State Climatologist talks southeast MN weather

The weather throughout fall and during the transition to winter can only be described as interesting. It’s been awhile since I was doing play-by-play for a high school football game during early November and actually had to take my winter jacket off because the press box was actually quite comfortable. I would imagine outside chores have been much less taxing during the nice fall weather too.

Conditions are going to change at some point. We know that here in southeast Minnesota. Colder weather and snow will be coming starting next week, but the question is how cold and how much?

State Climatologist Mark Seeley talks southeast Minnesota weather

Mark Seeley is a climatologist with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. (photo from mprnews.org)

Mark Seeley of the University of Minnesota Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. He’s a professor, a climatologist, and the main guy Minnesota media has turned to with weather questions for decades. I first met Mark while at KLGR radio in Redwood Falls. He was at the annual Farmfest event down the road near Morgan, Minnesota, and a fellow broadcaster said I needed to talk to Mark if I wanted to do a weather segment.

My most recent weather assignment comes from my freelance reporting job with Bluff Country News Group. We wanted to know what the upcoming winter would look like so I gave Mark a call and had a visit. The 2016 calendar year weather conditions in southeast Minnesota have been record-setting, with too much heat and moisture. I wanted to know how much heat and moisture have hit the area and this is what Mark had to say:

Farm Bureau Opposes Speed Limiters Proposal

Speed limitersThe United States Department of Transportation’s (DOT) proposal to require speed limiters for large commercial vehicles doesn’t account for the fact that many commercial vehicles often cover hundreds of miles on open roads with few other vehicles around. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF)  recently submitted comments on the idea, saying the proposed rule would pass on significant costs to farmers and ranchers who only use heavier trucks seasonally.

Speed Limiters

The US Transportation Department is proposing the addition of speed limiters on vehicles with a gross weight greater than 26,000 pounds, which would mean more costs to farmers who only use those larger vehicles seasonally. (Photo from truckernews.com)

The proposed rule was put forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and DOT. The new rule would require vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 26,000 pounds to be equipped with a speed limiting device. It would be set to a speed to be specified when the final rule comes out. It would require motor carriers operating such vehicles in interstate commerce to maintain functional speed limiting devices at all times.

The AFBF says speed limits should not be arbitrarily established by federal rule. Instead, it should be based on conditions in the area in which it’s posted.

“The proposal ignores the fact that many commercial vehicles often operate for hundreds of miles without much interaction with other traffic. There is no clear rationale in the rule for suggesting a truck traveling in a rural setting with minimal traffic should have the same top speed as a truck traveling in a large city,” said AFBF.

The organization also points out that the proposal would be too costly for farmers and ranchers who use large trucks only during certain times of the year.

“If adopted, the rule would pass on significant costs to our members who do not operate as commercial motor vehicle enterprises but only utilize heavier trucks seasonally. These costs would impact an industry that is currently struggling to make ends meet with the recent downturn in the farm economy,” said AFBF.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas bouncing back

On this next edition of the ChadSmithMedia podcast, I had a unique opportunity to visit with a woman named Sandra Levering, a cattle producer from Comanche County in Kansas.  If that rings any kind of bells, it’s because they were part of a large area on the Kansas and Oklahoma border affected by the biggest wildfire they’d seen in that area’s history.  It burned roughly 400.000 acres.  Thankfully, there was no loss of human life, but livestock was badly affected as was a lot of pasture and grazing areas.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas recovering

A shot of the grass fires that roared through the Kansas and Oklahoma border areas in late March. It totaled nearly 400,000 acres of land before it was put out. (photo from KFDI.com

The amazing part of the story is this:  With apologies to the movie Pay It Forward, that’s just what the situation turned into.  Levering was one of the folks who took it upon themselves to coordinate aid to those farmers who needed it.  They brought in loads and loads of hay to help feed cattle that literally had nothing.  Loads of people came down from the north to help with repairs, including a whole lot of fencing to put up.

The one thing I want you to remember is this:  If you hear a so-called “expert” tell you that farmers don’t care for their animals, listen to the emotion in Sandra’s voice when she spoke about the animals that were badly injured in the fire.  You’ll either change your mind or have to check your pulse to make sure you’re still alive.

