MDA offers safety precautions when spraying for soybean aphids

As warmer weather continues, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) urges growers and applicators to use caution when spraying soybean fields to control aphids.

Soybean Aphids

Soybean Aphids are pictured here on the underside of a soybean leaf (photo from channel.com)

“Because soybean aphid populations can increase rapidly, growers should scout fields regularly,” said MDA Inspection and Enforcement Manager, John Peckham. MDA-logo “Be prepared to treat, if necessary, but first determine if the 250-aphid per-plant threshold has been reached.”

When growers determine it is necessary to spray for aphids, there are several factors that should be considered. First, whether the pesticide is applied by the grower or a hired applicator, it’s a good idea to check for bee colonies in the area before spraying. The DriftWatch website (https://mn.driftwatch.org/map) can help applicators see where some beekeepers have voluntarily mapped colony locations. It is not comprehensive, so check your municipal directory for contact information on other local beekeepers.

Also, don’t apply insecticides when bees are foraging or present in nearby crops. Bees actively forage after sunrise and before sunset. When there are blooming weeds near an application site, bees may be present.

 Second, it is crucial to read and follow all product labels. They indicate the correct amount of product to use and specify mixing, timing, and spraying directions for safe insecticide use and storage.

Some product labels for soybean aphid control have mandatory application setback restrictions for lakes, river and streams, or sensitive areas that affect humans. Mandatory setback distances can vary with application method. Check individual product labels for application restrictions.

Finally, Peckham says communication is an important aspect to a safe and prosperous growing season.

“Talk to your neighbors that have expressed concerns over spraying and give them advanced notice,” he said. “You can head off problems later on if you plan in advance and let neighbors know when an application will be made.

Minnesota strawberry seasons starting soon

Minnesota strawberry farmers are looking forward to another great strawberry season, thanks to good growing conditions this year and diligent overwintering efforts by local farmers. Strawberry fields across the state are on par for normal opening dates and promising harvests.

 Strawberries first ripen in south-central Minnesota and progress north. Southern and metro area berries are expected to be ready in the third and fourth weeks of June. Northern growers anticipate picking and harvest in early July.

Strawberry picking

Colly Nelson of Lengby taste tests the strawberries Friday morning while picking at Ter Lee Gardens south of Bagley as brother-in-law Ray Nelson keeps on picking (photo from bemidjipioneer.com)

 “The berries look phenomenal. This is probably as good as we’ve ever seen them look,” said David Lorence, from Lorence Berry Farm in Northfield, Minnesota. “They look marvelous.”

 Loralee Nennich from Ter Lee Gardens in Bagley, Minnesota noted her berry plants have made it safely through the winter, “We are seeing green leaf growth already, and the plants seem on track for our normal picking dates.” Minnesota strawberry farmers take great care to protect plants in the winter and spring if snow cover is not substantial enough to protect them from low temperatures.  Conditions vary from day to day and from farm to farm. Tessa Ganser from the Minnesota Grown Program at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture suggests calling your berry farm before visiting. “Call ahead and ask your local farmer about availability and conditions,” said Tessa. “Enjoy the plentiful berry crop this year by picking berries with your friends or family. Picking can be a fun and healthy summer day-trip. Don’t forget to pack the sunscreen and wear comfortable shoes for a great day.”

Minnesota Grown

Consult the Minnesota Grown Directory for the nearest strawberry farms that allow you to pick your own berries (photo from Minnesota Grown)

The 2015 Minnesota Grown Directory includes 86 strawberry farms with pick-your-own, pre-picked or both. You can quickly find the nearest berry farm by visiting        www.minnesotagrown.com and entering your city or zip code. When you’re on thewebsite, don’t miss the “What’s in Season Chart” at the bottom of the homepage. Consumers can also order a copy of the FREE printed Minnesota Grown Directory by calling 1-888-TOURISM or online at www.minnesotagrown.com.

What exactly is a GMO?

The debate over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) is ongoing in modern agriculture. An Internet search on GMO’s will show volumes of information available from those who are for or against the practice.

The problem is, how do people who have little connection to modern farming know what to believe? GMO advocates and opponents make very contrasting claims, and they point to evidence that backs their case. What is the truth? How can farmers convey that truth to the public?

