Trade lawyer questions NAFTA negotiating tactics

The North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are continuing, with several contentious issues to work through. A Veteran international trade lawyer is questioning Washington’s NAFTA negotiating tactics and wants to warn American agriculture groups to keep a sharp eye on how things develop and progress.

NAFTA Negotiating tactics

Daniel Ujczo is an International Trade Lawyer with Dickinson Wright law firm in Columbus, Ohio. He’s concerned about America’s NAFTA negotiating tactics and wants agriculture to keep the pressure on for a positive outcome. (contributed photo)

Dan Ujczo is an International Trade and Customs Attorney for Dickinson Wright Law Firm in Columbus, Ohio. He specializes in Canada-United States trade matters, so he’s keeping an especially close eye on the NAFTA negotiations. There are seven rounds in the discussions, and he noted that the most aggressive positions on trade began to show up during Round 3. He’s worried about the tenor and tone of the Trump Administration during these negotiations.

“We saw the U.S. begin to put forth very aggressive proposals in Round 3 up in Ottawa,” Ujczo said. “The first one was on government procurement, also known as “Buy American,” which basically said the U.S. is going to cut back on the number of government contracts Canada and Mexico are allowed to procure. At the same time, the U.S. wants Canada and Mexico to allow more American participation in bidding on their government contracts.”

He said that’s when feathers first began ruffling. Round 4 saw some aggressive proposals on automotive rules-of-origin, which the U.S. wants to bump from 62 percent North American content to 85 percent. The Trump Administration wants 50 percent of that 85 percent number to come from North America. Ujczo said there are no free-trade agreements in the world that have a nation-specific rule-of-origin like that.

The Canadian supply-management program restricts the amounts of American dairy, poultry, and eggs that get into Canada. Ujczo said Canada’s called it a “red line” that they won’t cross. It’s something to keep an eye on as the U.S. negotiators have already come out against the supply-management system.

“The U.S. is also talking about a sunset provision, meaning NAFTA would automatically terminate after five years unless Congress reauthorizes it,” he said. “Those are things that will cause Canada and Mexico to carefully consider their next moves. There is a very real possibility that the U.S. knows that Canada and Mexico can’t negotiate on issues like that, which means we’re left with one conclusion.”

Ujczo said that conclusion is, in his mind, the U.S. NAFTA negotiating tactics may be designed to try and get Canada and Mexico to walk away from NAFTA. If they don’t, he said the Trump Administration very well could walk away by the end of this year. He feels the Trump Administration doesn’t necessarily want to walk away from the deal, rather, they’re more concerned about “making America great again.”

Here is the complete discussion. Is he right? Is he just being politically motivated? I didn’t get the sense he was. It felt more like a warning to American agriculture to keep making your voices heard.

Minnesota Farmers now have some stress help

A new Farm & Rural Helpline is now available to Minnesota farmers and rural residents. The service, funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), is free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll free number is (833) 600-2670.

Minnesota farmers

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is helping to fund a Farm and Rural Helpline for those folks out in the country who are going through tough times. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone when things get tough. It’ll keep you moving in the right direction.

Farmers and rural communities face unique stresses and emotional situations, including financial challenges, unpredictable weather, physically demanding work, and more. As stress, anxiety, depression, financial burdens, and other mental and emotional issues continue to impact the lives of Minnesota farmers and rural residents, the MDA recognized the need for ongoing support.

“I farmed for 24 years, so I’m no stranger to the stress and worry that can be part of farming,” said MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “I know that sometimes it helps to talk to someone about problems that can seem insurmountable. There is always help available around the corner.”

As an active farmer during the economic crisis of the 1980s, Commissioner Frederickson experienced first-hand the emotional toll farming can take on individuals and families.

He also knows that resources are available in Minnesota to families navigating the unique challenges facing farmers on a daily basis. The Farm & Rural Helpline can connect callers to financial assistance programs, health and mental health services, legal help, and more. Calls are confidential, but counselors may ask for a first name and phone number in case of a dropped call. Translation services are also available, with translators available in all languages.

The Farm & Rural Helpline is also available to those unsure of what to do about family or friends who may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or a mental health crisis.

