Candidates sought for four Minnesota commodity councils

MDA-logoThe Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) will conduct a mail ballot election to fill board vacancies of four commodity research and promotion councils. Candidates are selected through mail ballot elections set for March 2015.

The Barley, Beef, Corn and Soybean Councils are seeking candidates. The candidate registration deadline is February 5, 2015. These farmer/leaders serve three-year terms directing the investment of their Research and Promotion Councils’ check-off programs.

 

Those interested in running for an opening should contact the council listed below to be referred to their nominating committee chairs. Open positions include:

 

 

Barley Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

District 1: Beltrami, Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake, Roseau

 

District 2: Clearwater, Hubbard, Mahnomen, Norman, Polk

Barley Research and Promotion Council office:  800-242-6118 or 218-253-4311

 

Beef Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

District 1: Becker, Clay, Clearwater, Kittson, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau

 

Districts 2, 3: Beltrami, Cass, Cook, Hubbard, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, St. Louis

 

District 5: Benton, Carver, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Morrison, Renville, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Wright

 

District 7: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Beef Research and Promotion Council office:  952-854-6980

 

Corn Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

Districts 1, 2, 4: Becker, Beltrami, Big Stone, Cass, Chippewa, Clay, Clearwater, Douglas, Grant, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lac Qui Parle, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Pope, Red Lake, Roseau, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine

 

Districts 3, 5, 6: Anoka, Aitkin, Benton, Carlton, Carver, Chisago, Cook, Crow Wing, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, Lake, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Ramsey, Renville, Sherburne, Sibley, St. Louis, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington, Wright, Scott

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Corn Research and Promotion Council office:  952-233-0333

 

Soybean Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

Districts 1, 2, 3: Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clay, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Mahnomen, Marshall, Norman, Pennington, Polk, Red Lake, Roseau, St. Louis, Cook, Lake

 

District 4: Big Stone, Chippewa, Douglas, Grant, Lac Qui Parle, Ottertail, Pope, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Wilkin, Yellow Medicine

 

District 7: Cottonwood, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock

 

District 8: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwan

 

District 9: Dakota, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona

Soybean Research and Promotion Council office:  888-896-9678 or 507-388-1635

 

Farmers who voted last year will receive ballots by mail, but those who did not vote last year can request a ballot from the above commodity council offices by February 5, 2015.

Diesel prices head lower, but for how long

Diesel prices have been trending lower for a couple of months now.  They’ve finally begun to follow gas prices lower at the pumps, but the big question is this:  How long can diesel and energy prices in general trend lower?  It’s a big question at this time of year for farmers who want to start contracting ahead for spring needs in 2015.

As part of a story assignment for the Midwest Producer newspaper, I caught up with Tracy Haller, the Energy Procurement and Marketing Manager for Farmway Cooperative in north central Kansas.  She said it’s hard to know what’s ahead without a crystal ball, but in the short-term, prices may continue to soften, but there will be a definite price floor for crude, and you’ll know when it hits.  Give a listen to my weekly podcast:

Tracy is the Energy Procurement and Marketing Manager at Farmway Cooperative, with 37 locations in north central Kansas (photo from www.farmwaycoop.com)

Tracy is the Energy Procurement and Marketing Manager at Farmway Cooperative, with 37 locations in north central Kansas (photo from www.farmwaycoop.com)

 

 

 

 

 

I would absolutely love to hear any ideas on podcast stories and guests you’d like to hear from on my website.  Please email me at chadsmithdad@gmail.com

 

 

Farming and Racing are an odd couple

Farming and racing clearly don’t have a lot in common, other than the occasional left turn. However, much like Oscar and Felix in the Odd Couple television show, they seem to have learned to get along in spite of their differences.

The racing bug seems to bite most fans early in life. “My dad took me to my first Go-Kart race when I was ten years old,” said Kyle Berck, a farmer from Marquette, Nebraska. “When you go to your first Go-Kart race, what ten year old boy wouldn’t like that? After four years of Go-Karts, we moved on to stock cars, and have been around it ever since.”

Kyle Berck

Kyle Berck, one of several farmers we found that really enjoys racing (Photo courtesy of Todd Boyd photography)

Family seems to play a big part in a love of racing. “I’ve been into it as long as I’ve been around,” said Travis Kumpf, the crew chief for Tyler Iverson of Albion, Nebraska. “My dad used to race when I was really young. I helped a buddy of mine with his car for awhile, then he quit racing and I moved on to helping Tyler.”