“Most of the time, we’re talking about plants, but a GMO could be any kind of organism,” said Karen Batra, the Director of Food and Agriculture Communicationsat the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). “It’s been changed genetically, usually very slightly, and only a single gene to express a desired trait.”

Karen Batra is the Director of Food and Agriculture Communication for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington, D.C.

Karen Batra is the Director of Food and Agriculture Communication for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in Washington, D.C. (Photo by biotech-now.org)

Enhancing genes has been around a long time. The process is simply becoming more refined.

“I see the GMO as an extension of conventional breeding that’s been going on since day 1,” said Kevin Dahlman, President of Dahlco Seeds of Cokato. Back in the day, they had to do various crosses and see what they ended up with. Because of GMO’s, they can do that in a laboratory and be more specific with more predictable results.”

“The purpose of all breeding is to take genes from one thing and put it into another thing,” said Dahlman, “and the purpose is to end up with a better product than you had before. The process has simply moved from the field to the laboratory. That’s really the only thing that’s changed.”

Dahlman said gene enhancement has benefitted crops by strengthening plants against the normal stresses of a typical growing season.

“Crops are now insect resistant, drought resistant, and herbicide tolerant,” said Dahlman. “The biggest improvement has been insect resistance. Before, we had worms, bugs, and everything eating our stalks, eating our corn kernels, and damaging the yield as well as the quality of harvested grain. Because of GMO’s, we no longer have as many of those issues as before.”

Batra said it’s important to look at GMO’s not as things, but as a process. “If you go back to the beginning of agriculture 1,000’s of years ago, some of our earliest farmers took a look at the genetics of their plants. They said ‘this is a strong plant, and this is a strong plant, and I might cross-breed those two,’ and that’s how farming began to evolve.”

GMO’s are helping to feed people around the world who are struggling to get good food.

“Crops can be nutritionally enhanced too, which makes them healthier,” said Batra. “Some folks may have heard of Golden Rice. It’s grown in developing countries and has beta keratins added to it, and that helps combat the nutritional deficiencies seen in both children and women.”

Golden rice is held up next to traditional white rice.  Golden rice is a valuable food source in developing countries, where people may lack basic nutrients in their foods (Photo from golden rice.org)

Golden rice is held up next to traditional white rice. Golden rice is a valuable food source in developing countries, where people may lack basic nutrients in their foods (Photo from golden rice.org)

Despite what you may read on the Internet, GMO’s have been thoroughly tested to ensure their safety.

“The World Health Organization (WHO), the National Academy of Sciences, the EPA, FDA, and the USDA have all reviewed this issue,” said Andrew Walmsley, the Director of Congressional Relations for the American Fame Bureau Federation. “There have been over 1,000 different independent studies that found no harm or cause for health concerns related to GMO’s.”

“We’ve been genetically modifying crops since we stopped being hunter/gatherer’s,” said Walmsley. “We started selecting traits that showed themselves over time, and now we’ve gotten to be really specific on what we’re able to do.”

Walmsley encourages farmers to talk about why they utilize the technology on their farm.

“Tell them why it’s personally important to you,” said Walmsley. “You’re now able to go to conservation tillage, fewer passes through the field, you’re spraying less pesticides and you’re quality of life’s improved. You feed your family this same food and you don’t have any concerns.”

Andrew Walmsley is the Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C.  (Photo from linkedin.com)

Andrew Walmsley is the Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, D.C. (Photo from linkedin.com)

Despite the volume of available information and test results out there, the debate over GMO’s is continuing. Walmsley said it’s being driven in part by people who may have questionable motives.

“I consider them conflict entrepreneurs,” said Walmsley, “they like to make money off the back of agriculture. They include the Food Babe’s of the world and the different environmental groups that like to instill fear in consumers to make a buck. There are certain organic groups that want to vilify GMO’s to their own financial benefit.”

The debate is continuing over GMO’s at the state and national level with a push to pass laws that would make labeling GMO products mandatory. Walmsley said Farm Bureau and other national Ag groups want a federal solution, instead of passing laws state-by-state.