Minnesota farmers and rural Minnesotans can call the toll free number as often as needed at (833) 600-2670.

Farmers are often independent by nature. It’s what helps them succeed in their chosen profession. Don’t be afraid to reach out and find someone to talk to. It’ll keep you healthy and going in the right direction to unload the stuff that’s on your mind, once in a while.

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Southeast Minnesota soybean harvest underway

Farmers have grain to sell

Lisa Behnken is a crops specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester.

It’s official. Soybean harvest is underway as farmers are bringing in the first soybeans of the season. While the growing season was difficult, early soybean harvest results are described as “pretty good, all things considered.”

Lisa Behnken is a University of Minnesota Extension Educator in the Rochester office. She said things really got going around the middle of last week and continued through the weekend before rain settled in. Some of the early reports are saying yields are coming in right around 55 bushels-per-acre, roughly ten bushels lower than farmers harvested in 2016.

“Farmers may have pockets that are doing a little better than that,” she said, “which is normally the case, but when they look at field averages, some are saying closer to 60 and some say closer to 50. That’s a respectable yield. It’s not a bin-buster but it’s a respectable yield.”

It’s respectable, especially when you look back at some of the challenges in soybean fields around the area. Farmers saw a few pockets of white mold in certain fields. Periodic cooler weather and excessive rainfall made it hard to just get the beans in the ground on time. Insect pressure was hit-and-miss. Beans didn’t suffer any drought-stress this year, but, the biggest challenge they did face was weed pressure.

Soybean harvest

Soybean harvest is always a challenging time of year but southeast MN soybean fields struggled with weed pressure, thanks to cold and wet weather limiting the timing and effectiveness of herbicide applications in the spring.

“Cool and wet weather at the beginning of the growing season made it difficult for the herbicides to even activate,” she said, “so some of the weeds escaped control early in the season. If farmers have to chase weed control through the summer, it gets pretty tough. Unfortunately, by the time we got to August, there were a lot of messy soybean fields with a lot of Waterhemp and Giant Ragweed in them.”

The weather made herbicide applications difficult to get down on time in the spring. Farmers are also dealing with increasing weed resistance to herbicides. When weed density gets high in bean fields, that affects yield negatively. Behnken said weed pressure was likely the number one story in southeast Minnesota soybean fields.

Houston and Fillmore County Extension Educator Michael Cruse said soybeans are coming out in those areas as well. While there are still some soybean fields turning brown, quite a bit of beans are already out of their fields.

“With the (up until recently) dry conditions, soybean fields dried out quickly and things progressed to the point where they were ready to come out,” he said. “Soybean harvest is officially off and running.”

While there aren’t a lot of hard numbers coming into his office yet in terms of yield estimates, Cruse echoed Behnken when he said early numbers say yields won’t be as low as some may have thought coming into harvest. Early-weed control challenges and an inability to apply herbicides on time will be the biggest factor in possible yield loss.

Here’s the conversation with Behnken:

 

10-year anniversary of the Rushford flood

Saturday, August 18, started as a typical weekend day in Rushford, but it wouldn’t end like a typical day. In fact, it’s a day that lives on in infamy and will for a long time to come. The Rushford, Minnesota, 2007 flood had begun.

Rain began to fall that evening. It started out as a torrential downpour and it just never let up. It wouldn’t let up for approximately 24 hours. By the early hours of Sunday morning, Rushford had filled up with water and authorities were ordering residents to evacuate. 17 inches of rainfall in a short space of time triggered a flood that saw over five feet of water filling up the Rushford area. The road to recovery would be a long and hard one.

Rushford flood 2007

17 inches of rain in a 24-hour period left behind a once-a-generation flood in Rushford, Minnesota. August of this year marked the ten-year anniversary of the Rushford flood of 2007. (Photo courtesy of Fillmore County Emergency Management)

August marked the ten-year anniversary of the flood. While the recovery stories were incredibly challenging, they were also heartwarming as the community rallied together. Ten different people would give ten different answers to the question, “Can you believe it’s been ten years since the flood?” Looking back, all would agree it was a difficult time.

“It almost seems like it’s been longer than that,” said Pam Brand, owner of Pam’s Corner in Rushford. “Sometimes it feels like it hasn’t been that long, but then I look at everything the community’s been through since then and it feels even longer than that.”

