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.

MN Farmers Union applauds passage of Rural Finance Authority Legislation

Rural Finance Authority

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is shown here signing legislation to fund the Rural Finance Authority, a vital tool to helping farmers get access to the credit they need every year to produce their commodities. (photo contributed by MFU)

Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) applauds the signing today by Governor Mark Dayton of legislation to fund the Rural Finance Authority (RFA). The RFA is a vital tool that helps farmers secure funding for various types of loans, including restructured loans, beginning farmers, and farm improvement loans.

MFU appreciates the efforts of the chief authors Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg) and Sen. Andrew Lang (R-Olivia) as well as many legislators from both sides of the aisle. MFU is pleased that so many state legislators recognized the need to expedite funding for the RFA, which has lacked funding since December 31st, 2016. That has left the RFA unable to process loans.

Rural Finance Authority

Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish talks about the reauthorization of funding for the Rural Finance Authority, signed into law by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. (contributed photo from MFU)

MFU President Gary Wertish, also a member of the RFA Board, says “This legislation comes at an important time when farmers are making decisions for the 2017 planting season. This legislation gives farmers a good option to access credit.”

The RFA partners with local banks in lending on the programs they have.
MFU encourages farmers to take another look at the RFA (which is run by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture) and its menu of loans now that the bill has passed. The information can be found at: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/agfinance or by calling 651-201-6556.

Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Fighting for Farmers (www.mfu.org).

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:

 

SE Minnesota farmers have grain to sell

With the current lower commodity prices and no real significant bump in the short-term forecast, careful planning has become more important than ever for farmers to stay in business.

Balancing lower prices for products farmers produce against the fact that input costs to produce those products haven’t come down yet requires more juggling than in recent seasons. Among some of the more significant costs is land rental, which is squeezing the bottom line of renters all over Minnesota and across the country.

Farmers have grain to sell

Lisa Behnken is a crops specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester. (Photo from AgriNews.com)

“Boy, is that a difficult one (to control),” said Lisa Behnken, a Crops Specialist at the University of Minnesota Extension Service in Rochester. “Rents keep going up and it’s very hard to renegotiate to bring those costs back down. It’s certainly a big part of the equation.

The high costs of renting land may lead to some tough business decisions.   Farmers may shuffle some land around, or even let a particular piece of land go back and not rent it anymore.

“We’ll see if people can do that (make things balance out),” Behnken said, “or if they’re going to let land go and back away from it because they can’t afford that. You may see some land changing hands because of the cost.”

With corn and soybean prices in the tank, are there other opportunities farmers may be looking at for profit? What about small grains?

“It all goes back to where their markets are,” Behnken said. “We have a good group with Extension that do workshops on small grains here in southern Minnesota and a good group of core farmers that grow small grains. They’ve got markets that they’re working with and are locked into.”

She added, “It can be successful, but it’s not just something you’re going to jump into. We don’t have the sell-points here. You need to have convenient places where you’re going to market it to. They don’t buy at every single elevator. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it, you just have to get everything in order, from planting it to marketing it.”

Behnken, who received her Master’s Degree in Crop and Weed Sciences from North Dakota State University, said farmers don’t want to be caught with a lot of grain in their bins in the summer and nowhere to take it.

Speaking of grain stuck in bins, farmers in southeast Minnesota still have a lot of grain to move from the 2015 harvest. Low prices at harvest made farmers very reluctant to sell grain that wasn’t forward contracted.

farmers have a lot of grain to sell

While exact numbers aren’t available, Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester said there is quite a bit of grain in area bins waiting to be sold. (Photo from brockgrain.com)

“There are definitely crops to be sold,” Behnken said. “Some probably go forward contracted, but farmers don’t forward contract everything. Prices were down at harvest, so farmers didn’t sell right then, so it goes straight in the bin.”

While it’s important for commodity farmers to get their books in order, it’s equally important for livestock producers to watch their costs too, thanks to a recent run of lower prices.

“Cattle prices are softer,” said Behnken, “but the good side of that is they’re feeding animals much cheaper feed. However, they’re end product has also come down in price too.”

Do lower cattle prices mean it’s time for America’s livestock farmers to start expanding the beef herd? She said it all depends on your books and cash flow that your banker sees in those books.

“It’s all about operating money,” Behnken said. “You still have to go to the bank and make this whole thing cash flow. If I’m in the market to buy some feeders, I still have to have the cash to buy those feeders. Even if a farmer is raising his own corn to feed the animals, he still has to have cash necessary to buy the feeders.”