“The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (HR 1599) was recently introduced,” said Walmsley, “it was introduced by Mr. Pompeii out of Kansas, a Republican, and Mr. Butterfield of North Carolina, a Democrat. It’s clearly a bipartisan issue, and we do not want this to be a partisan issue.”

He sees this as a good solution to the patchwork of state labeling law proposals that are currently out there.

“We’ve seen several ballot initiatives, some state legislative action, and we have Vermont with their state labeling law that’s currently held up in court,” said Walmsley. “A patchwork of laws doesn’t benefit anyone, it doesn’t benefit consumers, it doesn’t provide transparency, and will only increase costs and confusion.”

“I think our opponent will even agree it needs to be a federal solution,” said Walmsley. “Where we disagree is whether it needs to be voluntary or mandatory. We heavily support voluntary labels.”

He said the current regulatory system is in place to make sure unsafe products never reach the marketplace.

“When a new trait comes to market, it goes to USDA, the EPA, and the FDA first,” said Walmsley. “Currently, the FDA piece is voluntary, and the bill (HR 1599) would make that mandatory to try to alleviate consumer concerns. Every product that’s currently on the market has gone through the FDA process.”

“If there was a food safety issue, the FDA wouldn’t allow it to get to the marketplace,” said Walmsley, “and our members wouldn’t grow it.”

Agriculture needs to continue to speak out for modern practices and educate the non-farming public.

“We in agriculture have done a poor job of educating the average consumer,” said Walmsley, “we see the benefits of these products, but we’re slow to communicate those benefits to others. It’s important to be transparent with consumers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SE Minnesota planting intentions showing more beans

Southeast Minnesota is behind the rest of the state when it comes to planting progress. A recent run of colder-than-normal weather along with precipitation has kept planters parked in farmyards around the area.

When farmers do finally hit the fields in force, early reports say planting intentions mirror those of others around the country. With falling commodity prices for corn and input costs still high, more soybeans than last year may be going into the ground this spring.

“When you think of the discussion around the area, that is what’s people have said,” said Lisa Behnken, Crop Specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester. “They’re going to back off because corn is the more expensive crop to put in.”

Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo from Extension website http://r.umn.edu/academics-research/extension/staff/UMR_EXTENSION_STAFF_L_BEHNKEN.html)

Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo from Extension website http://r.umn.edu/academics-research/extension/staff/UMR_EXTENSION_STAFF_L_BEHNKEN.html)

Lower commodity prices will have a direct effect on crop rotation plans too.

“With lower prices and higher inputs costs, typically you’ll see less corn on corn acres,” said Behnken, “because the incentive to keep growing corn has gone down and more soybean acres will come back in.”

Area residents may see more small grains’ growing in fields this year too.

“The other thing that’s been interesting around the region is more small grains are going in,” said Behnken. “That’s also one of the trade offs people make, and it includes growing oats, wheat, and such. You’ll see more of those acres going in this spring. This spring does lend itself to

SE Minnesota may see more wheat fields, along with other small grains due to getting them in early in the spring planting season. (Photo from desktopwallpaperhd.net)

SE Minnesota may see more wheat fields, along with other small grains due to getting them in early in the spring planting season. (Photo from desktopwallpaperhd.net)

that as they’re getting the grains in early, which is important in helping capitalize on those crops.”

Getting grains in very early may lead to temptation to double crop with short cycle beans, but Behnken said that might not be a good idea.

“It’s pretty tight,” said Behnken. “There are some shorter-season varieties that, if you have small grains in already, it is possible to come back with a short-season bean. However, if you find yourself planting beans by mid-July, your yield potential and ability to get a good crop really diminishes.”

Behnken added, “If you can’t get it in by July 10, you’re spending a lot of money and that’s maybe not a good idea.”

It may be different if you’re in the livestock business.

“If you’re in livestock and need forage,” said Behnken, “or if you grow forage for someone else, some of those crops could come off as haylage or a bailage, and that would move your window up a little big. Sometimes what happens is some of those acres get reseeded down to alfalfa forage crop, or you could turn around and put in a soybean crop.”

Cover crops are another good option for these acres.