In addition to his racing duties, Travis keeps very busy on and off the farm. “I help my uncles on their farm, and I actually work for our local John Deere dealership in the parts department.” Kumpf is a college graduate with a degree in Ag Business.

“I enjoy the adrenaline,” said Kurt Torell, a farmer from the Shelby-Stromsburg-Gresham area. He’s a pit crew member for Tyler Mark, a driver from Lincoln, Nebraska. “It’s a really fun time, and now that we’ve gotten involved with an actual car that’s out there (on the track), it’s a whole different viewpoint of what racing’s about, compared to being a spectator.” He added, “It’s a whole lot more involved than I dreamed.”

Most racing fans can tell you the racing can be very competitive, but from a drivers perspective, things on the track can get really intense.

“It is,” said Berck. “We’ve had a good year and won about fifty percent of our races, which is an extremely good win ratio. There are always tougher places to go, and it relates to the amount of money the race pays out. If it’s $10,000 to win a race, there’s going to be some really tough competition.”

“When it gets down to $1,000 to win a race, those are probably more the local-type shows with guys I’ve grown up with and raced against my whole life. The competition then may be a little easier. The higher the pay, the tougher the competition will get. It’s directly related.”

The next logical question is ‘what’s it like to be behind the wheel on the track?’

Berck said, “I probably take it for granted because I’ve done it for so long. When you drive an 850 horsepower car that only weighs 2,300 pounds, and then you’re on dirt and have to make four corners in 13-14 seconds per lap, there’s a lot going on.”

“After years of racing, you do develop your skills and your experience takes over, it’s still extremely intense,” said Berck.   “You’re not thinking of anything else, you’re not looking at anything else, and it takes every ounce of focus you can dig up, especially when you put yourself out there on the track with 24 other guys going 100 miles an hour, so there’s no room for error.”

Kyle Berck on the track

Kyle Berck out on the track (photo courtesy of Todd Boyd Photography)

A driver’s success can be determined even before he gets to the track. That’s where the Crew Chief and the rest of the pit crew come in.

“We check all the nuts and bolts,” said Kumpf, the crew chief for Tyler Iverson. “We check everything over, and if something’s broke, we replace it. Once we get to the track, we make sure things like tire pressure are good, we eyeball the bodywork, and make sure all is in order. That way, Tyler can focus on what’s going on out on the track.”

A driver and his crew can be as busy as they want to be. “We try to race our home track, which is the Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Nebraska,” said Torell. “We try to be there every week, with the occasional trip to another track in the home area.”

“We hit two or three states a year,” said Berck. “Roughly 70 percent of our races are in our home state of Nebraska. We try to keep it to about a four-hour radius as much as possible. We generally race about 35-40 races a year.”

If you’ve looked at the cost of cars recently, you may have guessed racing is an expensive hobby. If you add in the cost of individual car parts and the tools to install those parts, the money spent can pile up quickly.

Berck said sponsorships have been a huge benefit to his racing career.

“It takes a lot of money to race at the level we do,” said Berck. “There’s no way you can win enough money to self-support. Aurora Agronomy (Aurora, Nebraska) is our primary sponsor, and it works out well with the farming. We get a lot of our inputs from them, like our seed, fertilizer, and chemicals, so it was a natural progression. One of the guys higher up the ladder is a racing nut, and he thought it would be a good venture to join up with our team.”

“The areas we race are in the heart of their territory, so it’s a win-win for both parties,” said Berck.

Racing can get expensive, so it’s good to have help with the pocketbook. “We have some local friends of ours that kind of sponsor our car,” said Travis Kumpf. “They’re like silent sponsors, but mostly the racing cost is funded personally. To be competitive, you have to throw quite a bit of money at racing.”

Racing also requires a large investment of time and energy to be successful too.

“We’ve kind of cut back,” said Kumpf.  “A few years ago, we ran for IMCA points, so we were at the track 55 nights out of the year. We’d run maybe three or four nights a week.” He added, “I think this year we had 20-25 nights on the track.”

“You just kind of get burned out, and don’t have much family time,” said Kumpf.

Family responsibilities come first, and they can cut into track time. “I got married late in life and now have three little kids, so the responsibilities there have certainly increased,” said Kyle Berck. “I don’t burn the midnight oil that I used to, but I have learned to work more efficiently.”

“We have a full-time guy that helps with the farming and the racing,” said Kyle. “That helps to take a little of the edge off.”

