Seed production versus traditional farming

Growing crops for seed production is somewhat similar and, at the same time, remarkably different to traditional crop production. While some aspects of seed production look familiar to the untrained eye, there’s a lot more to it than what goes into traditional crop farming.

Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner, Nebraska, grew up in a family that had been involved in growing corn for seed production for many years. Hunnicutt says farmers get into seed production for many reasons, but often because seed companies reach out to them first.

seed production

Here is a drone picture of the Hunnicutt family farms harvesting corn for seed in one of their fields near Giltner, Nebraska. (contributed photo)

“We actually took a break from seed production for a few years,” Hunnicutt recalled. “The company we’re with actually called us because we had ground that really would work well for them because it was in a location really close to their plant. It made more sense for us to grow seed for them than it did for them to worry about us raising a crop that might be detrimental to seed production.”

Hunnicutt said the seed producers in his area grow in different soil types, including sandy, silt-loam, and soils with more clay in them. Seed companies are more interested in field location rather than soil types. Fields that are close to the production plant mean cheaper transportation costs. They also look at field irrigation as companies don’t want late-season dry field problems.

Field location is also important because of pollination issues. Crops like white corn, popcorn, and Pioneer’s Enogen Seed Corn all have the potential to interfere with seed corn production, not because of any defect in those crops, but seed-corn pollination is very different from traditional pollination.

“There’s an isolation requirement that seed companies want,” Hunnicutt said, “at 165 feet from the outside edge of a row of field corn to the outside edge, or the male-border rows, of a seed field. That distance can help protect against pollination drift. Crops like popcorn, seed corn, and Enogen can cause cross-pollination issues, so the distance requirements are a little longer.”

Cross-pollination issues take away from the purity of the seed, adding and subtracting desired traits, making the product less valuable and less effective for future growing seasons. Seed companies will often reach out to farmers that produce white corn or popcorn and offer to let them grow seed corn on a certain field to avoid pollination issues.

Soybean seed producers don’t have to worry about cross-pollination challenges because soybeans are not open-pollinators. Early-season production processes are the same as traditional soybean farmers. One thing done to ensure pure soybean seeds is to make sure farm equipment is cleaned out prior to planting seed beans.

Both seed corn and seed bean companies send representatives out into the fields during the growing season to monitor for potential problems and preserve seed purity. Seed farmers are producing the traits and hybrids for the crops that commercial farmers will grow in their fields next year.

Trade lawyer questions NAFTA negotiating tactics

The North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are continuing, with several contentious issues to work through. A Veteran international trade lawyer is questioning Washington’s NAFTA negotiating tactics and wants to warn American agriculture groups to keep a sharp eye on how things develop and progress.

NAFTA Negotiating tactics

Daniel Ujczo is an International Trade Lawyer with Dickinson Wright law firm in Columbus, Ohio. He’s concerned about America’s NAFTA negotiating tactics and wants agriculture to keep the pressure on for a positive outcome. (contributed photo)

Dan Ujczo is an International Trade and Customs Attorney for Dickinson Wright Law Firm in Columbus, Ohio. He specializes in Canada-United States trade matters, so he’s keeping an especially close eye on the NAFTA negotiations. There are seven rounds in the discussions, and he noted that the most aggressive positions on trade began to show up during Round 3. He’s worried about the tenor and tone of the Trump Administration during these negotiations.

“We saw the U.S. begin to put forth very aggressive proposals in Round 3 up in Ottawa,” Ujczo said. “The first one was on government procurement, also known as “Buy American,” which basically said the U.S. is going to cut back on the number of government contracts Canada and Mexico are allowed to procure. At the same time, the U.S. wants Canada and Mexico to allow more American participation in bidding on their government contracts.”

He said that’s when feathers first began ruffling. Round 4 saw some aggressive proposals on automotive rules-of-origin, which the U.S. wants to bump from 62 percent North American content to 85 percent. The Trump Administration wants 50 percent of that 85 percent number to come from North America. Ujczo said there are no free-trade agreements in the world that have a nation-specific rule-of-origin like that.

The Canadian supply-management program restricts the amounts of American dairy, poultry, and eggs that get into Canada. Ujczo said Canada’s called it a “red line” that they won’t cross. It’s something to keep an eye on as the U.S. negotiators have already come out against the supply-management system.