“There is some interest in cover crops,” said Behnken. “The window could

give you a chance to come back with cover crops on some of these acres. Take a full season grain crop and it may give you an opportunity to seed a cover crop around early August and actually get some benefit from those cover crops. The small grains lend itself to several different types of cover crops, depending on how you want to use the acres.”

There seems to be more interest from southeast Minnesota farmer in cover crops.

Interest seems to be growing in using cover crops in SE Minnesota.  (photo from together farm.com)

Interest seems to be growing in using cover crops in SE Minnesota. (photo from together farm.com)

“The interest seems to be coming from lots of different directions,” said Behnken. “There’s a lot of discussion about soil health, soil structure, erosion management, and what we can do better. There are issues with weed resistance, and can a cover crop play a role there. There’s no solid science on that yet, but it’s being worked on.”

She added, “Cover crops can help you with weed control as well. Cover crops compete with weeds for spots in the fields, and can squeeze out at least some of the weeds from farm fields. It can be helpful where you have difficult resistance issues.”

“There’s a lot more interest in it and for more reasons than just soils,” said Lisa. “There’s a lot of environmental plusses, it’s just that the information about choices and what to use show many, many options, but they don’t always work for Minnesota because we have such a short growing season. You just have to find a place where it works and you get a good return.”

 

 

 

Largest Minnesota Grown Directory ever is out

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture announces the release of the 2015 Minnesota Grown Directory. The newest version is packed with a MDA-logorecord breaking 1,027 member listings leading to local food and products from Minnesota producers. It includes farms, farmers markets, berry patches, wineries, locally raised plants, and more.

The Directory remains organized by regions, so consumers can find what is available in their area quickly and easily. Specific products or farms are listed in either the product or alphabetical index located in the back. The Directory also includes five recipes and regionally inspired restaurant recommendations, featured by Minnesota Cooks. Minnesota Cooks is an education outreach program of Minnesota Farmers Union that celebrates Minnesota’s dedicated family farmers and talented, local food favoring, chefs and restaurant owners.

The largest Minnesota Grown Directory is now out and available (Photo from minnesotagrown.com)

The largest Minnesota Grown Directory is now out and available (Photo from minnesotagrown.com)

The 2015 Minnesota Grown Directory cover showcases Spokeswoman, Carrie Tollefson, her family, and friends, the Agoye Family, enjoying the afternoon at a local farm. “Both families know the advantages of eating fresh local foods and teaching their family where food comes from and how farms can be fun too!” said Minnesota Grown Marketing Specialist Jessica Miles. “It demonstrates how the Directory can be a great tool to create family memories. Plus, it’s an easy resource to find fresh, tasty, local food and products.”

You can order free, printed copies of the Minnesota Grown Directory by calling Explore Minnesota Tourism at 1-888-TOURISM. You can also order your copy online or look up local farms at www.minnesotagrown.com. The online directory makes it easy to find farms via product, city, ZIP code, or the interactive map.

SE Minnesota farmers itching to get planting

Spring is a busy time of year for Minnesota farmers, and they’re working on getting crops in the ground.

Farmers in southeast Minnesota are a little behind the rest of the state when it comes to planting progress. A couple of the main reasons are cool soil temperatures and residual moisture left over from winter snowfall.

“We’re still on the early side and there’s prep stuff going on,” said Lisa Behnken, a Crop Educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester. “We had one early planted plot that we were supposed to get in and we did this week. The ground is getting ready.”

Spring weather is a big key in planting success, and Behnken said there’s a reason for concern coming up next week:

 

While southeast Minnesota is a little slower in planting progress, farmers in the rest of the state seem to be having better luck so far.

“It’s very different from the rest of the state after talking with my coworkers,” said Behnken. “As you go from here to the north and west, they have a lot of small grains in, which is good because small grains need to go in early.”

Some corn is going into the ground as well, mostly in the southwest part of the state.

Behnken said, “As you head west toward Worthington, they’ve gotten some corn in. Around here, there’s a little bit of corn that’s gone in, but its just a few fields.”

Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo from Extension website http://r.umn.edu/academics-research/extension/staff/UMR_EXTENSION_STAFF_L_BEHNKEN.html)

Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo from Extension website http://r.umn.edu/academics-research/extension/staff/UMR_EXTENSION_STAFF_L_BEHNKEN.html)

“We’re seeing more anhydrous going in,” she said. “Fertilizer is also going down as far as broadcasting on the fields. We’ve been able to do a lot of field prep work in this part of the state. We were down in a bigger part of southeast Minnesota and made some of the same observations.”

Field conditions may still be too wet to plant in this part of the state.

“We got that snow, we’ve had a little more rain,” said Behnken, “So our spring is actually a little later than the rest of the state, if you want to make a comparison. For example, we have friends that farm north of Fergus Falls, in the Perham area, that have all their small grains in. They’re now working the ground to get ready to put corn in.”

She said, “They just haven’t had the rain and snow we’ve had here.”

Even if the wet forecast holds true, she said there’s still plenty to do to get ready for planting:

 

She said soil temperatures might still be less than optimum for planting.

“The plot that we planted here is a lighter textured soil,” said Behnken. “The soil temp was 49 degrees, and corn germinates at 50 degrees. This is lighter soil, so it’s going to be warmer than other soils that are heavier and have more moisture in them. Those will take a little longer to warm up.”

Most of the state is short of moisture, but Behnken said that’s one area where southeast Minnesota farmers have an advantage.

“We’re better,” she said. “That’s the other comment that my coworkers made as you head west and north. We’ve picked up snow and gotten rain, and they’ve missed some of those. In several of those areas, especially west, they could really use some rain. You do notice when the soils get drier, you don’t want to do too much tillage, and that can slow you down.”

It’s important not to work the soil too early.

It’s important not to work fields too early to prevent a loss of moisture (Photo from producer.com)

It’s important not to work fields too early to prevent a loss of moisture (Photo from producer.com)

“It’s always a delicate balance,” said Behnken. “There’s no reason to work the soil any more than you need too. It’s kind of like, work it-plant it, work it-plant it, so you don’t let the soil lose too much moisture.”

There is concern around the state that some alfalfa fields have been hit by winterkill.

“In our area, the alfalfa fields are just starting to green up,” she said. “Other areas greened up earlier, and as folks got out into the fields, things looked RTEmagicC_UMExtensiongood at first. Now there seeing fields hit with a fair amount of winterkill.”

She said the area between St Cloud and Fergus Falls seems to be hit hard by winterkill.

“The key point on whether or not they’re seeing winterkill relates back to their fall cutting management was,” said Behnken. “People that cut fields in September, which is always a risky time, and then some of the areas didn’t have a lot of snow cover, but still had cold temperatures, so there wasn’t much protection for the stand.”

She said, “The worst injury happened in areas where they cut alfalfa in September.”

 

 

What is the truth about GMO’s and farming?

It’s hard to know what the truth is about GMO’s if you don’t farm for a living.  That’s why Ag has to step up and speak up for their industry. (Photo from abfschool.com)

It’s hard to know what the truth is about GMO’s if you don’t farm for a living. That’s why Ag has to step up and speak up for their industry. (Photo from abfschool.com)

All it takes is a simple Internet search for GMO’s, and you’ll return a wealth of information that’s out there, both pro and con. The real question is this: what’s the truth and what’s not?

Genetically Modified Organisms are a hot topic of conversation when it comes to American agriculture. How do farmers talk to the non-farming public about just what GMO’s are? How do they show the public that despite what you read on the Internet, GMO’s have been tested over and over to ensure they are no danger to the American public?

One of the big things to remember is we’ve been modifying the genetic structure of our food for a long time. GMO’s, which are a process and not living organisms themselves, just allow us to be more specific at it.

I talked to a couple of experts about the subject. Karen Batra is the Director of Food and Agriculture Communications for the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and Andrew Walmsley is the Director of Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington. They both had a lot of say about GMO’s and how farmers can better go about talking to the public and answer some of the tough questions they’re getting on the topic.

 

 

Again, information is out there to help farmers talk about GMO’s with the public.  Check out the Biotech Grassroots Toolkit from the Farm Bureau at http://www.fb.org/index.php?action=issues.biotech

 

MDA reminds Minnesotans to use pesticides and fertilizers with care

With the arrival of spring, Minnesotans may be thinking about lawns, trees and gardens. Whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a professional, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) urges the safe use of pesticides and MDA-logofertilizers by following all label directions.