Berck farms 1,100 acres in the Marquette, Nebraska area. He said it takes a lot of phone time to coordinate the racing and farming activities. “I enjoy designing and building cars for clients. As the racing slows down at some point in the future, that’s one way I can stay involved in racing for the long term,” said Berck.

 

 

 

 

Calling all farmers to Winter Workshops in January

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The dark days of winter can be a great time to learn new things, so the Minnesota MDA-logoDepartment of Agriculture (MDA) is again providing farmers a day of Winter Workshops in January. The MDA will offer six workshops covering a diverse array of farming topics on Thursday, January 8, 2015 at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud. Workshop details and online registration are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/amdor by calling 651-201-6012 and requesting a “Winter Workshops” brochure. The workshops include:

All Day (9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

The Nuts and Bolts of Running a CSA, presented by Mark Boen and Bernard Crosser of Bluebird Gardens, Cost: $50

 

Transitioning to Organic: From Deciding to Doing, presented by Carmen Fernolz of A-Frame Farms. Cost: $50

 

Morning Workshops (9 a.m. to Noon)

Grazing Basics, presented by Vermont grazing and organic consultant Sarah Flack. Cost: $25

 

Reality Checking your Farm Plan, presented by John and Lisa Mesko from the Sustainable Farming Association of MN (SFA). Cost: $25 (free for SFA members)

 

Afternoon Workshops (start at 1:30 p.m)

Fine Tune Your Grazing System, presented by Vermont grazing and organic consultant Sarah Flack. Ends at 4:30 p.m. Cost: $25

 

Save Your Own Seed, presented by Koby Jeschkeit-Hagen from Seed Sages and Tiny Diner Farm. Ends at 3:30 p.m. Cost: $25

 

While they immediately precede the two-day Minnesota Organic Conference to be held January 9-10, also in St. Cloud, these workshops are designed to benefit all kinds of farmers. Minnesota Organic Conference details are posted at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic.

Add a Minnesota grown Christmas tree to your shopping list

Minnesota Christmas tree growers look forward to another great season of local, fragrant Christmas trees thanks to overall good growing conditions this year.  Many tree farms are stacked with a variety of trees and ready to go.

Christmas trees

Minnesota grown Christmas trees are in good supply for the holidays (photo from Minnesota Farm Guide)

Happy Land Tree Farms Owner, Ken Olson shared, “Thanks to all the rain we had on our farm, our trees are in really great condition. We had a great growing season and our new plantings did well.”

The 8-12 year growth of Christmas trees poses a unique marketing challenge, “Christmas tree growers look far ahead to estimate customer preferences,” said Minnesota Grown Spokesman, Paul Hugunin.  “Farmers provide continuous care and attention to each tree as it matures.”  Trees are formed and sheared over time to help create the iconic Christmas tree shape shoppers desire.

The Christmas tree industry supports the local economy and provides environmental benefits. Christmas tree farms replant one to three new seedlings for each tree cut, and local trees travel short distances to consumers to maintain freshness and can be recycled after the holiday season. While the seedlings mature into trees, they act as a carbon-sink: pulling pollution produced carbon dioxide out of the air. Additionally, trees can provide habitat for wildlife.

Beyond beauty, sustainability, and economic benefits, Christmas trees support holiday traditions and family fun. For more than 40 years, Connie Anderson and her family have been selling Christmas trees and wreaths at Anderson Tree Farm in Isanti, “Many of our customers are families and individuals who return each year. We cherish these relationships and are happy to support holiday memories and traditions.”

Many Christmas tree farms offer a fun experience for the whole family (Photo from the Minnesota Department of Ag website)

Many Christmas tree farms offer a fun experience for the whole family (Photo from the Minnesota Department of Ag website)

 

Many tree farms offer fun family activities such as sleigh rides, games, gift shops, and visits with Santa. They can also be a source for local gift ideas: wreaths, garlands, ornaments, and holiday decorations. The Minnesota Grown Directory has 60 Christmas tree farms and retail tree lots. Consumers can easily find a fresh, local Christmas tree using the Minnesota Grown online Directory at www.MinnesotaGrown.com, or order a FREE printed copy by calling 1-888-TOURISM.

Lake Pepin phosphorous study vindicates Ag

“Phosphorous is an essential element, and we find it in everything,” said Ashley Grundtner, a former graduate student at the University of Minnesota. However, too much phosphorous has been finding it’s way into lakes and rivers in the Midwest for years, and it’s causing a lot of problems.

Algae bloom is a natural consequence of too much phosphorous in water, and Lake Pepin on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border is a good example. The bloom threatens fish and can negatively affect recreational activities. For years, agricultural runoff was considered the only culprit, so researchers began studying other factors that may explain the increase.

