Texas floods making life hard for agriculture

It’s been unbelievable to watch the Texas floods play out, hasn’t it? Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey play out on TV screens, laptops, and smartphones all make it seem like you’re watching a disaster movie play out, but this is as real as it gets.

Here’s a portion of a recent press release from the Texas Department of Agriculture. It’s not pretty:

“Cotton farmers in the Upper Coastal Bend were some of the hardest-hit ag producers, with hundreds of cotton modules blown apart by gale-force winds and many more lying wet in fields and at gin yards. 13 of the 50 counties declared disaster areas by Governor Abbott are cotton-producing areas. Texas rice producers had already harvested around 75 percent of this year’s crops, but storage bins may have undergone extensive wind and water damage, leading to more crop losses. Wheat, soybean, and corn exports all ground to a halt late last week as Texas ports prepared for the oncoming hurricane. Texas is responsible for exporting almost one-fourth of the nation’s wheat and a significant portion of U.S. corn and soybeans.”

Texas floods

Here’s a picture of Houston as the Texas floods make life difficult in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the rains aren’t done yet. (photo from foxnews.com)

They don’t have much in the way of livestock estimates just yet but that’ll change when all that flood water finally recedes. Texas is in line for more rain yet this week so that’ll only make getting rid of the water that much more difficult.

Maybe you’ve already guessed but, as you know, Texas is home to one-third of the refineries in the U.S., and that means higher fuel prices. Most of the refineries had to shut down in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey.

Finally, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has also activated the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund (STAR Fund) to assist farmers and ranchers affected by Hurricane Harvey. As the area moves into the recovery phase, Texas ag producers in the area will need a little help getting back on their feet, and that’s where the STAR Fund comes in. Ag producers in all 54 counties declared disaster areas by Governor Abbott are eligible to apply for cost-matching funds to help get operations back up and running in the wake of this catastrophic natural disaster. You can donate from anywhere. Check out the website at texasagriculture.gov and follow the link to the STAR Fund.

Here’s a podcast with Texas Farm Bureau Director of Communications Gene Hall.

 

Here’s a birds-eye view of the flooding in Houston, courtesy of Bryan Rumbaugh.

 

 

Crop Production Report shows record soybean production

The Crop Production Report came out today (Thursday, August 10), predicting a record-high soybean production. As you know, it’s the first time USDA gives out its yield estimates based on surveys. Do you think they’ve come in about where you expected?

U.S. farmers are expected to produce a record-high soybean crop this year, according to the Crop Production report issued today by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Up 2 percent from 2016, soybean production is forecast at 4.38 billion bushels, while corn growers are expected to decrease their production by 7 percent from last year, forecast at 14.2 billion bushels. 

Crop Production Report

The first yield estimates for the current growing season are out from USDA and the numbers are showing record soybean yields as the August Crop Production report came out Thursday. (Photo from gourmet.com)

 Up 7 percent from last year, area for soybean harvest is forecast at a record 88.7 million acres with planted area for the nation estimated at a record-high 89.5 million acres, unchanged from the June estimate. Soybean yields are expected to average 49.4 bushels per acre, down 2.7 bushels from last year. Record soybean yields are expected in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

 Average corn yield is forecast at 169.5 bushels per acre, down 5.1 bushels from last year. If realized, this will be the third highest yield and production on record for the United States. NASS forecasts record-high yields in Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Acres planted to corn, at 90.9 million, remain unchanged from NASS’ previous estimate. As of July 30, 61 percent of this year’s corn crop was reported in good or excellent condition, 15 percentage points below the same time last year.

 Wheat production is forecast at 1.74 billion bushels, down 25 percent from 2016. Growers are expected to produce 1.29 billion bushels of winter wheat this year, down 23 percent from last year. Durum wheat production is forecast at 50.5 million bushels, down 51 percent from last year. All other spring wheat production is forecast at 402 million bushels, down 25 percent from 2016. Based on August 1 conditions, the U.S. all wheat yield is forecast at 45.6 bushels per acre, down 7 bushels from last year. Today’s report also included the first production forecast for U.S. cotton. NASS forecasts all cotton production at 20.5 million 480-pound bales, up 20 percent from last year. Yield is expected to average a record-high 892 pounds per harvested acre, up 25 pounds from last year.

 

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.

 

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.