“The U.S. is also talking about a sunset provision, meaning NAFTA would automatically terminate after five years unless Congress reauthorizes it,” he said. “Those are things that will cause Canada and Mexico to carefully consider their next moves. There is a very real possibility that the U.S. knows that Canada and Mexico can’t negotiate on issues like that, which means we’re left with one conclusion.”

Ujczo said that conclusion is, in his mind, the U.S. NAFTA negotiating tactics may be designed to try and get Canada and Mexico to walk away from NAFTA. If they don’t, he said the Trump Administration very well could walk away by the end of this year. He feels the Trump Administration doesn’t necessarily want to walk away from the deal, rather, they’re more concerned about “making America great again.”

Here is the complete discussion. Is he right? Is he just being politically motivated? I didn’t get the sense he was. It felt more like a warning to American agriculture to keep making your voices heard.

Minnesota Farmers now have some stress help

A new Farm & Rural Helpline is now available to Minnesota farmers and rural residents. The service, funded by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), is free, confidential, and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll free number is (833) 600-2670.

Minnesota farmers

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is helping to fund a Farm and Rural Helpline for those folks out in the country who are going through tough times. Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone when things get tough. It’ll keep you moving in the right direction.

Farmers and rural communities face unique stresses and emotional situations, including financial challenges, unpredictable weather, physically demanding work, and more. As stress, anxiety, depression, financial burdens, and other mental and emotional issues continue to impact the lives of Minnesota farmers and rural residents, the MDA recognized the need for ongoing support.

“I farmed for 24 years, so I’m no stranger to the stress and worry that can be part of farming,” said MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “I know that sometimes it helps to talk to someone about problems that can seem insurmountable. There is always help available around the corner.”

As an active farmer during the economic crisis of the 1980s, Commissioner Frederickson experienced first-hand the emotional toll farming can take on individuals and families.

He also knows that resources are available in Minnesota to families navigating the unique challenges facing farmers on a daily basis. The Farm & Rural Helpline can connect callers to financial assistance programs, health and mental health services, legal help, and more. Calls are confidential, but counselors may ask for a first name and phone number in case of a dropped call. Translation services are also available, with translators available in all languages.

The Farm & Rural Helpline is also available to those unsure of what to do about family or friends who may be experiencing anxiety, depression, or a mental health crisis.

Minnesota farmers and rural Minnesotans can call the toll free number as often as needed at (833) 600-2670.

Farmers are often independent by nature. It’s what helps them succeed in their chosen profession. Don’t be afraid to reach out and find someone to talk to. It’ll keep you healthy and going in the right direction to unload the stuff that’s on your mind, once in a while.

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Southeast Minnesota soybean harvest underway

Farmers have grain to sell

Lisa Behnken is a crops specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension office in Rochester.

It’s official. Soybean harvest is underway as farmers are bringing in the first soybeans of the season. While the growing season was difficult, early soybean harvest results are described as “pretty good, all things considered.”

Lisa Behnken is a University of Minnesota Extension Educator in the Rochester office. She said things really got going around the middle of last week and continued through the weekend before rain settled in. Some of the early reports are saying yields are coming in right around 55 bushels-per-acre, roughly ten bushels lower than farmers harvested in 2016.

“Farmers may have pockets that are doing a little better than that,” she said, “which is normally the case, but when they look at field averages, some are saying closer to 60 and some say closer to 50. That’s a respectable yield. It’s not a bin-buster but it’s a respectable yield.”

It’s respectable, especially when you look back at some of the challenges in soybean fields around the area. Farmers saw a few pockets of white mold in certain fields. Periodic cooler weather and excessive rainfall made it hard to just get the beans in the ground on time. Insect pressure was hit-and-miss. Beans didn’t suffer any drought-stress this year, but, the biggest challenge they did face was weed pressure.

Soybean harvest

Soybean harvest is always a challenging time of year but southeast MN soybean fields struggled with weed pressure, thanks to cold and wet weather limiting the timing and effectiveness of herbicide applications in the spring.

“Cool and wet weather at the beginning of the growing season made it difficult for the herbicides to even activate,” she said, “so some of the weeds escaped control early in the season. If farmers have to chase weed control through the summer, it gets pretty tough. Unfortunately, by the time we got to August, there were a lot of messy soybean fields with a lot of Waterhemp and Giant Ragweed in them.”