In other words, “the label is the law.” Pesticide and fertilizer labels specify how to use products safely and effectively. In Minnesota, it is unlawful to apply products without following label instructions.

If you hire a professional lawn care provider, do your homework. State law requires applicators to be licensed by the MDA in order to commercially apply weed and feed products, plant nutrient fertilizers, or pesticides to control weeds, insects or fungi. To be licensed by the MDA, applicators must possess knowledge and demonstrate qualifications to safely perform lawn, tree and garden services.

Follow these tips for a safe spring gardening season:

  • Licensed professionals must carry a valid ID card, so ask to see it before they start work;
  • Be wary of people who claim their products are completely safe, or pressure you to sign a service contract;
  • Recognize posted warning flags in areas that have been chemically treated;
  • Review written records provided by applicators to document their work, including products used and amounts applied;
  • If you do it yourself, do not apply products in windy or adverse weather conditions. High wind can cause products to drift and potentially harm people or plants;
  • Sweep sidewalks and hard surfaces of unused product and reapply to their intended site; and,
  • Buy only what you need and store unused product safely.

Consumers can call the Better Business Bureau at 800-646-6222 and check Lawn-Care-Alpharetta3customer satisfaction history about lawn care companies. 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.

 

Buffer strip proposal creates Minnesota controversy

Buffer strips

Buffer strips between farm fields and permanent waterways are designed to help improve water quality in Minnesota. (photo from www.topps-life.org)

Buffer strips are a hot topic of conversation in Minnesota agriculture. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) defines buffer strips as “small areas or strips of land in permanent vegetation, designed to intercept pollutions and manage other environmental concerns.”

A recent push by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and other legislators seeks to push all buffer strips along waterways in Minnesota to a uniform 50 feet in length. Farmers are fighting back against what they call a ‘one size fits all’ proposal.

A recently introduced bill before the Minnesota Legislature would require farmers to install a 50-foot buffer strip of permanent vegetation between their fields and adjacent bodies of water. The strips work to help filter phosphates, nitrates, and sediment from running off the fields and into any nearby water, thereby helping to improve water quality.

On Friday, April 3, Governor Dayton and other officials met with Austin area farmers to discuss the proposal. The Austin Daily Herald quoted Mark Novak, who farms near Wells, Minnesota, telling the Governor, “With 33 feet of buffers, very little water is going from my land into the ditch. You want me to add another 15 feet?”

Governor Mark Dayton

MN Governor Mark Dayton recently met with Worthington-area farmers to discuss his push for 50-foot buffer strips in the state. (Photo from www.wctrib.com)

“All buffers are not the same,” said Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson on a recent interview with Dustin Hoffmann of KLGR Radio in Redwood Falls. “One size does not fit all.”

Peterson said the Farmers Union clearly stated that there is a need for buffer strips during a recent board meeting. “Again, it greatly varies throughout the state, and one size does not fit all. We do want to work with state agencies to improve water quality, but we need a common sense approach.”

“It’s critical here that local officials and local control be exerted over some of the decisions that may be made in the countryside,” said Peterson. “We need to get an inventory and we need to find funding for making decisions on buffers. We need to work with local officials on that, and that’s what we’re recommending to the Legislature.”

State Representative Paul Anderson wrote a piece on the EchoPress.com website, quoting Howard Midje, a retired Minnesota state design engineer at the former State Conservation Service (what is now the National Resources Conservation Service). He quoted Midje as saying, “The Governor’s buffer strip requirement the largest land grab in state history.”

MN Republican Representative Paul Anderson of District 12B (photo from www.house.leg.state.mn.us)

MN Republican Representative Paul Anderson of District 12B (photo from www.house.leg.state.mn.us)

Midje said maintaining buffer strips and pheasant habitat, which the Governor (an avid pheasant hunter) wants to see more of, is not always workable. “Buffer strips need to be mowed and clipped several times in a season to keep the grass short and to keep trees from putting down roots. If grass is allowed to grow over two inches tall, it will simply bend over when water flows through it, and it loses its effectiveness at trapping sediment.”

