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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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.

Gypsy moth treatment coming to Winona County

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is preparing to treat approximately 1,751 acres of land in Winona County to slow the spread of a gypsy moth infestation identified last year. Officials will conduct the aerial treatment sometime between June 22 and June 29, beginning as early as 7:00 a.m. This date is dependent on weather conditions in the area leading up to the treatment date.

gypsy moth

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture will be spraying the Pine Creek area of Winona County in Minnesota to slow the spread of the gypsy moth into the state’s tree forests. (photo from hatfieldspraying.com)

To help area citizens stay informed, the MDA has set up an Arrest the Pest information line at 1-888-545-MOTH (6684). The hotline will offer the latest details about treatment date and time.

The MDA maintains a monitoring program to watch for start-up infestations. When an infestation is found, the department conducts aerial treatments of the infestation before it can spread. In 2016, the MDA found an infestation in New Hartford Township, Winona County (referred to as the Pine Creek block). (SEE MAP) Details of the area can be found at www.mda.state.mn.us/gmtreatments.

Map of treatment area in New Hartford Township, Winona County

The MDA will use a method of mating disruption involving the aerial application of a waxy, food-grade substance containing a pheromone that confuses male gypsy moths. This makes it difficult for the male gypsy moths to find females for mating, which means fewer caterpillars hatching and attacking trees next year. The application is timed just as adult moths emerge in mid-summer.

Mating disruption has been widely used for gypsy moth management in Minnesota and across the nation. It is an effective tool that helps slow the spread of the insect as it moves westward across the country. Minnesota has benefited greatly from the use of mating disruption in Wisconsin and other eastern states that have kept new gypsy moth populations at bay.

This work is being coordinated through the national Slow the Spread of Gypsy Moth program directed by the U.S. Forest Service. Minnesota has been part of this program since 2004. These efforts protect forest health, property values, and the state’s tourism industry.

Gypsy moths are among America’s most destructive tree pests, having caused millions of dollars in damage to Eastern forests. If present in large numbers, gypsy moth caterpillars can defoliate large sections of forest.

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Use fertilizers and pesticides with care in your yards this spring

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

fertilizers and pesticides

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

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

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

If you use pesticide and fertilizers yourself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

November Weed of the Month: Palmer Amaranth

November’s Weed of the Month is Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri). This fast growing weed has developed resistance to multiple herbicide modes of action so it is difficult to control. Palmer amaranth produces a lot of seed, up to 250,000 per plant, and is highly competitive. It spreads quickly and will cause extensive corn and soybean crop losses.

Palmer amaranth is native to the arid southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It was accidentally introduced to the southeastern United States and became the most troublesome weed in cotton production, by far. It developed resistance to many herbicides with multiple modes of action and spread to row crop fields in much of the eastern half of the country. This dreaded weed was discovered in Minnesota in 2016.

Palmer Amaranth weeds

Palmer amaranth plant with seed spikes. (photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.)

Palmer amaranth can be distinguished from closely related waterhemp and other pigweeds by a long petiole length and very tall flower and seed spikes. Unlike other pigweeds, Palmer petioles are often longer than the leaf blades. A petiole attaches a leaf to a stem. The flowering spike is much longer than that of other pigweeds. Leaves of some Palmer plants have a whitish V-shaped mark on them. Palmer amaranth is a summer annual that commonly reaches heights of 6-8 feet but can reach 10 feet.

If you find this plant, please report immediately by calling the Arrest the Pest at 888-545-6684 or emailing arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us.

Palmer amaranth detected in Minnesota

 ST. PAUL, Minn. – Crop scientists at the University of Minnesota and officials at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) urge farmers to check fields for Palmer amaranth, an aggressive weed that can put corn and soybean crops at risk. A plant detected in a native seed planting plot on a Yellow Medicine County farm was confirmed today to be Palmer amaranth. This is the first confirmation of the weed in the state.

The MDA asks possible infestations to be reported by contacting the MDA’s Arrest the Pest line by phone at 1-888-545-6684 or by email at arrest.the.pest@state.mn.us. Landowners are encouraged to email photos of suspected infestations for identification.