The weather made herbicide applications difficult to get down on time in the spring. Farmers are also dealing with increasing weed resistance to herbicides. When weed density gets high in bean fields, that affects yield negatively. Behnken said weed pressure was likely the number one story in southeast Minnesota soybean fields.

Houston and Fillmore County Extension Educator Michael Cruse said soybeans are coming out in those areas as well. While there are still some soybean fields turning brown, quite a bit of beans are already out of their fields.

“With the (up until recently) dry conditions, soybean fields dried out quickly and things progressed to the point where they were ready to come out,” he said. “Soybean harvest is officially off and running.”

While there aren’t a lot of hard numbers coming into his office yet in terms of yield estimates, Cruse echoed Behnken when he said early numbers say yields won’t be as low as some may have thought coming into harvest. Early-weed control challenges and an inability to apply herbicides on time will be the biggest factor in possible yield loss.

Here’s the conversation with Behnken:

 

Crop Production Report shows record soybean production

The Crop Production Report came out today (Thursday, August 10), predicting a record-high soybean production. As you know, it’s the first time USDA gives out its yield estimates based on surveys. Do you think they’ve come in about where you expected?

U.S. farmers are expected to produce a record-high soybean crop this year, according to the Crop Production report issued today by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Up 2 percent from 2016, soybean production is forecast at 4.38 billion bushels, while corn growers are expected to decrease their production by 7 percent from last year, forecast at 14.2 billion bushels. 

Crop Production Report

The first yield estimates for the current growing season are out from USDA and the numbers are showing record soybean yields as the August Crop Production report came out Thursday. (Photo from gourmet.com)

 Up 7 percent from last year, area for soybean harvest is forecast at a record 88.7 million acres with planted area for the nation estimated at a record-high 89.5 million acres, unchanged from the June estimate. Soybean yields are expected to average 49.4 bushels per acre, down 2.7 bushels from last year. Record soybean yields are expected in Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

 Average corn yield is forecast at 169.5 bushels per acre, down 5.1 bushels from last year. If realized, this will be the third highest yield and production on record for the United States. NASS forecasts record-high yields in Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Acres planted to corn, at 90.9 million, remain unchanged from NASS’ previous estimate. As of July 30, 61 percent of this year’s corn crop was reported in good or excellent condition, 15 percentage points below the same time last year.

 Wheat production is forecast at 1.74 billion bushels, down 25 percent from 2016. Growers are expected to produce 1.29 billion bushels of winter wheat this year, down 23 percent from last year. Durum wheat production is forecast at 50.5 million bushels, down 51 percent from last year. All other spring wheat production is forecast at 402 million bushels, down 25 percent from 2016. Based on August 1 conditions, the U.S. all wheat yield is forecast at 45.6 bushels per acre, down 7 bushels from last year. Today’s report also included the first production forecast for U.S. cotton. NASS forecasts all cotton production at 20.5 million 480-pound bales, up 20 percent from last year. Yield is expected to average a record-high 892 pounds per harvested acre, up 25 pounds from last year.

 

Farmer answers needed on possible dicamba damage

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is gathering information on plant damage that may have been caused by the use of the herbicide dicamba. The MDA is encouraging anyone with damage to complete a survey. The survey will be open until September 15.

dicamba

“We are trying to gather as much information on this issue as possible,” said Assistant Commissioner Susan Stokes. “Often, neighbors don’t want to file a formal complaint regarding crop damage against their neighbors. This survey, along with information we’re gathering from the product registrants, applicators, and farmers, will help us collect info to assess the scope of the situation. We’re asking for everyone’s cooperation on this issue.”

Dicamba is a herbicide used to control broadleaf weeds in corn and a variety of other food and feed crops, as well as in residential areas. In 2016, the United States  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conditionally approved the use of certain new products on dicamba tolerant (DT) soybeans.

It’s a highly volatile chemical that can drift and/or volatilize. Drift may cause unintended impacts such as serious damage to non-DT soybeans, other sensitive crops, and non-crop plants. This survey looks to gather information about these unintended impacts to other crops and plants.

dIcamba

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is looking for information on possible damage to soybeans caused by dicamba drift. This is an example of what it looks like. Producers who have this in their bean fields are asked to fill out the MDA survey as soon as possible. (photo from dtnpf.com)

As of Thursday, August 3, the MDA had received 102 reports of alleged dicamba damage; not all of those reports requested an investigation. Those who have already submitted a report to the MDA are encouraged to complete the survey.

