Minnesota FFA Convention April 23-25th

Next week, the University of Minnesota (UMN) St. Paul campus will be flooded with a sea of blue jackets, as nearly 4,000 student members gather for the 88th Minnesota FFA Convention, April 23-25.

Minnesota FFA

The blue jackets are about to descend on the University of Minnesota for the State FFA Convention April23-25 at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Sciences on the St. Paul Campus. (photo from Rachel Marthaler Photography.)

During the convention, Minnesota FFA members compete in career development contests, attend sessions and workshops and receive awards for their FFA achievements. At this three-day event, high school FFA members also are introduced to the UMN community.

FFA is a national organization founded in 1928 that recognizes and supports the interests of food, fiber and natural resource industries and encompasses science, business and technology as it is applied to production agriculture. There are 30 different career development events (CDE) that students will compete in at the Minnesota FFA convention. The events include everything from forestry to agricultural sales. The FFA CDEs are just as diverse as the UMN’s College of Food,Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) majors.

At the convention, FFA members meet UMN students, faculty and professors who are helping with competitions, workshops and other convention activities.

“The first time I came to the University of Minnesota was with my FFA chapter for convention,”said Wendy Bauman, FFA member from Kerkhoven Murdock Sunburg (KMS) Chapter. “Now I’m a freshman in CFANS studying agricultural education. FFA is what introduced me to the University of Minnesota and is the reason why I chose this school and major.”

Many University of Minnesota CFANS students share a similar story. Many past Minnesota FFA members have found a home on the St. Paul campus. The partnership between CFANS and Minnesota FFA has strengthened both organizations as they work toward a similar mission of preparing future leaders for their careers.

“Minnesota FFA plays a key role in youth development and leadership across the state,” said CFANS Dean Brian Buhr. “We are fortunate to have a strong relationship that benefits our programs and departments.”

Visit mnffa.org for more details about the 88th Minnesota FFA convention. Follow along on social media or watch the general sessions mnffafoundation.org/livestreaming.

Wondering just what kind of impact Minnesota FFA can make on students?

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About University of Minnesota College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

The University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), is one of the world’s leading research, education and outreach institutions in the natural resources, food and agricultural sciences. Its faculty, staff and students are dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of the world’s food supplies and natural resources. CFANS provides students the opportunity to enter career fields with some of the best job outlooks in the country, including 13 undergraduate majors and over 25 minors ranging from agricultural education and marketing communications to conservation biology and forest and natural resource management, to health and nutrition, and the future of food and agriculture management with a focus in business and technology. As part of this launch, the University will offer enhanced scholarships to Minnesota students, add additional recruitment events in Greater Minnesota and expand outreach to high school counselors and career centers across Minnesota.

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.

 

 

Use fertilizers and pesticides with care in your yards this spring

Spring is here and many Minnesotans are thinking about their lawns, trees and gardens. Fertilizers and pesticides can be a useful management tool when used appropriately on these sites.

fertilizers and pesticides

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture wants to remind you to be careful when working on your lawns, trees, or gardens this spring. Make sure you keep product when it needs to be to avoid it washing into the water supply. (Photo from thespruce.com)

Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) urges the safe use of fertilizers and pesticides by reading and following all label directions. In Minnesota, it is unlawful to apply products without following label instructions.

Follow these tips and have a safe and successful gardening season.

If you use pesticide and fertilizers yourself:

  1. Read and follow all label directions.
  2. Do not apply products in windy or adverse weather conditions that can cause products to drift and potentially harm people, pets, or plants.
  3. Sweep sidewalks and hard surfaces of unused product and reapply to their intended site. Pesticides left on these surfaces easily wash into our water supply.
  4. Buy only what you need to avoid leftovers. Unused fertilizers and pesticides can go bad quickly, they are difficult to dispose of and turn into a hazardous nuisance.

Do some homework if you hire a commercial applicator to treat your lawn and trees. Select a licensed professional that comes with experience and recommendations. Commercial applicators must show that they know how to use fertilizers and pesticides safely and properly before MDA awards them a license. When hiring a professional:

Ask to see their MDA issued license before they start work.

  1. Be wary of claims that products are completely safe, or of pressure to sign a long-term service contract.
  2. Recognize posted warning signs and avoid areas that have been chemically treated.
  3. Review the application record that shows what was used and how much was applied.
  4. Insist that sidewalks and hard surfaces are swept clean of product to protect our water supply.

For information about applicator licenses, call the MDA at 651-201-6615. To report unlicensed applicators, please file a complaint on the MDA website (www.mda.state.mn.us) or call 651-201-6333.