“For 20 years or so, many folks have said Lake Pepin was filling up, and in 1988, they had a big fish kill there,” said Dr. Satish Gupta, the Raymond Allmaras Professor in the University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. “That led to a whole series of studies by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that decided phosphorous was the problem.”

“I had been working on the source of sediment going back to 1994,” said Gupta. “That was the first year that MPCA came up with the report blaming agriculture for the sediment and phosphorous in the Minnesota River and then in Lake Pepin. Farmers were saying it’s not the agricultural land, it’s the banks along the river that was a bigger source.”

Sloughed River Bank

A sloughed tall bank along the Blue Earth River in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Satish Gupta)

He said, “When we started working on this, we took a look at the riverbanks and noticed they were bare. Every year, we get a new crop of dandelions, so we wondered why they weren’t growing on the banks. The answer is simple: they are very unstable and they come down every year. There isn’t enough time for vegetation growth.”

In 2005, Gupta and his students began a four-year study of several rivers in Blue Earth County to determine how much of the riverbanks were running off into the waters. “We found that 2.24 million cubic yards of soil was gone during that time,” said Gupta.

“The next question was how are bank materials reacting with the phosphorous in river waters,” said Gupta. “We knew when you apply fertilizer on the land, particularly phosphorous, it ties up pretty fast. There’s only a small amount for the crop to use, so they have to apply it again next year, and the next year after that.”

That’s what led to Ashley’s graduate thesis paper on the source of phosphorous in Lake Pepin. “If the riverbanks are absorbing the phosphorous we put on our farm fields, are they absorbing other sources of P too?” said Satish. “What is the role of sediments in the riverbank material in picking up phosphorous?”

Ashley Grundtner

Ashley Grundtner collecting sewage effluent sample along a drainage ditch in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Drew Kessler)

“We looked at historical records, and we found our rivers had been very polluted going all the way back to when Minnesota was a territory,” said Gupta. “Rivers were thought of as a conduit to carry waste away from the cities. They had virtually every kind of contaminant in the waters.”

Gupta said, “They didn’t have toilets to carry waste to a treatment plant back in that time period. Waste went directly into the river, and phosphorous is very common in sewage.”

South Saint Paul had a large meatpacking industry right on the Mississippi River. Gupta said, “It was set up on the river so they could push their waste in. Ice was also available in the wintertime to preserve meat.” He added, “Records show an ammonium phosphoric fertilizer plant was built along the Mississippi River south of St. Paul. We were not careful about what we put into our rivers.”

“Phosphorous is a basic element you’ll find everywhere in geology,” said Ashley Grundtner, who graduated with a Masters Degree in Water Resource Science in 2013. “We wanted to find out what were the natural levels of phosphorous in riverbank material. What happened to the material when it went through a river process? We then considered human input, like pollution, and what happened to it when it went into a river,” she said.

The group considered basic things like total P in the rivers and riverbanks, and how the riverbanks would absorb Phosphorous, and how much capacity the material had to store the element. From the different scenarios they worked on, they determined levels in Lake Pepin prior to and after 1850.

A tall sloughed bank along the Big Cobb River in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Drew Kessler.)

A tall sloughed bank along the Big Cobb River in Blue Earth County, Minnesota. (Photo taken by Drew Kessler.)

The results of their work, published in the Nov-Dec Issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality, showed that fine particles carrying P from eroded riverbanks was the main source of P in Lake Pepin before 1850. After 1850, the human element of pollution added to the levels of Phosphorous available for rivers to carry to Lake Pepin. “The rivers became increasingly polluted, and these riverbank materials are picking it up,” said Gupta. “River modification through locks and dams has added to it as well. Coarser materials are going to get stuck behind the dam, and there was more phosphorous in smaller amounts of fine particles going downstream.”

“Ashley’s paper has shown that most of the phosphorous in the Lake Pepin sediment is industrial and a sewage-phosphorous material, which was picked up by riverbank materials. That doesn’t mean there’s no other source, but that’s a big part of it,” said Dr. Gupta.

Bitter winter has impact on gypsy moth in Minnesota

Minnesota Department of Ag Logo Last winter’s harsh temperatures have resulted in some positive benefits – a decline in the state’s gypsy moth population. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) captured approximately 500 moths this year in traps around the state. That’s a major shift from last year’s count of over 71,000 moths.