If you believe dicamba was used in violation of the label or law, and you wish to request an MDA investigation, you will also need to complete the pesticide misuse complaint form or call the Pesticide Misuse Complaint line at 651-201-6333.

You can find out more information on dicamba at http://www.mda.state.mn.us/dicamba.

Southeast Minnesota crops are progressing

Southeast Minnesota crops are progressing in spite of a back and forth weather pattern. It’s gone from hot to cool and dry to wet multiple times this spring, and, for the most part, the crops have gotten enough water at the right times to continue development.

Southeast Minnesota Crops are Progressing

Southeast Minnesota corn that didn’t need to be replanted because of wet weather is now at tasseling stage, when wet weather becomes a little more critical for continued development. (photo from cornbeanspigskids.com)

The corn crop is coming into the tasseling stage, a critical time in the crops’ development. Fillmore and Houston County Extension Agent Michael Cruse said the ten days before tasseling and the two-week period afterward are when rain becomes critical to continued development for southeast Minnesota crops.

“The corn is working on set and going through the reproductive cycle,” said Cruse, “and it’s important that we get rain. If the water gets limited by dry weather during that period, it will limit the crops’ final yield numbers.”

There is some extra water in the soil profile from rainfall this spring and early summer, which Cruse says doesn’t hurt at all. However, after talking with several farmers in the area, Cruse said several had to go into their fields when it was probably too wet. The farmers told Cruse they were concerned about compaction in their sidewalls when they were planting.

“That means the roots weren’t able to grow out and down into the soil like they typically do,” Cruse said, “so even though we do have water in the soil profile, if people had that type of compaction issue in their fields, the roots won’t get down to the water that’s there. It’s possible that water will be limited for the crop, even though there’s water in the soil profile.”

Though we did get plenty of rain at times this spring, Cruse said it messed up a lot of the timing for getting out in soybean fields and spraying herbicides. There are soybean fields in southeast Minnesota that have weed infestations that they couldn’t get into and spray. Farmers had to try and hit ragweed when it was 2 – 2.5 feet tall.

Southeast Minnesota crops are progressing

Due to wet conditions, it was tough for southeast Minnesota farmers to get out and spray soybean fields at the correct time for maximum weed control. (Photo from ottofarms.com)

“They had to put something down that not only burned the weeds but hit the soybean plant as well,” he said. “That’s okay, but all you really did was burn the leaves on the weeds. Most of the time, you won’t kill them by doing that. If you did knock the ragweed back a little, they’re greening up and shooting out more buds. They’re not really under control and still growing.”

Cruse’s extension colleagues are telling stories about soybean fields in their areas that were incorrectly sprayed. Farmers sprayed the incorrect product on soybean fields that aren’t resistant to that specific chemical. There have actually been soybean fields in Minnesota that were completely killed off.

“There were some fields that may not have been completely killed off,” Cruse added. “But beyond even that, the other concern is are we getting enough growing degree days? We’re actually pretty close to average. We may be a little behind the last couple of years, but we’re close to average.”

Similar to corn and soybeans, this year’s alfalfa crop is a mixed bag, with some good and some not-so-good results. The biggest comment that Cruse is getting from farmers is problems dealing with winterkill.

“I’ve seen plenty of it that’s down and I’ve seen plenty that’s ready,” he said. “I’ve seen people that are constantly cutting alfalfa. But, other fields are slower than others, likely due in part to winterkill. It’s all over the board.”

Southeast Minnesota Crops Progressing

University of Minnesota Extension educator Michael Cruse says even though southeast MN crops are progressing, some alfalfa fields have struggled to be productive because of late season winter kill. (Photo from Michigan State Extension)

Disease pressure has been somewhat limited so far in southeast Minnesota crops, but Cruse said they’re likely going to show up in the immediate future. This is the time of year to be scouting for diseases like Northern Corn Blight.

As far as pest pressure, Cruse made an interesting point, asking, “How many mosquitoes have you seen this year?” What makes it even stranger is we’ve had plenty of the right conditions to have a lot of mosquitoes, but they just aren’t there in numbers we’re used to.

“We may have an infestation here and there,” Cruse said, “but I haven’t heard anything that’s overly concerning about southeast Minnesota crops, at least up to this point.”