“We encourage landowners to scout fields now before harvest for Palmer amaranth and report any possible infestations to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture,” said Geir Friisoe, MDA’s Director of Plant Protection. “The quicker we’re able to identify and start managing this weed, the better our chances will be to minimize the impact to our ag industry.”

Palmer amaranth

Palmer Amaranth has been found in Minnesota and the Department of Agriculture wants farmers to keep an eye on their fields to help nip this in the bud before an infestation can occur. (Photo by Bruce Potter)

 

Palmer amaranth can grow 2 to 3 inches a day, typically reaching 6 to 8 feet, or more, in height. Left uncontrolled, a single female Palmer amaranth plant typically produces 100,000 to 500,000 seeds. It is resistant to multiple herbicides.

It has been found in 28 other states, including Iowa, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

“Palmer amaranth infestations have caused substantial yield losses and greatly increased weed management costs in cotton, soybeans, and corn in the southern states,” said Extension agronomist and crops leader Jeff Gunsolus. “This is a disconcerting, though not completely unexpected, discovery in Minnesota. We have been discussing proper identification procedures with crop consultants over the last three or more years.”

Close-up of Palmer amaranth

Palmer Amaranth has been found in Minnesota fields and it’s important for farmers to watch their fields in order to avoid an outbreak in farm fields across the state. (Photo by Bruce Potter)

 

Extension and MDA officials commend the grower and crop consultant who quickly contacted Extension after discovering a suspected Palmer amaranth plant. The weed is on MDA’s prohibited-eradicated noxious weed list, requiring all above- and below-ground parts of the plant be destroyed. Transportation, propagation or sale of the plants is prohibited.

MDA and Extension continue coordinating action steps to address the weed.

The MDA is investigating how the weed may have been introduced to the state.

In August, an Extension blog updated steps for both prevention and management at z.umn.edu/palamthbknd.

Further information is available at z.umn.edu/MDAPalmerAmaranth.

MDA value added grants available for Minnesota agriculture

Value added agriculture grants are available from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

Exporting soybeans overseas is one way to add value to Minnesota’s agricultural products. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has grants available for adding value to all kinds of agricultural products. (photo from archive.constantcontact.com)

Value added to agriculture sustains the long-term success of the industry and The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) wants to ensure the industry’s future.  The MDA has up to $1 million in grants available through the competitive Value Added Grant Program. The grant was established to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy industries through the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Program.

The goal of the Value Added Grant is to increase sales of Minnesota agricultural products. Some of the ways to add value include  diversifying markets, increasing market access, and increasing food safety of value-added products.

Dave Frederickson supports value added agriculture in Minnesota

Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson notes that value added agriculture does a lot to support the state’s economy, including the off-farm sectors. (Photo from mda.state.mn.us)

“Value-added businesses benefit the state of Minnesota in lots of ways,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Dave Frederickson. “They utilize Minnesota grown agricultural products in creative ways and the extra sales revenues help support our state’s economy. It’s exciting to watch Minnesota entrepreneurs improve their businesses with funding from the Value Added Grant Program.”

New or established for-profit businesses may apply for funding to help with the development of value-added agricultural products.  Some of the ways value gets added to agricultural products include added processing, marketing, or manufacturing. Grant funds reimburse up to 25 percent of the total project cost.  The maximum award is $150,000 and the minimum grant is $1,000. Equipment purchases and facility improvements are also eligible ways to add value to agricultural products.

Applications must be received no later than 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 27, 2016. Applications are available at www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/valueaddedgrant.aspx and may be submitted online, by mail, or in-person.

April Weed of the Month: Prescribed Burns

MDA-logoMany management strategies, including prescribed burns, can be used against invasive plants.

In most cases, no single strategy used by itself will provide the desired long-term solution that landowners and managers seek. However, when used together as part of a larger integrated strategy, they can provide significant benefits for achieving successful, long-term management.

A prescribed burn is used as an invasive plant control tool, and to manage native plant communities and large landscapes.

At the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), one goal of prescribed burns is to improve the health of desirable vegetation. Ken Graeve with MnDOT says they use prescribed burns to promote the growth of desirable vegetation in combination with other treatments such as herbicide applications. With these combined methods, a healthy ecosystem is better able to outcompete invasive plants.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) uses prescribed burns not just for managing native plant communities, but also for controlling woody invasive plants.