Cash flow. It’s more important than it’s been in many years, and it’ll determine what kind of decisions farmer make this year, and whether or not they stay in business.

“For some, it’s where their debt load is at,” said Behnken. “What’s my percentage of debt? If you have a more solid equity base, that’s a little different than if you’re highly leveraged. Then, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

 

 

 

 

 

Minnesota Farmers Union President looks ahead

2015 was a mixed bag in agriculture, and that might be a bit of an understatement.

On the one hand, production levels were good in many commodities, including a record crop for soybeans and the third largest corn crop on record. On the other hand, the prices for those commodities were not good at all. Those conflicting numbers have brought some tension back into family farming that hasn’t been seen in several years.

Farmers Union President

Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President, said agriculture was a mixed bag in 2015, and challenges are ahead in the new year. (Photo from www.myklgr.com)

“Family farming, as a whole, had a pretty good year in 2015 as far as yield,” said Doug Peterson, the Minnesota Farmers Union President. “Prices went to hell in a hand basket, and that puts a lot of edginess back into farming.

“Prices were good for a number of years, but now when inputs haven’t gone down and prices have, that brings challenges in the balance sheets,” said Peterson. “As a result, there may some changes in loaning procedures by local banks because they’re scared.”

Peterson feels the future of agriculture is still good, and the Farmers Union spent some time traveling around the world for a firsthand look.

“We participated in the World Farmer Organization (WFO) General Assembly in Milan, Italy,” Peterson said. “We also took part in a Food, Faith, and Farming symposium as well. We talked about family farming, the environment, and how to sustain the family farm in policy decisions.”

The overseas tour also included a face-to-face with Pope Francis.

Farmers Union President

Minnesota Farmers Union President Doug Peterson meets with Pope Francis Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Peterson and other U.S. farm leaders discussed family farmers with the Catholic church leader. (Minnesota Farmers Union photo)

“We met with Pope Francis and his Secretary of State to talk about his encyclical and making sure that family farmers were part of the focus of the Pope’s message on stewardship in agriculture,” Peterson said. “We also had a chance to speak with leadership of the Vatican about family farms.

“We talked with the leadership about the importance of stewardship and family farms,” Peterson said. “We were told that Pope Francis himself feels all religions in the world should pay attention to the stewardship and the sustainability of family farms. Family farms, and not corporations, are the ones that have the ability to feed the world.”

Vatican leadership, as well as Pope Francis, appears to be very concerned about corporate farming.

“They are very concerned, as we are in Farmers Union, about the corporate takeover of family farms around the world,” said Peterson, “and I’ve done enough traveling to see the dirty hand of multi-national corporations coming in and usurping the family farmers for profit.”

He said Mexico is a good example of the dangers of corporate farming.

“Corporations are farming land in other countries (like Mexico),” Peterson said, “and then exporting it back to their home countries.

“That brings us back to Minnesota, where we have an anti-corporate farming law,” said Peterson, “and we don’t allow foreign countries to own farmland in the state either. There are a lot of other states around us that have lost that law, and the ability to control that in their legislative process.”

The Minnesota Farmers Union and it’s President, Doug Peterson, are very concerned about corporate farming squeezing smaller family farms off their land and out of business. (photo from truthdig.com)

The Minnesota Farmers Union and it’s President, Doug Peterson, are very concerned about corporate farming squeezing smaller family farms off their land and out of business. (photo from truthdig.com)

He said North Dakota is facing a battle over corporate ownership of dairy and pork farms.

“Concentration in farming is going to be one of the top issues in the next 10 to 15 years,” Peterson said. “We need to make sure farmland stays in the ownership of family farmers.”

Vigilance will be the key because anti-corporate farming laws are always under attack, and will be again in 2016.

“Back when I was in the legislature (1991-2002),” Peterson said, “there were moves to get rid of the corporate farming law, and to allow foreign ownership of land.

“In fact, about five years ago, we had an attempt by Goldman Sachs to come to the legislature and asked to have an exemption carved out for them,” said Peterson. “We defeated that. So we’re on top of it in Minnesota. But I don’t care who you are, there’s always going to be a threat.”

He added, “It’s always going to be about other people wanting to own land. It’s no different than outside investors, nature conservancies, or outside investors wanting to come in and own land. You get it from all sides.”

The challenges of transferring land ownership can exacerbate the problem.