Consumers can call the Better Business Bureau at 800-646-6222 and check customer satisfaction histories for lawn care companies.

Here’s a few fertilizing tips from the Lawn Care Nut (Nice name, right?):

Meet the Oggun farm tractor

Oggun Farm Tractor

Southeast Minnesota residents got their first peek at the Oggun farm tractor at a viewing at Featherstone Farms of Rushford earlier this month. (Photo by Chad Smith)

It’s called the Oggun (Oh-goon), and it’s a different take on the farm tractor than many folks in agriculture may be used to. Southeast Minnesota residents got their first look at the new tractor during a showcase event at Featherstone Farms of Rushford on Wednesday, April 5.

 

The tractor was specifically designed for smaller farms, but that’s not what makes it unique. It’s unique in its design, it’s price, and the way it’s adaptable to newer technologies. The tractor has many unique characteristics, especially because it’s built with an open-source manufacturing design and parts you could find at a local tractor supply company. The idea for the tractor first began a short time ago.

The idea

Former IBM engineers and long-time business partners Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal (a Cuban-American) came together to form Alabama-based Cleber LLC. One day, Berenthal told Clemmons he wanted to do business back in his native country. The two talked over a lot of options, including software, but decided to go in a different direction.

“They started looking at things going on in the country,” said Locky Catron, a partner in Cleber, during opening remarks to the people in attendance, “and saw that the government had given land back to about 300,000 farmers, but there were only 60,000 tractors on the island.”

The tractors were all roughly 30 years old and of Russian design. Horace decided in June of 2015 that he and Saul were going to build tractors for Cuba. They needed to build something simple and easily fixed, because Cuban farmers were used to fixing everything themselves. They also needed to build something that was affordable. Mass production of tractors began in November of 2016.

The model

“That’s why they went to the open-source manufacturing model,” Catron said, “using all off-the-shelf parts. They designed the tractor based on the design of the Allis-Chalmers G. After doing all the work to put it together, the company realized business probably wasn’t going to happen in Cuba until the embargo is lifted.”

Once American farmers got wind of what Cleber was doing, they showed a lot of interest in the product as well. The business then set up shop in Paint Rock, Alabama, and began showing it to interested American farmers.

“I learned a valuable lesson from the Cuban farmers,” Clemmons said, “because they helped us understand how we can better serve farmers across the globe. $10,000 is still a lot of money to small farmers across the globe, so we have to create a business model where the price goes down every year.”

Cleber, LLC., told customers around the globe, including in Ethiopia, Peru, Chile, Brazil, and Australia, that they would give them the design of the tractor, which most companies don’t do. They agreed to ship parts that their customers couldn’t make in their countries with the idea that eventually the countries would take over the entire manufacturing process.

“We have offered a business proposition to our customers that says, ‘put me out of business,’” Clemmons said. “That’s about the only way we’re going to get 40-50 percent of the world’s smallest farmers equipped to do their work.”

People ask him how they expect to make money. His answer was a simple one.

“It’s called trust,” he said. “It’s called value-added. How hard would it be to use this technology and turn it into a skid steer? It’s got the engine, it’s got the hydraulics, so I’d take the tires off and put tracks on, and put a bucket on the front.”

He said they designed components to put together and they want to let people be creative in how they use those components.

The advantages

“Equipment (like tractors) is built using proprietary systems,” Catron said. “It’s unique components for a unique piece of equipment. We’re building the Oggun tractor that’s open-source, we’re building it using architectures, and we’re building it in the same way that technology is currently built today.”

Clemmons said the Oggun technology is simple, unique, practical, and it’s what small farmers need. Using off-the-shelf parts to build their tractors improves the local economies of their customers as well. The replacement parts can be found at local businesses like ag supply stores or auto parts stores.

“The parts don’t come painted certain colors, with patents on them, but instead they come out of the local economy,” Clemmons said. “All of that lowers the price over time because of the larger volume we get by using readily available components. Those components lower the price for everyone over time.”

Some of the specific tractor specs include a 19-horsepower Honda gas engine. The tractor length is just over 10 feet long and the weight is 1700 pounds. The brakes and the steering are hydraulic, with independent hydraulic drive. There’s also a unique zero-turn capability that comes with this tractor. It also has a 3-point hitch for implements. There’s also an optional PTO capability as well.

“It’s more than a tractor, the Oggun is a different way of thinking,” Clemmons added. More information is available at www.thinkoggun.com.

What’s next regarding NAFTA?

American agriculture will have a hard time succeeding without a solid trading relationship with other countries. Now that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is off the table, new President Donald Trump and his administration are now turning their attention to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It’s the first time an administration took a serious look at renegotiating at least parts of the deal since it was signed during the Clinton administration.

