MDA seeks public input on draft Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule

Nitrogen Fertilizer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larry Gunderson
Fertilizer Technical Unit Supervisor
Minnesota Department of Agriculture

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

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

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

Zero-interest loans for farmers with flooding damage

The Minnesota Rural Finance Authority (RFA) has lowered its interest rate on the Disaster Loan program to zero percent to help farmers cover the costs to replace and repair items lost or damaged due to flooding and not covered by insurance.

flooding, floods, disaster

Farmers with flooding in their fields may be eligible for help with zero interest loans available from the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority. (photo from farmindustrynews.com)

As with other RFA loans, the Disaster Loan program will be available for farmers through their existing agricultural lenders for financing for these repairs. The loans can be used to help clean up, repair, or replace farm structures and to replace seed, other crop inputs, feed, and livestock. The loan may also be used to repair and restore farm real estate that was damaged by flooding. The RFA participation is limited to 45 percent of the principal amount up to a maximum of $200,000.

The loans will be offered in the following 23 counties that have been declared a disaster by the Governor due to flooding conditions that started September 21, 2016 in Anoka, Blue Earth, Cottonwood, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Le Sueur, Mower, Nicollet, Olmstead, Ramsey, Rice, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Wabasha, Waseca, Washington, and Winona counties.

“Minnesotans have a proud tradition of coming together to support one another after a disaster,” said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. “Providing zero interest loans to our ag producers will help them recover from severe weather and flooding. I encourage all eligible Minnesota farmers to apply for assistance.”

The RFA partners with local lenders to provide affordable credit to eligible farmers. Loan participations are purchased by the RFA under several programs that assist beginning farmers purchase agricultural land; finance improvements to the farm such as grain handling facilities, machine storage, and manure systems; help farmers reorganize their farm debt to improve cash flow; and, finance new livestock production facilities. Over $227 million has been invested in over 2,900 participations by the RFA in these programs.

Interested borrowers should contact their lender or call RFA at 651-201-6004. More information is also available on the RFA website at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/agfinance.

MN Dept of Ag Weed of the Month: Spotted Knapweed

June’s Weed of the Month is spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos).  It is a grassland perennial plant native to Eurasia. It was first recorded in North America in 1893 and in Minnesota in 1918, likely introduced as a contaminant of alfalfa seed.

Spotted knapweed is able to outcompete other plants by exuding a toxic chemical from its roots. This allows it to establish and spread quickly to colonize vast acreages. Infestations decrease forage, wildlife habitat, plant diversity and recreational quality yet increase soil erosion. A study determined that spotted knapweed caused annual losses of $42 million in Montana. In Minnesota, it is most abundant in the northwest and Twin Cities but is spreading throughout the state. Spotted knapweed is overtaking natural and disturbed habitats, roadsides, pastures, and field margins.

Spotted Knapweed

Distinctive dark brown bracts under the flower help distinguish spotted knapweed from other knapweed species. (Photo from Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Spotted knapweed is a short-lived perennial that grows two to four feet tall. It forms a rosette its first year and flowers in subsequent years. The leaves are grayish-green, narrow near the top of the plant and lobed near the bottom. The small, thistle-like pink to purple flowers are distinctive for the stiff, dark bracts that give it a spotted appearance. It blooms from June to August and reproduces by seed. Spotted knapweed also forms a thick taproot with lateral shoots that produce new rosettes.

As a prohibited noxious weed on the control list, landowners must attempt to control the spread of spotted knapweed seed. To manage spotted knapweed, infestations need to be monitored and treated until the seedbanks are depleted.

  • Clean all boots, clothing, and equipment to avoid spreading the seed.
  • Small populations can be hand-pulled. Wear protective gloves and clothing.
  • Mowing before flowering can reduce seed production. However, because the plants continue to bloom throughout the summer/early fall, repeated mowing throughout the season is required to keep the plants from re-sprouting and producing seeds. Wash equipment thoroughly following mowing to prevent spread of seeds to new areas.
  • Herbicide may be an option. When considering the use of chemical treatment, check with your local University of Minnesota Extension agent, co-op, or certified landscape care expert for assistance and recommendations.
  • Biological control is an option for reducing large infestations. Biological control agents are host-specific natural enemies that feed specifically on this plant.
  • The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), in cooperation with the Minnesota Association of County Agricultural Inspectors, oversees a statewide biological control program for this noxious weed that is free of charge to landowners. To learn more about biological control, contact the MDA or your county agricultural inspector.

Minnesota Grown Directory seeking new members

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is updating its popular, statewide, MDA-logoMinnesota Grown Directory filled with direct to consumer farms and farmers markets. Membership and Directory listing are open to Minnesota producers who grow or raise products. The 2014 edition promoted 978 farms and farmers markets. Minnesota Grown has more than 1,200 members including fruit and vegetable farms, livestock producers, farmers markets, CSA farms, orchards, garden centers, farm wineries, Christmas tree growers and more.

170,000 copies of the Minnesota Grown Directory are released annually in April and distributed statewide in tourist centers, libraries, chambers of commerce, farms, and retailers. Farms who advertise in the printed Directory are also included in the online edition, which was redesigned and had more than 290,000 unique visitors in 2014. The new, mobile friendly, website was improved to simplify searches for Minnesota products and farms.