Kansas/Oklahoma wildfire areas are recovering

Harvey County, Kansas lands that were burned by a 400,000-acre wildfire in late March. Recovery efforts are well underway, and reports of green grass growing in the affected areas are starting to come in. (photo from ksn.com)

She is out in wide open spaces, so her cell phone dips a little, but I think you’ll get the gist of what’s happening and how that area has slowly begun to bounce back from a horrible tragedy.  After all, as she puts it, “In agriculture, we don’t wait for the government to come help us, we do it ourselves.”

 

 

 

CoBank Report Predicts Easing Of U.S. Protein Glut

DENVER, Colo. (January 21, 2016) —The supply glut that plagued U.S. beef, pork and poultry protein markets last year and ratcheted down margins is expected to ease in 2016, according to a new research report from CoBank.

The bank, a major agribusiness lender, says leading indicators point to animal protein supplies moving toward a state of equilibrium, with protein stocks more in line with overall levels of demand.

Meat Protein supplies expected to ease this year.

Trevor Amen is a protein specialist at Cobank. He expects improving market conditions for US beef, pork, and poultry producers in 2016.

“It’s clear that in the coming year, the headwinds and adverse conditions created by excessive protein stocks are clearing,” said Trevor Amen, animal protein economist with CoBank. “Surprisingly strong U.S. consumer demand helped lay the groundwork for improving market conditions in the coming year, meaning the net trade balance is expected to shift toward growing exports and fewer imports.

“This is welcome news for U.S. beef, pork and poultry producers.”

On the Horizon
In the first half of 2016 protein exports are expected to remain somewhat of a challenge. “But conditions are predicted to improve over depressed 2015 levels due to a variety of economic factors,” added Amen.

Meanwhile, imports of lean beef should slow significantly and domestic consumer demand for beef, pork and poultry is anticipated to remain strong and supportive of prices. Supply imbalances have already begun the correction phase, with supply and demand expected to achieve equilibrium by about mid-year. The strength of consumer demand going forward will impact how much and how soon U.S. meat prices change.

For instance, meat demand in the restaurant sector continues to grow. The Restaurant Performance Index and the Expectation Index each indicate positive restaurant business conditions. Combined with lower gas prices, current consumer attitudes indicate a willingness to spend more at restaurants versus in-home meals during 2016.

Price outlooks are mixed:

  • Pork and chicken prices have an upside potential compared to last year’s low levels, based on adjustments made for future production.
  • Beef prices will likely remain under pressure for the next two years, however, as the industry is coming off cyclical highs of 2014.

Of course, optimism for 2016 should be tempered by the oversupply lessons of 2015.

“Total red meat and poultry production set an all-time high in 2015,” said Amen. “Combined with fewer exports and more imports, total domestic meat supplies surged by 4.4 percent, the highest year-over-year increase in 40 years.” That increase in supply translated to an additional 9 pounds of protein per person—historically, protein supplies rose an average of 0.8 pounds per person per year from 1960 to 2015.

As the market works through the recent protein oversupply hangover, the long-term outlook remains positive, especially with continued global middle class growth. “The increasing demand for a higher-quality diet likely provides domestic protein producers with significant opportunities in the next decade,” concludes Amen.

A synopsis of the 2016 Protein Demand Outlook Report is available at www.cobank.com. The full report is available to media upon request.
Meat Protein supplies expected to level off in 2016, thanks in part to surprising domestic demand and improving exports.

About CoBank
CoBank is a $110 billion cooperative bank serving vital industries across rural America. The bank provides loans, leases, export financing and other financial services to agribusinesses and rural power, water and communications providers in all 50 states. The bank also provides wholesale loans and other financial services to affiliated Farm Credit associations serving more than 75,000 farmers, ranchers and other rural borrowers in 23 states around the country.