“We knew going into this survey season that our numbers would be down,” said Kimberly Thielen Cremers, MDA’s Gypsy Moth Program Supervisor. “Studies have shown extended stretches of extreme cold have an impact on gypsy moth eggs as they overwinter. However, we cannot let our guard down over this invasive insect.”

In fact, University of Minnesota research has shown gypsy moth egg masses can survive a harsh winter if located below the snowline.

“While the decrease in moths is good news, we know they will bounce back quickly.” said Dr. Brian Aukema of the forest insect laboratory at the University of Minnesota. “A single surviving egg mass will produce more than 500 hungry caterpillars.”

The placement of survey traps throughout the state also affected 2014 trapping numbers.

“We placed 60 percent fewer traps in the quarantined counties of Lake and Cook this year,” said Thielen Cremers. “We know a reproducing population is established there; 90 percent of the moths caught in the state in 2013 were in those two counties, so this year we placed more traps ahead of that established population to keep on top of the spreading gypsy moth infestation.”

Gypsy moth caterpillars, which are not native to North America, eat the leaves of many trees and shrubs. Severe, repeated infestations can kill trees, especially when the trees are already stressed by drought or other factors.

A male, gypsy moth caterpillar (photo from www.constructionandtreeservices.com)

A male, gypsy moth caterpillar (photo from www.constructionandtreeservices.com)

Last winter’s harsh temperatures have resulted in some positive benefits – a decline in the state’s gypsy moth population. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) captured approximately 500 moths this year in traps around the state. That’s a major shift from last year’s count of over 71,000 moths.

“We knew going into this survey season that our numbers would be down,” said Kimberly Thielen Cremers, MDA’s Gypsy Moth Program Supervisor. “Studies have shown extended stretches of extreme cold have an impact on gypsy moth eggs as they overwinter. However, we cannot let our guard down over this invasive insect.”

In fact, University of Minnesota research has shown gypsy moth egg masses can survive a harsh winter if located below the snowline.

“While the decrease in moths is good news, we know they will bounce back quickly.” said Dr. Brian Aukema of the forest insect laboratory at the University of Minnesota. “A single surviving egg mass will produce more than 500 hungry caterpillars.”

The placement of survey traps throughout the state also affected 2014 trapping numbers.

“We placed 60 percent fewer traps in the quarantined counties of Lake and Cook this year,” said Thielen Cremers. “We know a reproducing population is established there; 90 percent of the moths caught in the state in 2013 were in those two counties, so this year we placed more traps ahead of that established population to keep on top of the spreading gypsy moth infestation.”

An example of tree damage from gypsy moth infestations (photo from gypsymothalert.com)

An example of tree damage from gypsy moth infestations (photo from gypsymothalert.com)

Gypsy moth caterpillars, which are not native to North America, eat the leaves of many trees and shrubs. Severe, repeated infestations can kill trees, especially when the trees are already stressed by drought or other factors.

For more information on gypsy moth, go to www.mda.state.us/gypsymoth.

 

November Weed of the Month: Black Swallow-wort

by Emilie Justen, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

(This is part of a series of regular columns by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture on the state’s noxious weeds.)

Black Swallow-wort

Black swallow-wort vines with flowers (Photo from the Mn Dept of Agriculture)

A member of the milkweed family is November’s Weed of the Month. Black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae), also called dog-strangling vine, is a perennial, herbaceous vine that can form large patches and crowd out native vegetation. It was introduced to North America from southern Europe in the 1800s as an ornamental plant, and in 1864 was recorded escaping from a botanic garden in Massachusetts. Since its introduction to North America, it has been found invading abandoned farm fields, pastures, and prairies throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

Black swallow-wort has twining stems up to six feet long. It has dark green, glossy foliage and star-shaped, dark purple flowers with a yellow center. The flowers are only 1/8 inch in size, and develop into a milkweed pod to disperse its seed by the wind.

The plant poses many ecological threats to the Midwest. It outcompetes native plants by forming a large root system that exudes chemicals to prevent other plants, such as the native butterfly milkweed, from growing. Black swallow-wort also threatens monarch butterflies by crowding out native milkweed host plants. In addition, female monarchs will lay their eggs on black swallow-wort but the plant is lethally toxic to the caterpillars after they hatch and begin feeding.  It can also thrive in wooded areas to form a monoculture in the forest understory. In Minnesota, black swallowwort was found growing on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus and successful eradication efforts kept the infestation from spreading.  There are two reports of isolated infestations in Minneapolis.

