a weak division.

The guy has been in the majors for parts of nine seasons, compiling a semi-decent record of 65-52 with a 3.65 ERA in 175 games, including 164 starts. Last season with the Cardinals was the first time in six seasons that the guy had made 20 starts. How does this help the Twins?

Minnesota Twins

Not content with one Atlanta Braves castoff in Bartolo Colon (who may be on the verge of retirement), the Minnesota Twins are now considering a trade for left-hander Jaime Garcia. What’s the priority here? (Photo from calltothepen.com)

Yes, our favorite ballclub has no quality depth after Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. I understand that. The disappointing thing here is we aren’t adding Garcia for the long term. His contract is up at the end of the season. We’re parting with prospects for a rental player with a history of injuries (Tommy John surgery in 2008) and an inability to run out there every fifth day consistently.

The Twins pitching staff is bad after the top two starters. I get it. Garcia’s 4.33 ERA actually would be an improvement to our favorite team’s 3-4-5 starters. But he’s only going to be around through the end of the season. How does that fix the problem long term? This smells a lot like the hand of Jim Pohlad is in on this deal.

Thoughts? I can’t be the only one that misses good baseball in Minnesota? Anyone else think the 30-year celebrations of our World Series titles have grown stale? Kinda tired of living in the past:

 

Southeast Minnesota crops are progressing

Southeast Minnesota crops are progressing in spite of a back and forth weather pattern. It’s gone from hot to cool and dry to wet multiple times this spring, and, for the most part, the crops have gotten enough water at the right times to continue development.

Southeast Minnesota Crops are Progressing

Southeast Minnesota corn that didn’t need to be replanted because of wet weather is now at tasseling stage, when wet weather becomes a little more critical for continued development. (photo from cornbeanspigskids.com)

The corn crop is coming into the tasseling stage, a critical time in the crops’ development. Fillmore and Houston County Extension Agent Michael Cruse said the ten days before tasseling and the two-week period afterward are when rain becomes critical to continued development for southeast Minnesota crops.

“The corn is working on set and going through the reproductive cycle,” said Cruse, “and it’s important that we get rain. If the water gets limited by dry weather during that period, it will limit the crops’ final yield numbers.”

There is some extra water in the soil profile from rainfall this spring and early summer, which Cruse says doesn’t hurt at all. However, after talking with several farmers in the area, Cruse said several had to go into their fields when it was probably too wet. The farmers told Cruse they were concerned about compaction in their sidewalls when they were planting.

“That means the roots weren’t able to grow out and down into the soil like they typically do,” Cruse said, “so even though we do have water in the soil profile, if people had that type of compaction issue in their fields, the roots won’t get down to the water that’s there. It’s possible that water will be limited for the crop, even though there’s water in the soil profile.”

Though we did get plenty of rain at times this spring, Cruse said it messed up a lot of the timing for getting out in soybean fields and spraying herbicides. There are soybean fields in southeast Minnesota that have weed infestations that they couldn’t get into and spray. Farmers had to try and hit ragweed when it was 2 – 2.5 feet tall.

Southeast Minnesota crops are progressing

Due to wet conditions, it was tough for southeast Minnesota farmers to get out and spray soybean fields at the correct time for maximum weed control. (Photo from ottofarms.com)

“They had to put something down that not only burned the weeds but hit the soybean plant as well,” he said. “That’s okay, but all you really did was burn the leaves on the weeds. Most of the time, you won’t kill them by doing that. If you did knock the ragweed back a little, they’re greening up and shooting out more buds. They’re not really under control and still growing.”

Cruse’s extension colleagues are telling stories about soybean fields in their areas that were incorrectly sprayed. Farmers sprayed the incorrect product on soybean fields that aren’t resistant to that specific chemical. There have actually been soybean fields in Minnesota that were completely killed off.

“There were some fields that may not have been completely killed off,” Cruse added. “But beyond even that, the other concern is are we getting enough growing degree days? We’re actually pretty close to average. We may be a little behind the last couple of years, but we’re close to average.”

Similar to corn and soybeans, this year’s alfalfa crop is a mixed bag, with some good and some not-so-good results. The biggest comment that Cruse is getting from farmers is problems dealing with winterkill.

“I’ve seen plenty of it that’s down and I’ve seen plenty that’s ready,” he said. “I’ve seen people that are constantly cutting alfalfa. But, other fields are slower than others, likely due in part to winterkill. It’s all over the board.”

Southeast Minnesota Crops Progressing

University of Minnesota Extension educator Michael Cruse says even though southeast MN crops are progressing, some alfalfa fields have struggled to be productive because of late season winter kill. (Photo from Michigan State Extension)

Disease pressure has been somewhat limited so far in southeast Minnesota crops, but Cruse said they’re likely going to show up in the immediate future. This is the time of year to be scouting for diseases like Northern Corn Blight.

As far as pest pressure, Cruse made an interesting point, asking, “How many mosquitoes have you seen this year?” What makes it even stranger is we’ve had plenty of the right conditions to have a lot of mosquitoes, but they just aren’t there in numbers we’re used to.

“We may have an infestation here and there,” Cruse said, “but I haven’t heard anything that’s overly concerning about southeast Minnesota crops, at least up to this point.”

