Paap re-elected Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation President

Minnesota Farm Bureau FederationCounty voting delegates at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF) 99th Annual Meeting re-elected Kevin Paap to a two-year term as President of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation. The election was held November 17 during the delegate session in Bloomington.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation

Kevin Paap, a fourth-generation Blue Earth farmer, was re-elected to another two-year term as President of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation during it’s annual winter meeting in the Twin Cities. (Photo from fbmn.org)

Kevin and Julie Paap own and operate a fourth-generation family farm in Blue Earth County growing corn and soybeans.

“I am humbled and honored to continue to do something that I truly love to do and am passionate about doing,” said Paap. “While agriculture faces many challenges, with every challenge there are opportunities. Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation will continue to be at the table in the public policy arena, build agriculture’s positive image and develop leaders at all levels.”

Newly elected to a three-year term to represent District VII was Shayne Isane of Badger from Headwaters Regional Farm Bureau. Re-elected to a three-year term were Carolyn Olson from Cottonwood in Lyon County representing District III and Nathan Collins from Murdock in Swift County representing District IV.

Elected to the board of directors serving one-year terms were Promotion & Education Committee chair Pete Bakken from Rock County and Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee chair Jeff Pagel from Olmsted County.

 Minnesota Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization in the state focusing on Farmers • Families • Food with more than 30,000 family members. Members determine policy through a grassroots process involving the Farm Bureau members in 78 county and regional Farm Bureau units in a formal, democratic process. Through this process, members make their views heard to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for Young Farmers & Ranchers help develop leadership abilities and improve farm management. Promotion & Education committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom, and safety education for farm children. For more information, contact your county Farm Bureau office.

 

For more information on the Minnesota Farm Bureau log onto www.fbmn.org.

Rushford-Peterson football season ends in Section playoffs

The Rushford-Peterson football team saw its season come to an end, dropping a home-field loss to Blooming Prairie on Saturday, Oct. 28, 21-20. The Trojans end the season with an 8-2 record, while Blooming Prairie advances to the Section 1A title game with an 8-2 record.

Rushford-Peterson

The Rushford-Peterson Trojans lost a tough one on their home field to Blooming Prairie on Saturday night, Oct. 28, by a 21-20 score, in the second round of the MSHSL football playoffs. The Trojans ended the season at 8-2.

The line between winning and losing can be a small one, as demonstrated by the game on Saturday. One missed extra-point kick that went just wide was the difference in a very physical football game.

The Trojans went 3-and-out on their first possession. Blooming Prairie drove the ball deep into Trojan territory, turning the ball over on downs at the Rushford-Peterson 10-yard line after a dropped pass in the end zone.

A good punt return combined with a facemask penalty on the Trojans gave the Blossoms possession at the R-P 43. BP quarterback Seth Peterson scored the first points of the game on a 6-yard TD run, with the Blossoms taking an early 7-0 lead with 1:41 left in the first quarter.

Peterson threw an interception on the fourth Blossom possession, with the errant pass picked off by Jake Paulson. Rushford-Peterson took advantage, putting together a 75-yard scoring drive. Ethan Sense covered the last 20 yards to score the first Trojan points. The extra-point kick was no good, so BP still had the lead at 7-6 with 8:58 left in the second quarter.

Ethan Hermanson would pick off another Seth Peterson pass late in the first half and the Trojans would drive the ball deep into BP territory. After an incomplete pass in the end zone, R-P quarterback Landon Skalet was intercepted, with the defender falling out of bounds at the one-yard line.

After a risky pass from their own end zone, it looked like Blooming Prairie was trying to run the clock out in order to take a one-point lead at halftime. However, running back Max Romeo was hit by a Trojan defender almost as soon as he took the handoff from Peterson, jarring the ball loose. The ball bounced around in the end zone, where Peyton Morrison recovered the ball for a quick six points for Rushford-Peterson. Skalet was tackled while attempting the 2-point conversion, but the Trojans led 12-7 going into halftime with some momentum.

The Blossoms fumbled the ball on their first possession of the second half but the Trojans weren’t able to convert it into points. The second BP possession went much better for the Blossoms. Peterson finished off a 78-yard drive with a 10-yard scoring pass to Matthew Pryor. The XP kick made it a 14-12 Blooming Prairie lead with 4:29 to go in the third quarter.