Jim Hoiness, co-owner of Rushford Foods, said it feels like ten years have gone by very quickly, calling it ‘amazing.’ It’s especially amazing when he looks back at where the community came from to where it is today. “We’ve been very blessed,” he said.

Saturday, August 18th, was just another weekend day to the Brands, who’d made plans that day for a grill out with friends, but the torrential rains made that impossible. They didn’t hear about the flooding in Rushford until the next morning, partly because they live ten miles outside of town. A phone call from one of their employees was the first clue they had.

“The employee that opened up on Sunday morning called me and said, ‘Rushford is flooding,’” she said. “We thought that meant the streets might be full of water, so we said we’d be there soon. The employee called back and said, ‘you really need to come now,’ telling us that Rushford was flooding and there was water everywhere.”

Coming in from the south side of Rushford, the Brands made it to the bridge before they were stopped by water. A lot of water. They needed to get to the store, so they took off in their car, which almost made it to the store before stalling. They would wade in water the rest of the way to the store.

The Hoiness family was at a family reunion when it started raining. Even when Jim got home, it was still raining, so he decided to head down to Rushford Foods and take a look at the building. When he got to the store, the loading dock was completely full of water. That water was about one foot from getting into the main store. At that point, Jim said there was nothing he could do about it and went home to hunker down. He wouldn’t see the extent of the damage until the next morning.

The Brands were also seeing water getting closer to their business. The family began moving items in their store to the second floor, getting help from customers who happened to be in the store at the time and were virtually trapped there. They also made what would turn out to be a good decision to shut down all the electrical equipment, a decision that would help them get back on their feet a little quicker than they would have. However, they were still left with a mess.

“A muddy, muddy mess,” Brand said. “It took an awful lot of work to clean up a mess like that but we have an awful lot of good people in this community and the surrounding areas. Folks came from all over to help everybody clean up. It was amazing. I never dreamed that anything like that could happen.”

Jim Hoiness faced a similarly monumental task to get the Rushford Foods building cleaned up. He used the word ‘miracle’ to describe the process as 400 volunteers came to his store to help with cleanup.

Rushford MN Flood 2007

When flood waters recede, they don’t leave behind a suddenly washed-clean environment. That’s when the real cleanup work begins and it’s not pretty at all, as Rushford, MN, found out in 2007. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

“I don’t believe we ever asked anyone to come and help,” Hoiness said. “They just showed up. It was the nastiest job you could ever have, to try and clean up through that muck and mud. It’s a tedious job.”

Hoiness said several of the volunteers were community residents, but there were a lot of people that came in from out of town. In fact, a group of confirmation students from an area Catholic church/school called Hoiness to ask if they could come down and help.

“I talked to the teacher when they first came over,” Hoiness remembered, “and she said the students were a little reluctant to come over, at first. The students worked in the Mill Street Mall (which Hoiness also owns) and helped clean it up. After that, the teacher called back and said the students wanted to return over a couple of Saturdays and finish the job.”

Hoiness said that’s what sticks in his mind the most when he remembers the flood. It’s the people that came to help. It’s not fun to clean up something like that. It’s smelly and dirty. Without that volunteer help, it’s hard to even get a start on a job like that.

“It would be virtually impossible to pay someone for a job that big,” he added. “It would be incredibly expensive.”

Brand said it took a few months before she felt Pam’s Corner was fully back on its feet again. Hoiness said Rushford Foods took a lot of work to get going again as well. Hoiness said they had to remove several feet of interior and exterior walls from the ground up because of water damage. As they got back on their feet, Pam said it was heartwarming to see everyone working together to get Rushford moving again.

“You could see everyone helping each other,” she remembered. “We saw a lot of former community members that had moved away and were coming back to help with cleanup, including former residents that we hadn’t seen in years. Everyone really stuck together to help each other get back on their feet again. It was really quite amazing.”

Hoiness said it was ‘miraculous’ that Rushford Foods could be back in business in only 71 days. They couldn’t have done it without all the help that showed up. He feels Rushford has come a long way since the epic flood in 2007.