 

 

 

MN landowners have more Buffer Law help

Today, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources announced two additional resources for landowners working to come into compliance with the state’s buffer law. The law  was passed with bipartisan support in 2015 and signed into law by Governor Dayton. The buffer law requires the implementation of a buffer strip on public waters by November 1, 2017 and a buffer on public drainage ditches by November 1, 2018.

“These additional resources, both financial and found online, are designed to help landowners be successful in complying with the buffer law.” explained John Jaschke, Executive Director BWSR.  “Local SWCDs and landowners have been working together over the past 18 months and, we are making great progress with 64 counties already 60-100% compliant.”

COST-SHARE PROGRAM

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources has approved a new buffer cost-share program, allocating almost $5 million dollars to support landowners in meeting the requirements of the state buffer law.

The funds will be distributed to soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) and are to be used for cost-sharing contracts with landowners or their authorized agents to implement riparian buffers or alternative practices on public waters and public drainage ditches.

Minnesota buffer law

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources announced a couple of different aids for landowners looking to come into compliance with the Minnesota Buffer Law signed last year. The BWSR says a good number of counties are already 60-100% compliant with the new regulations. (photo from bwsr.stste.mn.us)

These Clean Water Funds, passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Dayton at the end of the 2017 legislative session, provide important support to the Governor’s Buffer Initiative.

The 2017 legislation also recognizes that some landowners may have hardships (such as weather) in meeting the public waters deadline. The added language allows for an eight-month extension for implementation when a landowner or authorized agent has filed a riparian protection “compliance plan” with their local SWCD by November 1, 2017. Compliance waivers offer a buffer deadline extension until July 1, 2018.

NEW ONE-STOP WEBSITE

Minnesota landowners with questions about compliance waivers and other buffer law topics also have another option available today with the launching of a new one-stop website for information and tips to implement the buffer law. The new site, mn.gov/buffer-law, is a user-friendly and convenient resource for landowners and the public to learn about the law, find answers about alternative practices, and get information about financial and technical assistance and more.

The new buffer site, launched by the State of Minnesota is found at mn.gov/buffer-law. For more information on the buffer law, including the cost-share program, contact your local soil and water conservation district.

COMPLIANCE

Soil and Water Conservation Districts have been hard at work with landowners statewide and progress toward compliance is being made. 64 of Minnesota’s 87 counties are 60 – 100 percent in compliance with the buffer law. Statewide, preliminary compliance with the buffer law is 89%.

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Here’s a talk on the buffer law presented by Darren Mayers, District Technician Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District

BWSR is the state soil and water conservation agency, and it administers programs that prevent sediment and nutrients from entering our lakes, rivers, and streams; enhance fish and wildlife habitat; and protect wetlands. The 20-member board consists of representatives of local and state government agencies and citizens. BWSR’s mission is to improve and protect Minnesota’s water and soil resources by working in partnership with local organizations and private landowners.

Minnesota takes second trade mission to Cuba

It’s a debate that is guaranteed to incite emotions, both for and against. Increasing trade opportunities with Cuba is a hot button topic in Washington D.C., but it’s an important topic for agriculture. Minnesota is one state in the Union that recognizes the opportunities in Cuba. Several state officials and Ag groups took part in a recent June trade mission to our neighbors 90 miles to the south of Florida.

The timing felt a little ironic. Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith put the trip together months ago as a follow-up to a recent state trip to Cuba last December. The Friday before the delegation arrived in Cuba on the most trade mission, President Donald Trump decided to roll back some of the Obama-era regulatory moves that opened up opportunities for the countries to do business. That made the trip a little more important in the minds of Minnesota officials and Ag groups.

trade opportunities Cuba

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap was a member of the recent Minnesota delegation to travel to Cuba to talk about increasing trade opportunities between the state and the island nation 90 miles south of Cuba. (contributed photo)

“It (Trump’s announcement) didn’t change any of our goals going down there,” said Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap, a member of the delegation, “but it certainly ratcheted up the importance of our being there. We were the first Ag trade team down there after the Trump announcement, so everybody down there was aware of it.”

Paap said it was a vital opportunity for Minnesota to highlight the importance for agriculture that the countries continue to work together to become better neighbors and trading partners. It was also an opportunity to do what they could politically to help change the situation.