“Farmers have to figure out what they’re going to do to transfer their land to others,” Peterson said, “and it’s a very slow and costly process to keep family farmers on the land.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SE Minnesota Crops Progressing

It’s a bit of a good news/bad news story when you talk about crops progressing in southeastern Minnesota.

When you look at the overall picture, the corn crop is said to be looking good. However, Lisa Behnken, Crop Educator for the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Rochester, said the soybean crop is facing some challenges that may or may not put a dent in the area’s harvest.

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)

“Corn is looking very good across the area,” said Behnken. “That’s the crop that’s probably outstanding. The general region had good planting dates and some very timely rains in most of southeast Minnesota. It has been a little bit wet in certain areas, and some spots did see some hail. Overall, the corn crop looks good and has had a very good growing season.”

Soybeans are a different story. She said the soybeans have had a rougher go of it.

“And they may even have a rougher go between now and the end,” said Behnken. “There are some fields that look beautiful, but there are some different things happening in area fields. Some of it has to do with the amount of moisture we’ve received. In some cases, it’s been too much moisture, and that’s led to some problems for bean here in late August, into early September.”

Weeds are becoming a big challenge in area soybean fields.

“You have some fields that are very clean,” said Behnken, “with maybe a corn spear or weed here and there. On the other side of the equation, we have a lot of fields with Waterhemp coming through in soybeans. In other cases, you may see giant Ragweed, or even a mixture of weeds like Velvetleaf and Lamb’s Quarter, but the big one people are talking about here, and around the state, is Waterhemp.”

So, why is Waterhemp a problem?

“It germinates a little later in the spring,” said Behnken, “but it can germinate all through the growing season. When the canopy doesn’t close right away, the weed will keep germinating through the season.”

Behnken has a theory on why soybean canopies are closing later than they have in the past. She called it a Catch-22:

 

The bigger question is what a farmer did early in the season to treat fields for weed development.

“What did people do for their herbicide program,” said Behnken. “If you did not use a residual herbicide in your pre-emergence program, or in some cases, come back with a residual in your post-emergence program to keep those herbicides working all season, then Waterhemp has an opportunity to take off.”

Waterhemp

According to Lisa Behnken of the University of Minnesota Extension Service, Waterhemp is becoming a challenge in SE MN Soybean fields. (Photo from soilcropandmore.info)

She added, “We’re also talking about resistance issue now. Waterhemp has some resistance to the ALS chemistry, and we’ve just confirmed some resistant pockets to another class of chemistry we call PPO’s.”

Area soybeans are struggling with some disease pressure as well.

“One that’s difficult to manage is white mold,” said Behnken. “I see it going east of Rochester throughout eastern Olmsted County including Winona and Wabasha and even into Fillmore County. If you notice uneven canopy development and walk out into the field, you should see some white mold. White mold likes wet conditions, and east of Rochester saw quite a bit of steady rain.”

Behnken added, “It’s a very difficult disease to treat, and while fungicides control other diseases in soybeans, there are more limited options to take care of white mold. It’s definitely going to cost some yield in certain fields.”

Bean challenges don’t stop there.

“We always wonder when aphids will hit us, and this year they hit us in August again,” she said. “The weather earlier this year kept them at bay. Toward the end of July, we saw a mass migration when aphids came in on westerly winds. Once they arrived and got established, they exploded in numbers really fast. Growers need to keep a sharp eye on their fields.”

The area’s alfalfa crop has turned out well in spite of frequent early season rains.

“We’ve put up a lot of hay this year,” said Behnken, “mostly in between rain storms. The good part of it is if you do have rain, then you have a crop. We know how to deal with hay that gets rained. We chop a lot more hay and we round bale, then you categorize it based on quality and how much rain damage there is. We’ve put up a good crop, so there’s good feed out there.”

If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen white mold in your fields, here’s a good refresher at spotting white mold in soybeans, courtesy of the University of Wisconsin Extension Service:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

Blog Post: Science, Emotion, and the GMO debate

250px-Monsanto_logo.svg5. @FarmBureau @agricaster the truth behind gmos is that they take away the farmers fundamental rights….

4. @FarmBureau @agricaster environmental companies are fighting gmos to make money..? No Monsanto is pushing gmos to make money….

3. @FarmBureau @agricaster why is it that Monsanto does not have to undergo 3rd party testing?

2. @FarmBureau @agricaster if you would like the viewer to develope an onion give them view from both sides not just a slanted perspective…

1. @FarmBureau @agricaster  this is pro gmo propaganda….