CoBank is a member of the Farm Credit System, a nationwide network of banks and retail lending associations chartered to support the borrowing needs of U.S. agriculture and the nation’s rural economy. Headquartered outside Denver, Colorado, CoBank serves customers from regional banking centers across the U.S. and also maintains an international representative office in Singapore.

For more information about CoBank, visit the bank’s web site at www.cobank.com.

Minnesota Farmers Union President looks ahead

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

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

Farmers Union President

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmers Union President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The challenges of transferring land ownership can exacerbate the problem.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attend the Minnesota Farm Bureau Annual Meeting

The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Annual Meeting will be November Minnesota_Farm_Bureau_Logo_345x14319-21 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bloomington. The conference will have a variety of sessions on agricultural issues, leadership development and the Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R) contests and award banquets.

Keynote Speaker: Matt Rush

Matt Rush will be the keynote speaker at the noon luncheon on Saturday, November 21.

Matt Rush

Matt Rush is a fourth generation farmer and rancher in New Mexico, and he’ll give the keynote presentation at this year’s Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting on Saturday, November 21.

Matt Rush is the 4th generation in his family to be a New Mexico farmer and cattle rancher. He and his dad partner on a ranch, and he is also the former executive vice president of the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau.

He was selected to represent American agriculture in Germany as part of an agricultural exchange program and has been honored as the Students in Free Enterprise Alumnus of the Year. He serves at the request of the Governor on the New Mexico State Fair Commission and on the Natural Lands Protection Committee. He also serves on the American Farm Bureau’s Foundation for Agriculture Board of Directors.

Rush is passionate about his values, the future of our children and the American way of life.

Schedule

The voting delegate session will begin at 8 a.m. on Friday, November 20. There will be a social hour with elected officials beginning at 4 p.m. The awards banquet, President’s address and Foundation auction will also be held on Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m.

On Friday from 8:30 a.m. until noon, attendees can participate in a service project at Second Harvest Heartland or assist the Promotion & Education (P&E) Committee with agriculture in the classroom visits. From 1:30-3:30 p.m., there will be a Creative Lab where participants can learn about and make a few fun, trendy and creative decorating ideas for the home. The cost will be $20 to cover supplies. Pre-registration is required for all of these activities.

On Saturday, November 22, members can attend educational sessions and the Discussion Meet competition. The noon luncheon will include the finals of the YF&R Discussion Meet and the announcement of the YF&R award winners.

The meeting will conclude on Saturday with the grand prize drawing – a non-transferrable air and hotel expense paid trip for one paid Farm Bureau member to the American Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida, January 8-13, 2016.

Speakers and Panels

There will be three general sessions for participants to attend on Saturday, November 21.

In the “What do Farm Bureau Members Need to Know about the Economy?” session, hear from an economist on how the economy impacts Minnesota farmers and ranchers, what economic information you should be tracking and why farmers and ranchers should care about the economy.

The second session is “Farm Bureau Members Making a Difference on Local Issues.” Learn how Farm Bureau members and county Farm Bureaus can interact with local decision makers and what types of citizen input decision makers looking for.

The final session will be “Telling Your Conservation Story.” Learn by example from farm leaders who have found different avenues to tell their story through tours, blogs and the media.

Contests

The always anticipated semifinals and final rounds of the YF&R Discussion Meet and the final Achievement Award interviews and Excellence in Agriculture presentations will be held throughout the day on Saturday, November 21. The Final Four Discussion Meet will be held during the noon luncheon.

This year, the collegiate Discussion Meet will also be held in conjunction with the MFBF Annual Meeting. The winner of this contest will represent Minnesota at the American Farm Bureau Federation Collegiate Discussion Meet in February 2016.

Banquets and Other Highlights

Many distinguished Farm Bureau members will be recognized at the Friday, November 20, banquet including: Awards of Excellence, Honorary Life Awards, the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award and the MFB Foundation Awards. The Friday awards banquet will also feature MFBF President Kevin Paap’s address and the MFB Foundation fundraising auction.

 Registration

For registration information, contact your county Farm Bureau or Lori Wiegand at 651-768-2102 or lwiegand@fbmn.org. Registration forms and online registration information can be found at fbmn.org. Pre-registration is required by October 30. Register at the conference after October 30. After October 30, an additional $5 will be charged per meal.