That was vital because Minnesota and Cuba have been doing business for some time, dating back to 2002 when then-Governor Jesse Ventura hosted the first big trade mission to Cuba. That’s where things began to really take off with trade reaching a high water mark between Cuba and Minnesota, but things have been tailing off for the last few years. The potential is there for things to improve.

“We have to understand,” Paap said, “they aren’t the biggest market, but it is an important market and a close market. It’s important to remember when dealing with perishable goods, in terms of quality and price, distance has a negative effect on all that. We should be able to beat everyone else on quality, price, and transportation.”

Despite some of the rhetoric people may hear when talking about Cuba, it’s important to note that the people of Cuba are enthusiastic about possibly trading with America.

 

The opportunities are there in Cuba for commodities like corn, soy products, black beans, dried beans, and some livestock opportunities too. He said there are things Cuba just can’t produce on their own.

“They have a lot of silt in their soils with not much in the way of organic matter,” Paap said. “They really haven’t put down a lot of nutrients into the soil in the last 50 years or so. There are some tillable acres in the country but it’s just not high quality.”

It’s not just the soils. Farmers in Cuba are working with a lack of modern equipment that American farmers are used to. A Cuban farmer used a one-bottom plow and two oxen to work one of the fields Paap saw during the trip. He says it seems like the country is locked in time decades in the past.

A trade mission like this always has two goals at the top of mind. Obviously, one goal is to do business but the other, and more important, goal is to build relationships.

“When you deal with an international trade mission, it’s always about building relationships before doing business,” Paap said. “We (Americans) probably aren’t as aware of that when you talk about dealing with other countries. You have to have a relationship. There has to be a reason for doing business besides dollars and cents.”

That’s hugely important and not just in Cuba. It’s the same if you’re talking trade with Asian countries or anyplace else in the world. The trip was a big opportunity to make sure the Cuban people understood the importance America placed on the relationship in light of the Trump announcement.

“It was a chance for us to say agriculture worked hard to make sure it wasn’t affected by the Trump announcement,” Paap stressed. “When it comes to the changes by President Trump, we weren’t as affected by those as others were and we wanted the Cubans to see that as a good sign.”

It was a chance for Minnesota to also point out they have two “champions” for trade with Cuba in Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Tom Emmer, working in a bipartisan manner on the topic for a long time.

The delegation went face-to-face with a lot of different people while they were in the country and Paap said it ran the gamut.

 

 

One of the most interesting changes in Cuba has to do with how they deal with foreigners. As recently as the mid-1990s, Cuban farmers weren’t allowed by law to even talk to people from outside the country, even those on a trade mission. Now, everyday people in Cuba told the delegation members that they’re hoping to get some help from the USA.

 

 

It’s not the biggest market but there are opportunities there. Paap and the American delegation were walking into the Ministry of Agriculture to meet with Cuban officials and a Chinese trade delegation was walking out at the same time.

“If we’re going to choose not to be there and involved in infrastructure upgrades, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen,” Paap said. “There’s a lot of countries putting some money into the country. Even Minnesota Ag Commissioner Dave Fredrickson (who was on the first trade mission) said it was amazing how much the country had changed, even since last December.”

There’s a lot of work to do to improve the lives of the average Cuban who earns between 20 and 24 dollars a month. Paap is a farmer in Blue Earth County and his Cuban counterparts have lots of questions for the American farmers on the trip.

“I always make sure and bring along a picture book,” Paap said, “especially when there’s a language barrier. There was a lot of interest in that. They had a lot of livestock questions about pigs and what we feed them and how heavy they are. They had a lot of questions about things like rainfall and crop yields. We had a lot of great farmer-to-farmer conversations.”

Cubans understand there are things they can’t grow in their fields. Paap wants to know why wouldn’t we want to sell Ag commodities to a country that’s only 90 miles south of America. After all, farmers understand logistics and travel better than most. Farmers realized a long time ago the value of working together, and that the people you work the best with are likely those closest to you.

The biggest obstacle for agriculture to overcome in order to improve trade with Cuba is the financing mechanism. In order for America to sell agricultural products to Cuba, the buyers have to come up with all the cash up front through a third party. That’s a big disadvantage when America’s competitors are more than happy to offer financing.

“That’s where the work of Senator Klobuchar and Congressman Emmer comes in to help try to get rid of some of those requirements,” Paap says. “That would make us a more desirable trading partner as well as the closest.”

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?