NAFTA, Free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico

The Trump Administration still has a goal of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico in an attempt to make it more favorable for America. (photo from CNN Money)

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture recently held their winter policy conference in Washington, D.C., and trade was one of the biggest topics of conversation. Nathan Bowen is the Director of Public Policy at NASDA. He says that NAFTA has been a very good thing for agriculture for a long time.

“U.S. agriculture depends on export opportunities for our livelihood,” Bowen said. “With the new administration, there’s a lot of talk about what’s going to happen on the international trade front.”

Bowen says NAFTA has been very important for U.S. farmers and ranchers, who depend on the markets in Canada and Mexico for significant parts of their livelihood. NASDA wants to make sure as the administration looks at redoing NAFTA, agriculture has a place at the table.

“We are working to make sure that agriculture keeps the gains they’ve made under NAFTA,” Bowen said, “and that we do take opportunities that are there to strengthen the agreement. Farmers send a whole range of commodities to markets in both Canada and Mexico.”

He says NAFTA has been good for a whole list of Ag sectors, including beef. U.S. beef exports to Mexico and Canada have almost tripled since the beginning of the agreement. It was a little over $600 million dollars back in 1994, rising to $1.9 billion as recently as 2015.

“The access that U.S. beef has enjoyed in both of those markets has really been important for the industry,” Bowen adds. “The same could be said for corn, with significant gains in that sector, and pork is another really good success story.”

Bowen adds that there really isn’t a timeline for negotiations between the three countries to begin but he’s hopeful it will start as soon as possible so that agriculture will know where it stands with market access to Canada and Mexico.

Here’s the complete conversation with Bowen:

Slow down the El Nino weather discussion

Social media can be a very handy tool for disseminating information quickly to a large number of people. News stories have been known to “go viral” from coast to coast and around the world faster than some would believe possible. For example, check out the words El Nino.

Unfortunately, it is the internet and no one is watching to make sure everything that goes up is the complete, 100% truth, especially when it comes to weather. A recent Twitter conversation really got the weather forecasters and their followers going when a reputable weather forecaster told his followers that El Nino would make a return to the global weather outlook in 2017.

El Nino

Here’s a diagram of what an El Nino weather pattern looks like, courtesy of SteamGreen.com.

Ryan Martin is a longtime broadcaster/meteorologist who wants the El Nino discussion to slow down a bit and he’s got plenty of reasons why. One of the biggest reasons is that El Nino is not a year-to-year event. And think about this: What happens if we do see an El Nino? What does that do to American weather? It turns things nice in the Corn Belt and we’d be seeing above-trend line yield numbers again. So, it’s not exactly the storm of the century causing death and destruction everywhere you turn.

“If you look at it from where we see warmer waters in the equatorial Pacific,” said Martin, “it’s not in the right spot. One gentleman that seems to have a fairly significant following put up a map that talked about El Nino coming back. He drew a triangle around an area of water off the northwest coast of South America. While it is warmer water in the equatorial Pacific, it’s not in the right spot.”

Another area he likes to look at for signs of El Nino is just off the Australian coast. He says there should be a significant pressure difference and easterly winds starting to develop. Those signs haven’t developed at all.

“I’m not going to completely rule out a return to El Nino at some point in the next year to two years,” Martin says, “but to talk about it coming right now and having a big-time effect on us is way out of line. Anybody trying to trumpet this is likely a fringe forecaster looking for notoriety.”

 

Grain bin rescue tubes can save lives

Grain bin accidents are an unfortunate part of living in rural agricultural areas. They can happen on a farm site or at a local elevator in the blink of an eye, taking parents and grandparents away from their families in one of the most painful ways possible.

Several Rushford area fire departments recently received something called grain bin rescue tubes. It’s a relatively new addition to the arsenal of rescue equipment that volunteer firemen and women have at their disposal. The Rushford volunteer fire department recently conducted grain rescue training with a little help from the Farmers Co-op Elevator.

Grain Bin Rescue tube

Firefighters practice placing a rescue tube during grain bin rescue training at the Danville Bunge facility on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. photo by Don McMasters/for The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

“If someone were to get trapped in a bin of corn, soybeans, or any kind of grains, we can take what’s called a grain bin rescue tube and put it around the person who’s stuck to help get them out of there,” said Rushford Volunteer Fire Chief Paul Corcoran. “Once the tube is put together (it comes in four pieces) around the person and remove the grain from inside it.”

He said the tube keeps the grain from collapsing any further around the person. Once they get quite a bit of the grain removed from around the trapped person, they can simply lift them out of the bin.