MDA seeks public input on draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule

Nitrogen Fertilizer

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is looking for public input on a proposed rule dealing with nitrogen fertilizer and possible runoff into Minnesota waters. (photo from netnebraska.org)

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is seeking public review and comment of a draft proposal for regulating the use of nitrogen fertilizer in Minnesota.

The purpose of the proposed Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule is to minimize the potential for nitrate-nitrogen contamination from fertilizer in the state’s groundwater and drinking water. Nitrate is one of the most common contaminants in Minnesota’s groundwater and elevated levels of nitrate in drinking water can pose serious health concerns for humans.

The MDA is seeking public input and will be holding five public listening sessions throughout the state to discuss the proposed Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule at which written comments can be submitted. The draft rule can be viewed online at www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr.

All comments regarding the proposed rule must be submitted in writing. After consideration of comments received, the MDA expects to publish the final draft of the rule in the fall of 2017. The rule is expected to be adopted in the fall of 2018.

The draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule is based on the Minnesota Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) which recommends steps for minimizing impacts of nitrogen fertilizer on groundwater and emphasizes involving the local community in developing local solutions.

The NFMP went through an extensive development process with input provided by farmers, crop advisors, and others in the agricultural community.

Listening sessions on the draft rule will be held at the following locations:

Thursday, June 22, 5:00 pm
Marshall Public Library
201 C Street, Marshall, MN 56258

Wednesday, June 28, 6:00 pm
Chatfield Center for the Arts
405 Main Street, Chatfield, MN 55932

Thursday, June 29, 2:00 pm
University of Minnesota Extension Office
4100 220th Street West, Farmington, MN 55024

Thursday, July 6, 3:00 pm
Great River Regional Library
1300 West Saint Germain Street, St. Cloud, MN 56301

Tuesday, July 11, 6:00 pm
Robertson Theatre, Wadena-Deer Creek High School
600 Colfax Ave. SW, Wadena, MN 56482

Written comments on the draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule should be submitted by Friday August 11, 2017 via mail or email to:

Larry Gunderson
Fertilizer Technical Unit Supervisor
Minnesota Department of Agriculture

625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN, 55155-2538
larry.gunderson@state.mn.us

All comments should, but are not required to, include a contact name, phone number and/or email address to provide for follow-up discussion on specific comments. To stay up to date on the rule writing process, please visit: www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr.

The Freshwater Institute is working on ways to keep nitrogen from running into our water supply, but they’re doing it with an eye on keeping farmers as profitable as possible. I thought that was a refreshing change from the usual rhetoric. Here’s a video on something called a bioreactor. Is this something you’d be willing to do on your farm?

The crop insurance battle continues

Crop Insurance

Here’s a photo of winter wheat in western Kansas buried under a snowstorm last weekend. Crop insurance is an important product for farmers in times like these. (Photo from the High Plains Journal)

WHEAT GROUP TWEAKS HERITAGE OVER BLIZZARD DAMAGE: David Schemm, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, wants representatives of The Heritage Foundation and taxpayer watchdog groups that criticize the federal crop insurance program to witness the damage a spring blizzard inflicted on fields in Kansas, the country’s biggest wheat state, over the weekend. The storm, which dropped a foot to 17 inches in places, hit eastern Colorado, parts of Nebraska and the western part of Kansas, where NAWG estimates it destroyed 43 percent of the state’s winter wheat crop. The timing couldn’t be worse, as wheat farmers are already reeling from several years of extremely low prices.

“From their rhetoric, they would say a lot of farmers will go bankrupt and that’s how it’s supposed to be,” Schemm said of taxpayer groups and the conservative think tank on Tuesday as he surveyed his 4,500 acres of damaged wheat in Sharon Springs, Kan. NAWG had earlier tweeted: “A late season blizzard puts 43% of Kansas’ planted wheat acres under 14 inches of snow. @Heritage how would you handle w/o #cropinsurance?”

About 7.7 million acres of wheat in Kansas – more than 90 percent – are covered by a crop insurance policy, a liability amount equal to $1.1 billion, NAWG estimates based on USDA’s 2016 data. Most of those policies protect against revenue losses, as opposed to just drops in yield, the group said, making an important distinction.

Heritage’s two cents: It’s not true that the Heritage Foundation is against all forms of crop insurance, said Daren Bakst, the group’s research fellow on agricultural policy. “On the yield side, we should be covering deep losses,” like those experienced in the recent storm, he said. “Other risks farmers should be managing on their own.” Heritage did call for eliminating crop insurance policies that guarantee revenue when it released a 65-page paper – which Bakst edited – on managing risk in agriculture last year. Pros, read the report here.