“I think so,” he said. “I think things look very good. A lot of homes and businesses were redone. We’re very fortunate.”

Brand said the year after the flood saw Rushford beginning to take shape again, saying everything looked stronger and new. She said it looked like Rushford had done the right things to get going in the right direction again. Does she still believe that ten years later?

“I believe it is, yes,” she said firmly.

Here’s a YouTube video of the flood and some of the damage that it left behind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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:

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:

 

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:

 

 

Poison hemlock in southeast Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is warning residents about the dangers of poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), a toxic member of the carrot family. Residents should be on the lookout for the weed, take extra precautions when handling it, and not ingest any parts of the plant. It is currently in bloom in several parts of the state.

Poison hemlock flower

Poison hemlock can grow up to eight feet tall. The flowers are small and white with umbrella shaped clusters on the tops of stems. The stems are hairless and have purple blotches. The plants also emit an odor.

The flowers of poison hemlock look similar to wild carrot (Daucus carota) and water hemlock (Circuta maculata). However, the fern-like leaves and purple blotches on the stems of poison hemlock distinguish it from these related species.

All parts of poison hemlock (leaves, stem, flowers, and roots) are poisonous. If a person accidentally ingests poison hemlock, call Minnesota Poison Control immediately at 1-800-222-1222. You should call 911 right away if the individual is unresponsive or having trouble breathing. People have also reportedly been poisoned by handling the plants. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and gloves to help avoid exposure. Contact your local veterinarian if an animal may have accidentally ingested poison hemlock.

Stems of poison hemlock compared to wild carrot and wild parsnip

Purple blotches on the stems of poison hemlock distinguish it from wild carrot and wild parsnip.

The weed has been recorded in isolated pockets of Minnesota, most recently in the southeastern part of the state. It appears to be spreading quickly in the St. Charles and Lanesboro areas. However, poison hemlock may be growing elsewhere in Minnesota. If residents suspect they have found poison hemlock, take a picture of the plant and email it to arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us, or they should contact their local University of Minnesota Extension office.

Here’s a video showing you the difference between wild carrot plants and poison hemlock:

More information and photos of poison hemlock can be found on the MDA website.

Gypsy moth treatment coming to Winona County

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is preparing to treat approximately 1,751 acres of land in Winona County to slow the spread of a gypsy moth infestation identified last year. Officials will conduct the aerial treatment sometime between June 22 and June 29, beginning as early as 7:00 a.m. This date is dependent on weather conditions in the area leading up to the treatment date.

gypsy moth

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be spraying the Pine Creek area of Winona County in Minnesota to slow the spread of the gypsy moth into the state’s tree forests. (photo from hatfieldspraying.com)

To help area citizens stay informed, the MDA has set up an Arrest the Pest information line at 1-888-545-MOTH (6684). The hotline will offer the latest details about treatment date and time.

The MDA maintains a monitoring program to watch for start-up infestations. When an infestation is found, the department conducts aerial treatments of the infestation before it can spread. In 2016, the MDA found an infestation in New Hartford Township, Winona County (referred to as the Pine Creek block). (SEE MAP) Details of the area can be found at www.mda.state.mn.us/gmtreatments.

Map of treatment area in New Hartford Township, Winona County

The MDA will use a method of mating disruption involving the aerial application of a waxy, food-grade substance containing a pheromone that confuses male gypsy moths. This makes it difficult for the male gypsy moths to find females for mating, which means fewer caterpillars hatching and attacking trees next year. The application is timed just as adult moths emerge in mid-summer.

Mating disruption has been widely used for gypsy moth management in Minnesota and across the nation. It is an effective tool that helps slow the spread of the insect as it moves westward across the country. Minnesota has benefited greatly from the use of mating disruption in Wisconsin and other eastern states that have kept new gypsy moth populations at bay.

This work is being coordinated through the national Slow the Spread of Gypsy Moth program directed by the U.S. Forest Service. Minnesota has been part of this program since 2004. These efforts protect forest health, property values, and the state’s tourism industry.

Gypsy moths are among America’s most destructive tree pests, having caused millions of dollars in damage to Eastern forests. If present in large numbers, gypsy moth caterpillars can defoliate large sections of forest.

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