“The grain rescue equipment is actually a round tube that comes in several pieces,” Corcoran said, “and it’s made of steel. The pieces get attached around the victim inside the bin and then you can remove as much grain as needed to be able to lift the person out.”

grain bin rescue tubes

Fire and rescue crews across the country are practicing with grain bin rescue tubes, designed to save people from suffocating if they become trapped in grain. (photo from deltafarmpress.com

The rescue tubes come with a series of handles on the outside. Once the pieces are together, rescuers can use those handles to push the tube further down into the grain. Once the tube is around the stuck person, it keeps the grain from collapsing down on them and pushing them any deeper.

The Rushford Farmers’ Co-op Elevator helped to provide the grain bin rescue tubes for local fire departments. They were hosts to a recent practice session for the Rushford VFD.  Co-op Manager Gordy Johnson said it’s a very important step to keeping elevator employees and local farmers as safe as possible.

“We all work in many dangerous places ourselves here,” said Johnson. “There’s a lot of grain bins out here. When we get involved with safety, whether it’s our employees or our patrons, we need to do our best for the people who may save one of our patrons or one of our employees. They need to have the right equipment so it’s important that we make sure that gets done.”

During the practice session, the elevator put grain into the back of a large truck with a person in the grain (and in no danger). Corcoran said they had it in the back of a grain truck because it was a little bit handier.

“We have used it at Riverland as a scenario setup with a grain bin that had pellets in it,” he said, “and we’ve used similar things to practice on.”

It’s still a fairly new piece of equipment for the Rushford Fire Department. They practice once a year just in case the Elevator would have a potential issue. Thankfully, Corcoran said the Rushford Fire Department hasn’t had to use it in a real-life rescue situation. However, he’s very happy to have it just in case.

Here’s an actual demonstration of how the tubes work, courtesy of Texas AgriLife Extension and Oklahoma State University.

 

 

SE Minnesota harvest results strong despite challenges

Crop harvest results

Michael Cruse is the University of Minnesota Extension Educator in Houston and Fillmore County of southeast Minnesota, who said crop harvest results were very good in spite of big challenges. (photo from umn.edu)

People who work in agriculture are resilient by nature. They have to be. They risk so much personally in the midst of circumstances that are completely out of their immediate control. For example, you can’t control the weather. Next time a tornado is threatening to wipe our your livelihood, try to turn it off. Let me know how that works out.

Folks off-the-farm have no idea just how much money a farmer has to borrow every year just for the sake of running his or her operation. The amount of money would shock most people. The crop isn’t even in the ground at the point.

Swarms of pests, either above or below ground, can wipe out a whole season’s worth of work. Violent windstorms were very hard on the wheat stands in southeast Minnesota this year. Early season frost forced some farmers to replant their crops earlier this spring. Rain just kept coming, usually at the worst times. Farmers typically wait for the forecast to show several dry days before they knock down alfalfa. However, the rainfall didn’t always follow the predictions accurately. Alfalfa got rained on, sometimes a whole lot.

However, southeast Minnesota farmers pulled in a very good crop again this season after all was said and done. While results are never 100 percent across the board, corn, soybeans, and alfalfa yields were excellent.

I spoke with Michael Cruse, the University of Minnesota Extension Service Educator in Houston and Fillmore counties, about harvest in the area. While the final numbers are not in yet, all indications are that things went extremely well. Give a listen here on chadsmithmedia.com:

 

State Climatologist talks southeast MN weather

The weather throughout fall and during the transition to winter can only be described as interesting. It’s been awhile since I was doing play-by-play for a high school football game during early November and actually had to take my winter jacket off because the press box was actually quite comfortable. I would imagine outside chores have been much less taxing during the nice fall weather too.

Conditions are going to change at some point. We know that here in southeast Minnesota. Colder weather and snow will be coming starting next week, but the question is how cold and how much?

State Climatologist Mark Seeley talks southeast Minnesota weather

Mark Seeley is a climatologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. (photo from mprnews.org)

Mark Seeley of the University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. He’s a professor, a climatologist, and the main guy Minnesota media has turned to with weather questions for decades. I first met Mark while at KLGR radio in Redwood Falls. He was at the annual Farmfest event down the road near Morgan, Minnesota, and a fellow broadcaster said I needed to talk to Mark if I wanted to do a weather segment.