There is something going on here that I don’t understand.  This is a series of  Twitter responses to the story I wrote on GMO’s here about a week ago.  It’s from someone with the handle Death to Monsanto, or @gmomgtg. Let’s talk about these responses.

First of all, “Death to Monsanto” isn’t a credible way to get attention.  How about, “The Truth about Monsanto,” or “What Monsanto isn’t telling you?” Death to Monsanto makes you sound like a gun-toting radical who’s looking to get into the corporate office and start mowing down any human beings you can find.  Not okay.

1. “This is pro GMO propaganda” was the first response.  Okay, if it’s just propaganda, tell me why?  What makes your stand against GMO’s any less propaganda and more believable science?  Please, be specific.  I’d like to know the truth.  It’s what journalists are SUPPOSED to do for a living, in spite of the fact that most of my colleagues seem to have forgotten this.

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. (Photo from abfschool.com)

2. “..give them a slanted prospective.”  I reached out to an organization called Friends of the Earth, who had a lot to say in an email, but I didn’t hear back from them.  I can’t talk to people who won’t call back or email me.  After all, I do work under deadlines.  I’d have no problem if Death to Monsanto wanted to be my interview guest and fill me in on the evidence that GMO’s are a threat to our health.  After all, I have kids that like to eat, and as their parent, I don’t want to feed them stuff that’s bad for them.  Duh.

3. “…3rd party testing.”  Now that’s interesting to me, and something I didn’t know.  If it is true, tell me WHY.  That tweet caught my attention.  Don’t make accusations and then not back them up with the facts.  It ruins your credibility.  Anyone can make accusations without supporting facts, and there’s a lot of that type of crap going up on the internet.  By the way, do folks reading this know the internet is NOT regulated, and folks can post anything they want?

4. “…make money?”  Do you watch the news?  There are people in this country who make a whole lot of money by being professional “conflict entrepreneurs.”  It’s their way of staying in the news and staying relevant.  See Al Sharpton for proof.  And I have to ask:  when did it become a CRIME to make money?  You see politicians on the news bemoaning how the rich don’t pay their fair share?  Why don’t you check THEIR bank balances?  Those politicians have their hand in the proverbial cookie jar, and they’ve made and hid their share of money too.  That, my friends, is the ultimate hypocrisy, and it’s rampant in Washington.  It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is, either.

5. “take away farmers fundamental rights?”  Please tell me how, because that’s something I’d like to know.  The other side of the issue showed me how it SAVES farmers money by lowering the cost of inputs, for example.  Can you give me an example of how it takes away farmers “rights?”  I’d sure like to know more about that, if it’s true.

In short, don’t make accusations and not back them up with facts.  That’s all I’m asking, and I don’t think I’m expecting too much.  I’m not looking for a verbal smackdown, because that’s the strategy of folks who have no science or facts of any kind to back up their position in a debate, so they just shout you down.  Show me science that proves GMO’s are something I need to be worried about.  I’d like to know.

 

 

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.”

 

 

Organic farm transition support returns for 2015 in Minnesota

Minnesota farmers can apply for Organic Transition Cost Share funding again in 2015. The three-year-old program refunds a portion of the cost of working with an organic certifying agency. The refund can span some or all of the 36 months a transition typically takes.

“Farmers are not required to hire a certifier. However, if they want their crops MDA-logoand/or livestock certified, working with a certifier during the transition allows them to practice record keeping and on-farm inspections, so they’ll be ready when it really counts,” said Minnesota Department of Agriculture Organic Program Administrator, Meg Moynihan.

Only farmers who are new to organic may apply. The program reimburses 75 percent of the cost to hire a certifier during transition and requires an on-farm mock inspection. Applicants may also include the cost of soil testing and attending an approved organic conference in Minnesota or a neighboring state. Payments are capped at $750 per year. For costs paid during calendar year 2015, applications must be postmarked no later than February 14, 2016.

Moynihan added, “Demand for organic crops and dairy is currently outstripping supply, and organic price premiums are strong right now. This means there’s room in the market for farmers to transition and join almost 700 certified organic farms in Minnesota.”

Organic Farming

Transitioning from conventional to organic farming is expensive, but there is help available for Minnesota farmers who want to make the switch (Photo from forbes.com)

Organic Transition Cost Share Program application forms, a set of Frequently Asked Questions, and a list of approved certifying agencies offering transition verification are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic or by calling 651-201-6012.