The biggest break of the game swung to Blooming Prairie in the third quarter. The Trojans were running the Wildcat formation with Jake Paulson taking snaps instead of Skalet. Paulson had the option to throw or pass out of the formation. Paulson’s pass in front of the Blooming Prairie sideline was intercepted and the Blossoms would take advantage.

Blooming Prairie capitalized on a 30-yard scoring drive as Peterson hit Colin Lerum on a 16-yard TD pass with 1:03 left in the third quarter. The extra-point kick made it 21-12 in favor of Blooming Prairie.

Undaunted, the Trojans came right back on their next possession, answering the score with one of their own. R-P drove the ball 80 yards, with the big play a Skalet-to-Paulson 33-yard bomb. Those two would connect again on a 25-yard TD pass. Sense carried the ball into the end zone on the two-point conversion attempt and the Trojans had knocked the BP lead to a single point, 21-20, with 11:13 left in the game.

The Blossoms got a 48-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, taking possession at the R-P 38. The Trojan defense would rise to the challenge, forcing the Blossoms to turn the ball over on downs at the Rushford-Peterson 24. The Trojans had time to work with on the clock and a chance to drive for the winning points.

R-P drove the ball deep into Blooming Prairie territory, helped out by a questionable pass-interference call on the Blossoms, which kept the drive alive. The last gasp came on a Skalet pass into the end zone that was intercepted, giving Blooming Prairie a chance to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, winning the game 21-20.

I caught up with R-P head coach Davin Thompson after the game. Obviously, he was pretty dejected but was very proud of his team:

 

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:

 

10-year anniversary of the Rushford flood

Saturday, August 18, started as a typical weekend day in Rushford, but it wouldn’t end like a typical day. In fact, it’s a day that lives on in infamy and will for a long time to come. The Rushford, Minnesota, 2007 flood had begun.

Rain began to fall that evening. It started out as a torrential downpour and it just never let up. It wouldn’t let up for approximately 24 hours. By the early hours of Sunday morning, Rushford had filled up with water and authorities were ordering residents to evacuate. 17 inches of rainfall in a short space of time triggered a flood that saw over five feet of water filling up the Rushford area. The road to recovery would be a long and hard one.

Rushford flood 2007

17 inches of rain in a 24-hour period left behind a once-a-generation flood in Rushford, Minnesota. August of this year marked the ten-year anniversary of the Rushford flood of 2007. (Photo courtesy of Fillmore County Emergency Management)

August marked the ten-year anniversary of the flood. While the recovery stories were incredibly challenging, they were also heartwarming as the community rallied together. Ten different people would give ten different answers to the question, “Can you believe it’s been ten years since the flood?” Looking back, all would agree it was a difficult time.

“It almost seems like it’s been longer than that,” said Pam Brand, owner of Pam’s Corner in Rushford. “Sometimes it feels like it hasn’t been that long, but then I look at everything the community’s been through since then and it feels even longer than that.”

Jim Hoiness, co-owner of Rushford Foods, said it feels like ten years have gone by very quickly, calling it ‘amazing.’ It’s especially amazing when he looks back at where the community came from to where it is today. “We’ve been very blessed,” he said.

Saturday, August 18th, was just another weekend day to the Brands, who’d made plans that day for a grill out with friends, but the torrential rains made that impossible. They didn’t hear about the flooding in Rushford until the next morning, partly because they live ten miles outside of town. A phone call from one of their employees was the first clue they had.

“The employee that opened up on Sunday morning called me and said, ‘Rushford is flooding,’” she said. “We thought that meant the streets might be full of water, so we said we’d be there soon. The employee called back and said, ‘you really need to come now,’ telling us that Rushford was flooding and there was water everywhere.”

Coming in from the south side of Rushford, the Brands made it to the bridge before they were stopped by water. A lot of water. They needed to get to the store, so they took off in their car, which almost made it to the store before stalling. They would wade in water the rest of the way to the store.

The Hoiness family was at a family reunion when it started raining. Even when Jim got home, it was still raining, so he decided to head down to Rushford Foods and take a look at the building. When he got to the store, the loading dock was completely full of water. That water was about one foot from getting into the main store. At that point, Jim said there was nothing he could do about it and went home to hunker down. He wouldn’t see the extent of the damage until the next morning.