Anderson said he doesn’t want what he referred to as a “Cookie cutter approach. We should be targeting high-impact areas, where buffers will do the most good. We should be doing it in a way that fairly compensates farmers for the loss of productive land.”

The KLGR radio website reported that originally, the Governor promoted this idea back in December as a way to improve pheasant habitat. The original proposal would turn over enforcement of the buffers to the DNR, and take it away from the Soil and Water Conservation Service, who have been enforcing the laws currently on the books. The idea of DNR enforcement on private lands was called “unacceptable” at a recent listening session at the Redwood Falls Community Center.

One Redwood-area farmer was quoted as saying, “This feels like nothing more than a land grab by the DNR. We already have water conservation buffer rules on the books. How about we do a better job of funding that, instead of spending money on a whole new initiative?”

Senator Gary Dahmes of Redwood Falls visited with KLGR Radio recently, and said he doesn’t support the bill for several reasons. “In 4 of the 6 counties I represent, we have 1,423 miles of dredged ditches. With a 50-foot buffer strip,that is 16,100 acres. If you take that number times the average sales price registered at the court house, that’s $114,000,000 in agricultural assets that we’re asking our farmers to set aside, without any way of making money off it.”

MN District 16 Senator Gary Dahms, a Republican from Redwood Falls.  (Photo from senate.mn)

MN District 16 Senator Gary Dahms, a Republican from Redwood Falls. (Photo from senate.mn)

Dahmes wants to know why that much land should be taken out of food production. “We have to double our food supply by 2050 (because of rising population), and this works against that.

Bruce Peterson is the President of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, and farms near Northfield. He posed a question in a guest column on southernminn.com: “How many non-farm people even know farmers already use buffer strips?”

He speaks from experience. “I already use these practices on my farm near Northfield to protect several waterways that flow near my fields. Each of these practices is sized and designed specifically for their location in a way that maximizes water quality benefits.”

Peterson wants to know who is to blame for the knowledge gap?

“In my opinion, it’s farmers,” he said. “Farmers have not done a good job of telling their conservation story, and we’re losing the public perception battle because of it.”

After the recent meeting in Redwood Falls, Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap encouraged farmers to speak up.

“We need to be the ones to improve the image of agriculture,” he said. “Don’t approach the issue defensively. Instead, educate the public. Show them what we are doing to maintain land and water quality.”

He said farmers know the long-term importance of protecting resources.

“Many of us are descendants of the people who built the farms we live on,” said Paap. “My own son lives in the house his great-Grandfather built. He sleeps in the same room his Grandfather was born in. We need to show that we know the importance of the land we’ve been given, and the importance of maintaining it for future generations.”

 

 

Minnesota Crop Nutrient Management Conference on February 9

Farmers and agriculture professionals can hear about the latest nutrient management research regarding fertilizer use efficiency at the sixth annual Minnesota Crop Nutrient Management Conference on Monday, February 9, 2015, at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato.

Don’t miss the nutrient and fertilizer efficiency conference coming up on February 9 in Mankato (Photo from southeastfarmpress.com)

Don’t miss the nutrient and fertilizer efficiency conference coming up on February 9 in Mankato (Photo from southeastfarmpress.com)

The conference will examine current nutrient management issues in a rapidly changing production environment. The program will focus on nitrogen and phosphorus management from commercial fertilizers and animal manures. Speakers will provide an in-depth approach to various management practices for these important nutrients. Sessions will also address fertilizer industry trends, micronutrients, and the effects of cover crops and changing weather on fertilizer management.

Speakers include fertilizer industry professionals, staff from the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and extension research specialists from Iowa State University, North Dakota State University, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin. The conference is organized by the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center.

There is no fee for attending the conference. However, pre-registration is requested for event planning purposes. To register, visit the conference website and follow the links online at www.mda.state.mn.us/nutrientconference.

MDA-logoYou may also register via e-mail at nutri.conf@state.mn.us or by calling the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Ryan Lemickson at 612-209-9181. When registering, please include your name, organization, address, phone number, and email address.