 

“The demand for local foods has increased dramatically the last few years,” said Ag Marketing Specialist with the Minnesota Grown Program, Jessica Miles. “Our Directory is the most comprehensive and commonly used guide to local foods and plants available in Minnesota. It’s also becoming an excellent resource for family activity ideas and learning opportunities.”

 

While memberships are accepted year-round, farms must sign up or call Jessica Miles by February 6, 2015 to be included in the 2015 printed Directory.

“For $60 farmers can get an entire year’s worth of advertising both online and in print,” said Miles. “They’ll also have access to other great Minnesota Grown member-only benefits, such as use of the trademarked logo and FREE stickers, price cards and other promotional items. Just don’t delay and call right away because the deadline to be included in the printed Directory is February 6, 2015.”

 

Potential new members may sign up and pay online by clicking on the “Members & Retailers” tab at www.minnesotagrown.com, then clicking on “Become a Member” or contact Jessica Miles at 651-201-6170jessica.miles@state.mn.us to request an application by mail or with questions.

 

Candidates sought for four Minnesota commodity councils

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

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

 

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

 

 

Barley Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

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

 

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

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

 

Beef Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Corn Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Soybean Research and Promotion Council, vacant positions:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Calling all farmers to Winter Workshops in January

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

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

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

 

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

 

Morning Workshops (9 a.m. to Noon)

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

MDA Weed of the Month: Brown, Meadow, and Diffuse Knapweeds

December’s Weed of the Month is not one, but three species of knapweed: brown knapweed (Centaurea MDA-logojacea), meadow knapweed (C. x moncktonii), and diffuse knapweed (C. diffusa). All three species are native to Eurasia, and it’s thought they were introduced to western North America for forage. In Minnesota, infestations of meadow knapweed have been reported in St. Louis and Koochiching counties, brown knapweed has been reported in Koochiching County, and diffuse knapweed has been found in Duluth.

Several characteristics of these knapweed species have helped them thrive and become a threat to Minnesota. They outcompete pasture grasses and native plants, leading to large bare patches of soil that is more susceptible to erosion and water runoff. Once established, the knapweeds reduce hay quality and pasture productivity. The plants can also hybridize between species, which makes identification difficult and increases the risk for an aggressive plant that can invade many soil types and growing conditions.

Here’s a look at Brown Knapweed, the December weed of the Month from the Minnesota Department of Ag (photo from www.summit post.org)

Here’s a look at Brown Knapweed, the December weed of the Month from the Minnesota Department of Ag (photo from www.summit post.org)

Knapweeds can be biennial or perennial. They reproduce primarily by seed, which can be spread with infested hay, on equipment, or by wind and water movement. The flowers are tight clusters of individual flowers called florets. The flower color ranges from pink to white. The plants produce a rosette of leaves, which then sends up a flowering stalk in the summer.

To prevent the knapweeds from further spreading throughout Minnesota, several management strategies are available.

  • Make sure to clean equipment, vehicles, and footwear after being in a knapweed infested area.
  • A combination of hand-pulling and digging is an option for small infestations.
    Here’s a look at meadow knapweed, another invasive species seen in farm fields around Minnesota (Photo from unioncountyweedcontrol.org)

    Here’s a look at meadow knapweed, another invasive species seen in farm fields around Minnesota (Photo from unioncountyweedcontrol.org)

    Seedlings are tap-rooted and can be hand-pulled; however, the large taproots must be removed or the plant will regenerate from the root.

  • Herbicides are a very effective management tool for meadow knapweed. For specific herbicide recommendations, contact your University of Minnesota Regional Extension Educator.
  • Mowing does not control meadow knapweed and the mower may spread seed.
  • All infestations must be monitored and treated until the seedbank is depleted.

To report infestations of these species of knapweeds or any other noxious weeds on the eradicate list,

please use the Early Detection and Distribution MAPping System at www.eddmaps.org.

2015 Minnesota Organic Conference registration now open

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has opened registration for the 2015 Minnesota MDA-logoOrganic Conference. This farmer-focused event and associated trade show is being held January 9-10 in St. Cloud. Organizers expect 500-600 people to attend and are offering an early bird discount rate until December 26.

“There’s a strong market for organic; demand is really outpacing supply,” said conference co-organizer Meg Moynihan. “This conference helps beginners learn what’s required to raise organic crops and livestock. It helps experienced farmers get better at what they already do and make connections benefitting themselves and their farming operations.  Many people come back year after year because they enjoy seeing each other.”

organic-conference-2014

 

Attendees can choose from more than 36 practical, educational sessions during the two day event. Topics include soil quality and fertility, weed management, marketing, livestock health, organic certification requirements, energy conservation, and forage and grazing management. Presenters include many experienced organic farmers, as well as university researchers, agency and nonprofit staff.

 

In addition, two nationally known speakers will keynote the event. Ken Cook, co-founder and president of the Environmental Working Group will speak Friday. David Montgomery, who wrote the award winning book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, speaks Saturday.

 

The conference trade show features 80 vendors, including organic fertilizer, seed, feed, and equipment dealers, crop and livestock buyers, organic certifying agencies, marketing organizations, farmer organizations, and others.

 

The MDA keeps the conference cost at $150 for 2015, and offers a $25 discount for early bird registrations received by December 26. There are other discounts for additional registrants and students, as well as a single day rate.

 

Program information, registration forms, and a growing list of trade show vendors are available at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/organic/conference.aspx or call 651-201-6012 for a registration brochure.

Bitter winter has impact on gypsy moth in Minnesota

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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