The Brands were also seeing water getting closer to their business. The family began moving items in their store to the second floor, getting help from customers who happened to be in the store at the time and were virtually trapped there. They also made what would turn out to be a good decision to shut down all the electrical equipment, a decision that would help them get back on their feet a little quicker than they would have. However, they were still left with a mess.

“A muddy, muddy mess,” Brand said. “It took an awful lot of work to clean up a mess like that but we have an awful lot of good people in this community and the surrounding areas. Folks came from all over to help everybody clean up. It was amazing. I never dreamed that anything like that could happen.”

Jim Hoiness faced a similarly monumental task to get the Rushford Foods building cleaned up. He used the word ‘miracle’ to describe the process as 400 volunteers came to his store to help with cleanup.

Rushford MN Flood 2007

When flood waters recede, they don’t leave behind a suddenly washed-clean environment. That’s when the real cleanup work begins and it’s not pretty at all, as Rushford, MN, found out in 2007. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

“I don’t believe we ever asked anyone to come and help,” Hoiness said. “They just showed up. It was the nastiest job you could ever have, to try and clean up through that muck and mud. It’s a tedious job.”

Hoiness said several of the volunteers were community residents, but there were a lot of people that came in from out of town. In fact, a group of confirmation students from an area Catholic church/school called Hoiness to ask if they could come down and help.

“I talked to the teacher when they first came over,” Hoiness remembered, “and she said the students were a little reluctant to come over, at first. The students worked in the Mill Street Mall (which Hoiness also owns) and helped clean it up. After that, the teacher called back and said the students wanted to return over a couple of Saturdays and finish the job.”

Hoiness said that’s what sticks in his mind the most when he remembers the flood. It’s the people that came to help. It’s not fun to clean up something like that. It’s smelly and dirty. Without that volunteer help, it’s hard to even get a start on a job like that.

“It would be virtually impossible to pay someone for a job that big,” he added. “It would be incredibly expensive.”

Brand said it took a few months before she felt Pam’s Corner was fully back on its feet again. Hoiness said Rushford Foods took a lot of work to get going again as well. Hoiness said they had to remove several feet of interior and exterior walls from the ground up because of water damage. As they got back on their feet, Pam said it was heartwarming to see everyone working together to get Rushford moving again.

“You could see everyone helping each other,” she remembered. “We saw a lot of former community members that had moved away and were coming back to help with cleanup, including former residents that we hadn’t seen in years. Everyone really stuck together to help each other get back on their feet again. It was really quite amazing.”

Hoiness said it was ‘miraculous’ that Rushford Foods could be back in business in only 71 days. They couldn’t have done it without all the help that showed up. He feels Rushford has come a long way since the epic flood in 2007.

“I think so,” he said. “I think things look very good. A lot of homes and businesses were redone. We’re very fortunate.”

Brand said the year after the flood saw Rushford beginning to take shape again, saying everything looked stronger and new. She said it looked like Rushford had done the right things to get going in the right direction again. Does she still believe that ten years later?

“I believe it is, yes,” she said firmly.

Here’s a YouTube video of the flood and some of the damage that it left behind:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Preseason Minnesota Volleyball rankings are out

Here are the first Minnesota volleyball preseason rankings of the year:

Class AAA Rankings
1. Eagan (8)
2. Prior Lake
3. Lakeville North
4. Stillwater
5. Champlin Park
6. Hopkins
7. East Ridge
8. Shakopee
9. Moorhead
​10. Blaine
Class AA Rankings
1. Maple Lake (8)
2. Stewartville
3. Kasson-Mantorville
4. Southwest Christian
5. Marshall
6. North Branch
7. Sauk Centre
8. Roseau
9. Totino-Grace
​10. Concordia
Class A Rankings
1. Mayer Lutheran (8)
2. Hayfield
3. Caledonia
4. Bethlehem Academy
5. Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
​6. Rush City
7. Mabel-Canton
8. Wadena-Deer Creek
9. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown
10. Underwood
Minnesota volleyyball

The first Minnesota volleyball rankings are out. Lots of good volleyball teams make their home in southeast Minnesota and we’ll have coverage on our website at bluffcountrynews.com. Spread the word for family and friends that live out of town.