My most recent weather assignment comes from my freelance reporting job with Bluff Country News Group. We wanted to know what the upcoming winter would look like so I gave Mark a call and had a visit. The 2016 calendar year weather conditions in southeast Minnesota have been record-setting, with too much heat and moisture. I wanted to know how much heat and moisture have hit the area and this is what Mark had to say:

MN DNR Releases Updated Buffer Map

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) released the updated Minnesota buffer map this month. The update is based on comments and change requests from landowners and drainage authorities in order to ensure the map accurately shows where buffers are needed.

Buffer map update released

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has released its most up to date buffer map. The DNR has also updated its buffer application as well. (photo from bwsr.state.mn.us)

645 changes were made in the most recent update. Since the preliminary buffer map was released in March 2016, the MN DNR has received more than 3,400 comments or change requests and has made nearly 2,100 map updates.

We strongly suggest members to view the interactive map found at the link provided below. This interactive map allows you to find specific buffer requirements for waterways in precise areas. To suggest a correction to the buffer map, contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). SWCDs are able to work directly with landowners on these issues. The next updated Minnesota buffer map is set to be released in early 2017.

The MN DNR has also updated the buffer map application. The application is a web-based mapping tool for soil and water conservation districts, drainage authorities and local governments to review the buffer map, suggest corrections and see MN DNR review decisions. The updated application provides soil and water conservation districts and drainage authorities with an easy way to submit map change requests and other comments.

Here is the link:

http://arcgis.dnr.state.mn.us/gis/buffersviewer/

This is an overview of the Minnesota buffer law if you’re looking for a refresher on the topic.

Nitrogen Smart workshops are coming to your area

Nitrogen Smart, Corn field, Farming, Ag, Agriculture

University of Minnesota Extension personnel will be holding Nitrogen Smart workshops for farmers coming up in the month of December. Good reminder on the most efficient ways to use nitrogen in your fields. (photo from mncorn.org)

University of Minnesota Extension invites growers to attend one of several upcoming Nitrogen Smart workshops.

Nitrogen Smart focuses on fundamentals for maximizing economic return on nitrogen investments and minimizing nitrogen losses. Each workshop is tailored to fit that specific region of the state.

Nitrogen Smart, Corn fields, Ag, Ag education, Minnesota

Brad Carlson, UMN Extension

“The goal of these sessions is to help farmers gain a better understanding of how to manage nitrogen more effectively,” says Brad Carlson, University of Minnesota Extension educator and workshop presenter. “It’s an opportunity to talk through the data and research. Farmers can use that information to help reduce environmental impacts and reduce costs for the farmer.”

Nitrogen Smart is presented by University of Minnesota Extension, with support from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, and hosted by the Minnesota Agriculture Water Resource Center (MAWRC).

The workshops are free to attend. No pre-registration is required.

Nitrogen Smart workshops are scheduled for:

DECEMBER 12 | 1:00PM-4:00PM | SLAYTON
4-H Building, Murray County Fairgrounds, 3048 S. Broadway Ave., Slayton

DECEMBER 13 |1:00PM-4:00PM | MAYNARD
Maynard Event Center, 341 Cynthia Street, Maynard

DECEMBER 14 | 9:00AM-12:00PM | NEW ULM
Best Western, 2101 S. Broadway, New Ulm

DECEMBER 15 | 1:00PM-4:00PM | MORRIS
U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center – AgCountry Room, 46352 State Hwy. 329, Morris

DECEMBER 16 | 9:00 AM-12:00PM | MOORHEAD
Hjemkomst Center, 202 1st Ave. N, Moorhead

DECEMBER 19 | 1:00PM-4:00PM | HUTCHINSON
McLeod Co. Extension Office, 840 Century Ave SW, Hutchinson

DECEMBER 21 | 9:00AM-12:00PM | ST. CHARLES
St. Charles City Hall, 830 Whitewater Ave, St. Charles

DECEMBER 22 | 9:00AM-12:00PM | FARIBAULT
Rice Co. 4-H Building, 1900 Fairgrounds Dr., Faribault

The following Nitrogen Smart workshops are tailored specifically to irrigators:

JANUARY 3 | 1:00PM-4:00PM | GLENWOOD
Lakeside, 180 South Lakeshore Drive, Glenwood

JANUARY 4 | 9:00AM-12:00PM | STAPLES
Central Lakes College, 1800 Airport Rd., Staples

JANUARY 5 | 1:00PM-4:00PM | HASTINGS
Pleasant Hill Library, 1490 S Frontage Rd., Hastings

For more information on Nitrogen Smart visit z.umn.edu/nitrogensmart, or contact Brad Carlson at bcarlson@umn.edu or 507-389-6745.

For additional information on nutrient management from University of Minnesota Extension click here.

To view nitrogen-related research funded by Minnesota’s corn farmers click here.