Minnesota Farm Bureau representing Farmers • Families • Food is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureaus across Minnesota. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education for children. Join Farm Bureau today and support our efforts to serve as an advocate for rural Minnesota, www.fbmn.org.

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For more information on the Minnesota Farm Bureau log onto www.fbmn.orgwww.Facebook.com/MNFarmBureau or www.Twitter.com/MNFarmBureau.

If you’re new to just what the Farm Bureau is, here’s an example of what kinds of issues the organization works on for farmers all over the country.

 

America’s livestock industry fights back against misinformation

Animal rights groups around the nation have gone on attack against livestock production facilities all over the country, and livestock farmers have begun to fight back through social media and direct interaction with consumers.

 

One of the more recent videos put out to the public by the group Mercy for Animals is available on YouTube.  It’s graphic and very offensive in nature:

 

Emily Meredith is the Communications Director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and she says what you’re seeing in videos like this isn’t the whole picture.

 

Emily Meredith, Communications Director for the Animal Ag Alliance

Emily Meredith, Communications Director for the Animal Ag Alliance

She said the Animal Ag Alliance is a “non-profit, broad based coalition of everyone in the animal ag food chain.”  The chain includes “farmers, ranchers, producer organizations, and veterinarians.”  She said the goal of the organization is to speak “with a unified voice, to the media and public about top of mind issues, which includes animal rights.”

 

The Alliance feels the real motivation for these videos are more bottom line oriented.  Meredith said “they’re trying to use these videos to fundraise.  They’re also trying to scare the American consumer into believing that their meat and eggs are not being produced humanely, which drives their vegan agenda.”

 

 

Dal Grooms is a spokeswoman for the Iowa Cattleman’s Association, and spoke to Fox News.  She said these activists aren’t in it for the animals benefit.  “Who cares more about the livestock?  The farmers who own it and make sure it’s healthy, or people that kind of stop in for a bit, and then move on to their next victim?  They’re trying to put livestock farmers out of business, and they’re trying to raise money too.”

Livestock farmers are battling back against misinformation

Livestock farmers are battling back against misinformation (Photo by Chad Smith)

 

Meredith said the food production chain has checks and balances in place to ensure that animals are treated humanely.  “There are animal welfare programs in place in each sector of the livestock industry, and buyers want to insure that farmers are following these guidelines.  If farmers are abusing animals, they’re not going to stay in business long because no one will buy product from them.”

Livestock of all kinds have come under scrutiny of undercover videos (photo by Chad Smith)

Livestock of all kinds have come under scrutiny of undercover videos (photo by Chad Smith)

 

According to msn.com, “the meat and poultry industries have begun to push back against animal activists by trying to get bills passed against shooting undercover video in production facilities.”  Humane Society of the USA California Director Jennifer Fearing said, “I wish the cattlemen actually wanted to stop the cruelty instead of the documenting of cruelty.”  Meredith said there’s more to it than that:

 

 

Meredith said farmers haven’t been vigilant in following sound hiring practices when they look for help around the farm. “They’re farmers, not private investigators,” she said. “A lot of these families haven’t been following up and checking references, so they end up hiring someone who’s seeking to destroy their way of life.”

 

The hog industry has borne the brunt of recent undercover videos (photo courtesy of www.national post.com)

The hog industry has borne the brunt of recent undercover videos (photo courtesy of www.national post.com)

“At the Alliance, we’ve encouraged farmers to do your diligence.  Check references.  Make people apply for work in writing, don’t just hire on a handshake,” said Meredith.  “A lot of farmers now make employees sign agreements that if they see abuse, they’ll report it immediately to the owner or to the authorities.

 

Meredith said there are signs that can help a farmer determine if a worker is there for hidden purposes.  “This person will be in areas they’re not supposed to be in.  They’ll be on the farm after hours in some way.  There may be complaints from other workers that they aren’t following proper procedures,” she said.  “In most cases, when the farmer starts asking questions, that activist is gone.”