Southeast Minnesota has several good teams in the Class A and Class AA rankings. The first official day of practice is August 14. Fall sports is basically upon us. Can’t wait to get going on the seasons again.

We’ll have lots of sports coverage in southeast Minnesota on our website, bluffcountrynews.com.

 

 

Spring Grove Lions fall sports teams ready

Boy, it’s hard to believe that fall sports are right around the corner. What happened to summer? The first official day of fall practice for high school sports is August 14. I’m already talking to southeast Minnesota coaches about doing previews of their teams for our newspapers and online at bluffcountrynews.com. My first stop this fall is a visit with the Spring Grove Lions’ coaching staff.

For those who don’t follow southeast Minnesota sports on a regular basis, the Spring Grove high school sports teams are generally very good year after year. The football and volleyball teams recently returned from their last summer camps of the year. I talked with volleyball coach Kelsey Morken and football coach Zach Hauser.

Spring Grove Lions

The Spring Grove Lions, shown here in action from last season, are readying for fall practice, which officially starts on August 14.

The volleyball team had a very good season last year, going 17-12 overall and 10-4 in the Southeast Conference, finishing at second in the East Division. The Lion girls bring back a lot of experience from last year’s squad. The Spring Grove football team went 9-2 last year, 7-1 in the 9 Man, District 1, East Sub-District football standings.

The football team went to its summer camp without its number one quarterback, Alex Folz, who was out with a biceps injury. But, don’t worry Lions fans. He’ll be okay come fall practice. Here’s the conversations with both coaches on the chadsmithmedia.com podcast.

Minnesota Twins buying at the MLB trade deadline

So, I was thinking it was a bit unusual for the our Minnesota Twins to evidently be buyers as the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches. They’ve supposedly all but done a deal for Jaime Garcia of the Atlanta Braves. I was excited about picking up a lefthander who could maybe eat up some innings. As you dig deeper, it looks like the Twins might need a refresher on how to be “buyers” rather than “sellers?”

MInnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins are looking at Jaime Garcia as the MLB trade deadline approaches. Is a mediocre left-hander the answer to the team’s pitching woes? And if he is, he’s only here through the rest of the season. What gives? (Photo from riverablues.com)

The new regime in the Twin’s front office isn’t quite getting the whole “let’s improve our team at the trade deadline” principal. We’re just about to pick up the second Atlanta Braves pitching castoff (Bartolo Colon ring a bell? How’s that worked out?). The Atlanta lefty is 3-7 with a 4.33 ERA in 17 starts with the Braves. He’s not coming to Minnie on a hot streak either.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution sports section points out that Garcia was 1-2 with a hefty 7.45 ERA in his last five starts for the Braves who sit three games under .500 and 11 games behind the first place Nationals, the only team above .500 in a weak division.

The guy has been in the majors for parts of nine seasons, compiling a semi-decent record of 65-52 with a 3.65 ERA in 175 games, including 164 starts. Last season with the Cardinals was the first time in six seasons that the guy had made 20 starts. How does this help the Twins?

Minnesota Twins

Not content with one Atlanta Braves castoff in Bartolo Colon (who may be on the verge of retirement), the Minnesota Twins are now considering a trade for left-hander Jaime Garcia. What’s the priority here? (Photo from calltothepen.com)

Yes, our favorite ballclub has no quality depth after Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios. I understand that. The disappointing thing here is we aren’t adding Garcia for the long term. His contract is up at the end of the season. We’re parting with prospects for a rental player with a history of injuries (Tommy John surgery in 2008) and an inability to run out there every fifth day consistently.

The Twins pitching staff is bad after the top two starters. I get it. Garcia’s 4.33 ERA actually would be an improvement to our favorite team’s 3-4-5 starters. But he’s only going to be around through the end of the season. How does that fix the problem long term? This smells a lot like the hand of Jim Pohlad is in on this deal.

Thoughts? I can’t be the only one that misses good baseball in Minnesota? Anyone else think the 30-year celebrations of our World Series titles have grown stale? Kinda tired of living in the past:

 

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.”