Black swallow-wort’s characteristics make it a challenge to control. It grows over other vegetation to block light and create tangled masses. As a target weed on Minnesota’s Noxious Weed Eradicate List, it is required by law that all above- and below-ground plant parts must be destroyed. Recommended management practices for black swallowwort include the following:

  • Pulling the plants by hand can be difficult and cause resprouting.
  • Burning and grazing have not shown to be effective.
  • Foliar and cut stem herbicide applications can be effective. For specific herbicide recommendations, contact your University of Minnesota Regional Extension Educator.
  • All management practices for black swallow-wort should include yearly monitoring to ensure the depletion of the seedbank.

To report infestations of black swallowwort or any other noxious weeds on the eradicate list, please notify MDA by email at arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us , or voicemail at 1-888-545-6684 (toll-free).

Not much change to Minnesota fence law

The need for man to fence in livestock has been around a long time, and Minnesota is no exception. Minnesota Statutes, Chapters 346 and 561, cover livestock fencing, and state that a landowner does not need to fence his land against the livestock of another landowner. The livestock owner is required to restrain his livestock from entering the land of another.

Cattle behind a fence

Humans have fenced in livestock as far back as anyone can remember. But who actually pays for fencing in Minnesota Law Books? (Photo from www.extension.org)

However, Minnesota Statute, Chapter 344, supplements the Common Law of 346 and 351. Chapter 344 covers “partition fencing,” and says the livestock owner is not the only one responsible for maintaining the fence that keeps livestock on his land and off his neighbors. A landowner who doesn’t have livestock may have to pay his neighbor to help put up that fence.

“When there’s adjoining land and one of the parties wants to have a fence erected, the other adjoining landowner has to pay for half. That’s the long and short of it,” said Bruce Kleven, President of Kleven Law in Minneapolis, and a lobbyist for the Minnesota Cattlemen and Minnesota Wheat Growers.

Bruce Kleven

Bruce Kleven of the Kleven Law Office in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Photo courtesy of brucekleven.com)

The obligation doesn’t stop when the fence is put up, either. “It says build and maintain in here (the statute),” said Kleven. “If we think that out, say 20 years go by and you have to paint it, the adjoining landowner would pay half the cost.”

Kleven has been involved in agriculture law for years, and said he thinks many farmers may not even know the law exists. “I think most farmers, if they want to put up a fence, they put up a fence, and they don’t even know they could charge the adjoining landowner for half the cost,” said Kleven. “Property law has been around a long time. It’s old. It’s mid-1800’s.”

“The law itself is a territorial law, which means it predates Minnesota statehood,” said Kleven. “When you look at the development of the law, it was put in out state code in 1858 when we hit state hood. There was an amendment in 1866, and then a couple more in the late 1800’s.”

“Since then, it’s been pretty quiet on Minnesota fencing law through most of the Twentieth Century,” said Kleven.

The only recent amendment to the law was applied in 1994. “The amendment said this law applies to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) like it does to everyone else,” said Kleven. “Elk farming was taking hold at that time. For clarity, I think they said if there’s an elk farm next to a piece of DNR property, this law applies to the DNR like it does to everybody else.”

“I don’t think we’ve had any bills attempting to change the fencing law at the Legislature since 2000 and ‘02,” said Bruce Kleven. “House and Senate members from the Otter Tail County area brought a bill forward, but it never really moved.” He said, “Then, in 2002, House and Senate members from Wright County brought the same issue, and it didn’t move either.”

“What they were trying to do is change the fence law because urban sprawl was beginning to cause conflicts between farmers and non-farmers,” said Bruce. “The non-farmers were moving out into the country and asking ‘why do I have to help pay for your fence?’”

Minnesota hasn’t seen a large number of fencing conflicts in recent years. “There was a court case in 2001 up in Lake of the Woods County,” said Bruce. “The case made it to the Court of Appeals in St. Paul, and the main question there was what kind of fence would be used instead of whether or not one was needed.”

“Some of why it’s so quiet is if you go back 100 years, we had more grazing, cattle, and prairie. Quite a bit of livestock has left the state, and we’re seeing more confinement and feedlot-type activity, so that may be some reasons why we haven’t see a lot of land use conflict,” said Kleven.

“Just think of the Dakotas. Miles and miles of fences, and we just don’t have that here.”

Kleven did find one exception to the state Statues. “The local Township Board, by resolution, may exempt adjoining landowners or occupants from this Statute when their land is less than 20 acres,” he said. “That can get into your suburban landowner who moves a couple miles out of town and only has five acres. They can take it to the town board and get an exemption.”