Here’s the podcast recapping the damage in Kansas as well as some better news regarding rebuilding after the wildfires that raged through the plains states:

Minnesota FFA Convention wraps up

Minnesota FFA Convention

The Minnesota State FFA convention wrapped up this week with the election of new state leaders and a bunch of great memories.

The final session of the 88th Minnesota FFA Convention concluded with the election of the six-member state officer team. The newly elected team will serve more than 11,000 members in Minnesota for one year. They will also spend the next year representing Minnesota, agriculture and agricultural education at state and national levels.

The 2017-2018 Minnesota FFA State Officer Team

The state officer candidates were interviewed by a panel of FFA members, agricultural educators and representatives from partnering organizations earlier this week. Elected FFA members were:

President: Katie Benson, Staples Motley FFA Chapter

Vice President: Emily Pliscott, Kenyon-Wanamingo FFA Chapter

Secretary: Kylee Kohls, Litchfield FFA Chapter

Treasurer: Spencer Flood, Dassel-Cokato FFA Chapter

Reporter: Eleora DeMuth, Grand Rapids FFA Chapter

Sentinel: Maddie Weninger, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA Chapter

 

Career Development Events

During the final session, Career Development Events (CDE) winners were announced. The top chapters in the state will advance to the national competition in Indianapolis in October. CDEs are competitive activities for students to showcase their skills in their respective competition. CDE results will be sent out in early May.

Minnesota FFA Convention

National Chapter Award

The Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA Chapter received top honors for the National Chapter Award, sponsored by the Minnesota FFA Foundation. FFA Chapters apply for this honor by highlighting chapter activities in the categories of student development, chapter development, and community development. Chapter applications are reviewed and scored by a series of judges based on innovating ideas and accomplished goals.

Session speakers

“We live in a world where people are desperate for hope,” said Wendy Bauman, State Secretary, from the Kerkhoven Murdock Sunburg FFA Chapter in her retiring address, Feed Hope “When it comes down to it, the only thing we are able to do is love one another. When we choose to love, we feed hope.”

Mr. Gian Paul Gonzalez, motivational speaker and founder of Hope + Future, shared his insight about living “All In” at the final session of the Minnesota FFA Convention.

“‘All in’ is personal. No one can go ‘All In’ for you; It’s a personal choice.” said Gonzalez.

“No matter what our dreams look like, our success is determined not when we dream, but in the moments when we decide to strive,” said Spencer Wolter, State President, from the Windom FFA Chapter in his retiring address, Gettin’ Chicks.

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About Minnesota FFA

The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. More than 25,000 students in Minnesota are enrolled in agricultural education classes. Students who have taken three or more classes in career and technical education, including agricultural education have a graduation rate of 98.7 percent. Visit www.mnffa.org for more information. Follow the Minnesota FFA Convention on social media or watch the recorded general sessions at mnffafoundation.org/livestreaming.

Convention photos by Matt Addington Photography can be viewed at: https://mattaddington.smugmug.com/FFA/2017-State-Convention – Download password: @MNFFA

Here’s what the kickoff to the state convention looked like. Enjoy!

Sonny Perdue confirmed as next Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture “The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) thanks Senator Klobuchar and Senator Franken for voting for Governor Sonny Perdue’s confirmation as the next U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary of Agriculture,” said MFBF President Kevin Paap. “Secretary Perdue is a needed voice for agriculture as the new administration addresses issues like trade, regulatory reform, agriculture labor and the next farm bill. We look forward to working with the new Secretary to address issues facing Minnesota farmers and ranchers.”

Secretary of Agriculture

A late-afternoon confirmation vote on Monday means Sonny Perdue is finally Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Agriculture. (photo from the washingtonpost.com)

“Now that we have our Secretary of Agriculture in place, we look forward to getting down to business to address serious issues that the Secretary has committed to working on as well as filling other key roles in the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Paap.

 

Minnesota Farm Bureau – Farmers ● Families ● Food is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureau associations across Minnesota. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education for children. Join Farm Bureau today and support efforts to serve as an advocate for rural Minnesota, www.fbmn.org.

 

For more information on the Minnesota Farm Bureau log onto www.fbmn.org, www.Facebook.com/MNFarmBureau or www.Twitter.com/MNFarmBureau.