Prescribed Burns

An autumn prescribed burn is used to improve the health of native vegetation at a wetland mitigation. (Contributed photo)

For example, after initial work of cutting and treating with herbicide application, the DNR may use prescribed burns in subsequent months and years to help control infestations of buckthorn, honeysuckle, or Japanese barberry. Shawn Fritcher from the DNR says prescribed burns can be effective against these invasive woody plants because burns can cover large areas faster than cutting and treating can. Multiple burns are often needed to reduce the vigor of woody invasive species.

Fritcher also says it is important to note that repeated fire is most appropriate in fire-dependent woodlands.

At both MnDOT and the DNR, staff who work on prescribed burns go through training. They learn about fire behavior, weather prescriptions, and how to design and write an effective burn plan. Fire breaks, or the breaks in combustible material, are often established ahead of time using a variety of equipment like tractors, mowers, ATVs, rakes, and leaf blowers. Fire breaks are controlled using trucks or ATVs that carry water, or with hand tools where access by ATV is limited. The appropriate permits must be acquired, and traffic control measures are utilized for burns along roadsides.

Timing prescribed burns depends on the management objective. Desirable plant species often respond well to early spring burns. Smooth brome and other cool season grasses can be managed with late spring burns. Burning woody invasive species after leaf-out may be the most effective since much of the plant’s energy is invested in new above ground growth. Summer burns can be effective at controlling brushy species in prairie areas. Fall burns provide another opportunity to target some invasive species.

For landowners thinking about utilizing prescribed burns, they must first get a burn permit.

Prescribed burns

Farmers use prescribed burns intheir fields to encourage growth by removing competition from weeds (Photo from farmprogress.com)

Proper planning for the burn is critical to success. The landowner needs to think about many factors such as fire break location, wind direction, smoke, control measures, and many other parameters to make decisions for the burn plan. There are multiple resources through the DNR website (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rxfire/index.html) to assist landowners with planning prescribed burns.

Wabasha Cty residents invited to meeting on emerald ash borer

Residents of Wabasha County are invited to a public meeting on Thursday, March 31st, 2016 regarding the discovery of emerald ash borer (EAB) in the county.

MDA-logoOn February 29, 2016, Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) staff identified EAB larvae in an ash tree in the southeastern corner of the county after being alerted to some suspicious trees by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff.

The trees displayed symptoms of EAB infestation, including bark splits and insect tunneling under the bark.

Those attending the upcoming meeting will have an opportunity to listen to presentations on EAB, hear about local options to deal with the insect, and learn how residents can limit the spread of the bug. Experts from the MDA, University of Minnesota, and other state and federal partner agencies will be available to answer questions.

Emerald Ash Borer Informational Meeting
Thursday, March 31, 2016
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Wabasha County Courthouse
625 Jefferson Avenue
Wabasha, MN 55981

Emerald Ash Borer concerns in Wabasha

Emerald ash borer concerns are prompting a public meeting in Wabasha County at the courthouse to discuss concerns about the insect, which has been found in the southern part of the county. (photo from tn.gov)

The public will also have an opportunity to provide input on the adoption of a formal EAB quarantine of Wabasha County. An emergency quarantine was placed on the area when EAB was discovered.

The MDA will take comments on the formal quarantine from March 15 – May 1, 2016 and proposes to adopt the quarantine on May 15, 2016.

The quarantine limits the movement of ash trees and limbs, and hardwood firewood out of the county. The proposed quarantine language can be found at www.mda.state.mn.us/eab. Comments can be made at the public meetings or by contacting:

Kimberly Thielen Cremers
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155
mailto:kimberly.tcremers@state.mn.us
Fax: 651-201-6108

Emerald Ash borer concerns in Wabasha County

Emerald ash borers emerge from an infected tree. EAB infestation concerns are the reason for a public meeting at the Wabasha County Courthouse on Thursday, March 31, beginning at 5:30. (Photo from ars.usda.gov)

Emerald ash borer larvae kill ash trees by tunneling under the bark and feeding on the part of the tree that moves nutrients up and down the trunk. Minnesota is highly susceptible to the destruction caused by invasive insect. The state has approximately one billion ash trees, the most of any state in the nation. For more information on emerald ash borer, go to www.mda.state.mn.us/eab.