 

 

 

MN landowners have more Buffer Law help

Today, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources announced two additional resources for landowners working to come into compliance with the state’s buffer law. The law  was passed with bipartisan support in 2015 and signed into law by Governor Dayton. The buffer law requires the implementation of a buffer strip on public waters by November 1, 2017 and a buffer on public drainage ditches by November 1, 2018.

“These additional resources, both financial and found online, are designed to help landowners be successful in complying with the buffer law.” explained John Jaschke, Executive Director BWSR.  “Local SWCDs and landowners have been working together over the past 18 months and, we are making great progress with 64 counties already 60-100% compliant.”

COST-SHARE PROGRAM

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources has approved a new buffer cost-share program, allocating almost $5 million dollars to support landowners in meeting the requirements of the state buffer law.

The funds will be distributed to soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) and are to be used for cost-sharing contracts with landowners or their authorized agents to implement riparian buffers or alternative practices on public waters and public drainage ditches.

Minnesota buffer law

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources announced a couple of different aids for landowners looking to come into compliance with the Minnesota Buffer Law signed last year. The BWSR says a good number of counties are already 60-100% compliant with the new regulations. (photo from bwsr.stste.mn.us)

These Clean Water Funds, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Dayton at the end of the 2017 legislative session, provide important support to the Governor’s Buffer Initiative.

The 2017 legislation also recognizes that some landowners may have hardships (such as weather) in meeting the public waters deadline. The added language allows for an eight-month extension for implementation when a landowner or authorized agent has filed a riparian protection “compliance plan” with their local SWCD by November 1, 2017. Compliance waivers offer a buffer deadline extension until July 1, 2018.

NEW ONE-STOP WEBSITE

Minnesota landowners with questions about compliance waivers and other buffer law topics also have another option available today with the launching of a new one-stop website for information and tips to implement the buffer law. The new site, mn.gov/buffer-law, is a user-friendly and convenient resource for landowners and the public to learn about the law, find answers about alternative practices, and get information about financial and technical assistance and more.

The new buffer site, launched by the State of Minnesota is found at mn.gov/buffer-law. For more information on the buffer law, including the cost-share program, contact your local soil and water conservation district.

COMPLIANCE

Soil and Water Conservation Districts have been hard at work with landowners statewide and progress toward compliance is being made. 64 of Minnesota’s 87 counties are 60 – 100 percent in compliance with the buffer law. Statewide, preliminary compliance with the buffer law is 89%.

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Here’s a talk on the buffer law presented by Darren Mayers, District Technician Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District

BWSR is the state soil and water conservation agency, and it administers programs that prevent sediment and nutrients from entering our lakes, rivers, and streams; enhance fish and wildlife habitat; and protect wetlands. The 20-member board consists of representatives of local and state government agencies and citizens. BWSR’s mission is to improve and protect Minnesota’s water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners.

Parents: be wary of the new Snapchat update

Snapchat. It’s that new-fangled thing that all the kids are doing, right? But what is it?

Snapchat update

Snapchat is a popular mobile application with kids. A recent update added a locator to find friends anywhere on a map and law enforcement officials are warning parents that it could open up your children’s locations to strangers.

As a parent, you’ve likely heard kids talking about a mobile app called Snapchat but you may not be familiar with what it is. In short, it’s a mobile app that lets users capture short videos or pictures and share them with others for up to 10 seconds before they disappear.

It’s a great way for kids to share what they’re doing with friends, but it’s also a way to share things they don’t want parents seeing. A Forbes.com article noted that stories abound of teenagers “sexting” their friends by sending inappropriate pictures via Snapchat because they hope it disappears on their friends’ devices after 10 seconds It’s important to remember that, in many cases, deleted items can be recovered with the right equipment.

As if that’s not enough for parents to deal with, Snapchat’s newest update involves something that could potentially give away your children’s locations to others, including people you might not want hanging around your children. It’s a map update and parents need to keep an eye on what their children are doing. Law enforcement has taken note, as well.

The Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office wants to alert everyone that Snapchat recently introduced a new tracker in its most current update. This tracker allows you to view the exact location of your friends. It can give you the area, town, street and, if you zoom in enough, it shows the house on the street layout.

Please help share this to make everyone aware because Snapchat has a lot of young users on it. If your children use the application, please check to ensure they have their location set to Ghost mode. That way, no one can see where he or she is. By doing this, it helps keep all Snapchat users, young and older, safer.

I don’t know if you saw this on the map itself, but you can actually access the Snaps from people you don’t know. See the glowing dots on the maps? You may have to zoom in a little bit, but if you tap one of the dots, you’ll access the Snaps of complete strangers. I just saw one of a toddler giggling with an infant sibling, complete with the address here in Rochester. That’s not okay.

How can you change your setting and make Snapchat safer to use? Make sure app is the updated version and go to selfie mode on the camera. Then zoom out by pinching your fingers together. It will give you the option of changing who can see your location.

If you have questions about Snapchat or need help in making this change, feel free to contact the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office. You can also follow our Facebook page for any updates on this Snapchat issue. Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office cares about the safety and security of our citizens and will continue to alert you to any new developments.

Is the application designed with evil intentions? Of course not. Are all teenagers using it to send illicit pictures? No way. Just make sure you as parents are aware of what’s going on and don’t be afraid to turn on ghost mode for your kids when it comes to Snapchat.

This is a video designed to show parents in more detail how to use the Snapchat map feature and why it could be a security risk to your family members: