Texas floods making life hard for agriculture

It’s been unbelievable to watch the Texas floods play out, hasn’t it? Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey play out on TV screens, laptops, and smartphones all make it seem like you’re watching a disaster movie play out, but this is as real as it gets.

Here’s a portion of a recent press release from the Texas Department of Agriculture. It’s not pretty:

“Cotton farmers in the Upper Coastal Bend were some of the hardest-hit ag producers, with hundreds of cotton modules blown apart by gale-force winds and many more lying wet in fields and at gin yards. 13 of the 50 counties declared disaster areas by Governor Abbott are cotton-producing areas. Texas rice producers had already harvested around 75 percent of this year’s crops, but storage bins may have undergone extensive wind and water damage, leading to more crop losses. Wheat, soybean, and corn exports all ground to a halt late last week as Texas ports prepared for the oncoming hurricane. Texas is responsible for exporting almost one-fourth of the nation’s wheat and a significant portion of U.S. corn and soybeans.”

Texas floods

Here’s a picture of Houston as the Texas floods make life difficult in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and the rains aren’t done yet. (photo from foxnews.com)

They don’t have much in the way of livestock estimates just yet but that’ll change when all that flood water finally recedes. Texas is in line for more rain yet this week so that’ll only make getting rid of the water that much more difficult.

Maybe you’ve already guessed but, as you know, Texas is home to one-third of the refineries in the U.S., and that means higher fuel prices. Most of the refineries had to shut down in anticipation of Hurricane Harvey.

Finally, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has also activated the State of Texas Agriculture Relief Fund (STAR Fund) to assist farmers and ranchers affected by Hurricane Harvey. As the area moves into the recovery phase, Texas ag producers in the area will need a little help getting back on their feet, and that’s where the STAR Fund comes in. Ag producers in all 54 counties declared disaster areas by Governor Abbott are eligible to apply for cost-matching funds to help get operations back up and running in the wake of this catastrophic natural disaster. You can donate from anywhere. Check out the website at texasagriculture.gov and follow the link to the STAR Fund.

Here’s a podcast with Texas Farm Bureau Director of Communications Gene Hall.


Here’s a birds-eye view of the flooding in Houston, courtesy of Bryan Rumbaugh.



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:

MN DNR Releases Updated Buffer Map

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) released the updated Minnesota buffer map this month. The update is based on comments and change requests from landowners and drainage authorities in order to ensure the map accurately shows where buffers are needed.

Buffer map update released

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has released its most up to date buffer map. The DNR has also updated its buffer application as well. (photo from bwsr.state.mn.us)

645 changes were made in the most recent update. Since the preliminary buffer map was released in March 2016, the MN DNR has received more than 3,400 comments or change requests and has made nearly 2,100 map updates.

We strongly suggest members to view the interactive map found at the link provided below. This interactive map allows you to find specific buffer requirements for waterways in precise areas. To suggest a correction to the buffer map, contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). SWCDs are able to work directly with landowners on these issues. The next updated Minnesota buffer map is set to be released in early 2017.

The MN DNR has also updated the buffer map application. The application is a web-based mapping tool for soil and water conservation districts, drainage authorities and local governments to review the buffer map, suggest corrections and see MN DNR review decisions. The updated application provides soil and water conservation districts and drainage authorities with an easy way to submit map change requests and other comments.

Here is the link:


This is an overview of the Minnesota buffer law if you’re looking for a refresher on the topic.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Outlines Policy for 2017

Farm Bureau policy

Voting delegates discuss and establish policy positions for the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation at their recent annual meeting in the Twin Cities. Farm Bureau will work on these policy priorities during the coming year. (photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/minnesotafarmbureau/page1)

Voting delegates at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation’s (MFBF) 98th Annual meeting adopted policy positions for 2017. Based on these actions, the MFBF Board of

Directors have provided focus for the organization on public policy, image and leadership including food, health insurance, water, transportation, and taxes.


Minnesota farmers and ranchers are committed to providing access to sustainable, safe, healthy food choices. Farmers work to continuously improve production methods, techniques and technologies. Farmers demonstrate their commitment to care for their livestock, manage and improve the quality of their environment and enhance the quality and accessibility of food and fiber they produce utilizing different production methods.


Health Insurance

The affordability and availability of health insurance is a significant concern for Minnesota farm families and small businesses. MFBF will work towards finding solutions addressing both increases in premiums and lack of availability to individual health insurance options.

Farm Bureau policy

Farm Bureau Public Policy Associate Cole Rupprecht gives Farm Bureau members an update on the 2017 Minnesota Legislative Session. (photo from https://www.flickr.com/photos/minnesotafarmbureau/page1)



Water quality and quantity are top priorities for Minnesota farm families. Agriculture’s role in improving water quality can best be fulfilled through voluntary site-specific actions at the local level.



MFBF will continue efforts to address Minnesota transportation infrastructure needs, especially rural roads and bridges. It is critical that products are able to be moved efficiently by river, rail and road.



MFBF will continue efforts to work on education funding issues especially as it relates to improvements or construction of school buildings.


Minnesota Farm Bureau is the largest general farm organization in the state representing Farmers • Families • Food. Members determine policy through a grassroots process involving the Farm Bureau members in 78 county 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 Agriculture in the Classroom, and safety education for farm children.

Farm Bureau is active in a variety of other programs and activities. For more information, contact your county Farm Bureau office.

For more information on Minnesota Farm Bureau go to fbmn.org. For pictures of the Annual Meeting log onto www.flicker.com/photos/minnesotafarmbureau.

Is the United States up for sale?

Why is the United States up for sale?

Foreign companies are quietly buying up farmland is the desert southwest to grow crops to send back to their own countries. Is this good for America? Are the United States really up for sale?

We have an awful lot of valuable natural resources in the United States, but there are two I’d like to draw your attention to specifically: Land and water. One we as human beings absolutely cannot live without, and one they aren’t making any more of. I’ll let you puzzle out which is which.

The reason I’m bringing this up is disconcerting to me. I’ve come across many articles online that report farmland in some of our most drought-stricken areas is being very quietly snapped up by foreign countries like Saudi Arabia. I bet you haven’t heard much about that in the national “news media,” have you?

Before you tell me, “You can’t believe everything you read online,” let me point out something: I know that. But let me teach you a little bit of journalism 101. If there’s enough smoke surrounding a story, there’s a fire in there somewhere. You just have to take the time to find it.

The way these companies’ are going about buying the land makes me fearful about the cost of our own natural resources, and let me explain why.

Have you heard of a business in Saudi Arabia called the Almarai Company? According to Reuters, in January of this year, they quietly purchased almost $32 million worth of land in California, a state that is suffering through years of drought. This is relevant because Almarai is the largest diary company in Saudi, and they want to grow alfalfa, one of the thirstiest crops in all of modern agriculture.

That is not good news for a state in it’s fourth year of drought so severe that residents and businesses who actually live and work in the state have to curtail water usage. And did I mention, estimates are the drought cost the state’s economy $2.74 billion dollars? Oh, and farmers had to literally plow under well over a half million acres of land because of dryness and the difficulty of getting enough water to irrigate the land.

The foreign land grab doesn’t just stop in California, either.

Just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, there’s a large farm that Almarai also bought for the purpose of growing hay and sending it back home. National Public Radio said the farm is roughly 15 square miles wide. That’s an acre total in the thousands, all to grow hay to send back to their country’s dairy cattle. So, why the rush to buy our land and use our water, you ask?

NPR reports the thing you may not know is Saudi Arabia used to grow it’s own alfalfa. But they ran into a problem. They used to sit on top of a huge natural aquifer, but due to poor management, it dried up. Ancient spring you may have read about in the Bible dried up. Only 50 years ago, the aquifer still contained enough water to fill Lake Erie.

As a result of mismanagement and greed, Saudi Arabia has drained it’s water supplies, and how they’re quietly buying up farmland in the southwest, right on the Arizona/California border. Tell me why this is a good thing?

Oh, and before you ask about laws regulating water usage, they only apply to local and domestic operations. Plus, it’s rather convenient that many of the areas being bought up don’t have water usage regulations in place yet? Is that a coincidence? If I’m looking for a place to grow alfalfa, which needs a lot of water to grow, I’m looking for places where I don’t have to worry about it. Wouldn’t you do the same?

So, how is this possible? In a word: Greed. And you can’t mention the word greed without talking about Washington, D.C., can you?

Our “leadership” passed an omnibus-spending bill last year. Yournewswire.com quoted Rand Paul as saying it was thousands of pages, “which no one read.” It’s too bad, because there was a little time bomb written into it that made foreign land grabbing even more possible.

Have you heard of the 1980 Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA)? It required all foreign investors to pay taxes on what they acquired in the US. Guess what? Because of that little time bomb, that went away. That used to protect Americans (the people that live here?) from property taxes that went through the roof. It doesn’t do that anymore.

Now that the law is overthrown (not just by the President, either), foreign pension funds can now buy American real estate similar to what their United States counterparts can, and not face any financial repercussions.

So, what does the foreign takeover of these United States lands mean for the little folks like you and me?

I’ve just given you a blueprint on how to takeover a country, and do it legally. You get to the people that make laws in a particular country, you pay them enough to bend the laws to your favor, and you start buying. Okay?

So, if you buy enough land, and water, eventually you start to control the country. And when that happens, we’re in big trouble. The evidence is out there. Our politicians are bought and paid for, and our country is BEING bought and paid for.

It’ll take time, but it’s coming. Call me a conspiracy theorist? Fine. Do the research yourself.

I can’t figure out why this stuff is happening right in front of Americans, but we CHOOSE not to see it? Is that the ostrich gene taking over? Stick your head in the sand, and hope it goes away? It’s not.

Officials from other countries have been quoted directly as saying, “We will use your own laws against you.” They’re doing a bang up job so far.




What do we do, America?

Give your boat a complete spring checkup

An early ice-out and snowmelt have made it possible for the boating season to begin earlier than normal in southeast Minnesota.

For boaters who haven’t been out on the water yet, it’s time to get your equipment in shape to make this year enjoyable and safe when you finally get to your favorite spot. After storing the boat over winter, it’s important to start with a thorough checkup.

Mike Wooden is the General Manager of River Valley Power and Sports in Rochester, MN.  (Photo from rivervalleyrochester.com)

Mike Wooden is the General Manager of River Valley Power and Sports in Rochester, MN. (Photo from rivervalleyrochester.com)

“Your boat may fire up when you start it in your driveway,” said Mike Wooden, the General Manager at River Valley Power and sports in Rochester, “but it might not really be running properly. It may be simple things to fix, but it’ll ruin your boating experience.”

Do it yourselfer’s should start by inspecting the electrical system.

“The first thing I would tell boat owners to do is charge up the battery and clean the connections,” said Joe Bruggenthies, co-owner of Al’s Specialty Marine in Rochester. “Then, move to the other end of the electrical system and make sure you check the trailer lights.”

Checking your trailer lights shouldn’t be a one-time job, either.

“As your towing your boat up and down the road, lights can quit working,” said Wooden. “It’s little things like checking to see if the lights are working that can help avoid a ticket. Avoiding trouble like that makes a spring boat checkup worth it.”

Depending on where you store your boat, Wooden said rodents often enjoy chewing on electrical wiring.

“It all comes down to where it was stored and whether it was properly shrink-wrapped,” said Wooden. “We run into that from time to time, especially if it’s left in an area accessible to rodents. If a customer doesn’t store with us, but puts their boat in a barn or at a friend of the family, an electrical problem could certainly pop up because of that.”

A simple trailer checkup can make sure you don’t spend time broken down instead of on the water.

“Jack up each side of your trailer and spin your wheel bearings,” said Bruggenthies. “If they’re quiet, they’re okay, but if they’re noisy, you should probably re-pack them.”

He said avoid the temptation to skip checking your trailer wheels.

“We’ve seen people that have owned their boats for four years,” said Bruggenthies, “and those are the guys you see lying on the side of the road. One of the tires may have been cut off because it wasn’t taken care of. If water gets in the bearings, they’ll rust, and it got so hot in there, it burns the axle right off the trailer.”

Joe Bruggenthies is a co-owner of Al’s Specialty Marine in Rochester, MN  (Photo from alsspecialtymarine.com)

Joe Bruggenthies is a co-owner of Al’s Specialty Marine in Rochester, MN (Photo from alsspecialtymarine.com)

It’s then time to check the engine.

“Get the gas line hooked up,” said Bruggenthies. “Then, it’s time to hook the engine up to a flushette, where you hook up the engine to a garden hose, and then, it’s time to start the motor. Make sure it runs, and make sure you don’t see any leaks that may leave you stranded.”

He said licensing your boat is something that’s easy to forget.

“We buy them every three years in Minnesota,” said Bruggenthies. “Some folks may move in December (the month licenses expire), so the state of Minnesota may not have caught up with them yet. Some people just forget. Check your licenses.”

Speaking of legal requirements: “Don’t forget your lifejackets,” said Bruggenthies. “Many times, folks may store their boats somewhere and take everything out of the boat and store it on shelves. People go out to get their boats, and many times, we’ve seen them leave things like lifejackets on the shelves. They go fishing, then the DNR pulls them over, and they don’t have enough life jackets.”

Checking for new boating laws is a must for owners before they hit the water. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is an excellent resource. A good example is dealing with invasive species. A new law that says boat plugs need to come out when you transfer from one body of water to another.

It’s important to give your boat a thorough checkup before you hit the water in the spring.  (photo from www.brained.com)

It’s important to give your boat a thorough checkup before you hit the water in the spring. (photo from www.brained.com)

“To be in compliance with aquatic invasive species (AIS) laws in Minnesota, the process to remember is clean, drain, and dispose,” said Greg Husak, Information Officer for the Ecological and Water Resources Division of the DNR. “To avoid the spread of AIS, boaters are required to clean weeds and debris from their boats, remove drain plugs and keep them out while traveling, and dispose of unused bait in the trash.”

For more information on how boaters can protect against spreading AIS and avoiding fines, check out http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/aquatic/index.html.






Answering Wabasha County questions

One thing jumps out at me when it comes to the livestock controversy in Wabasha County:  not much is know about it at all, and I suppose it really isn’t much of a surprise.  It’s appears as if it’s been kept under wraps for quite some time, and the consequences for farmers in the county could be significant.  The consequences for the non-farm county residents could also have lasting effects too.

Here’s a map of Minnesota counties, with Wabasha County highlighted in red (photo from en.wikipedia.org)

Here’s a map of Minnesota counties, with Wabasha County highlighted in red (photo from en.wikipedia.org)

I put out some survey questions on the angle of my capstone project, and the one response that really stood out above the others was on a reddit post. The response came from a dairy farmer in Wabasha County, Minnesota.  He (or she) works on their family farm, and said, “I’ve heard about the missing money, but I fear I have nothing to offer beyond that.”  However, the respondent did say they knew the money was for, “manure management systems, i.e., manure pits.”  That actually was a very handy tip.

Here are the basics of the situation:

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), along with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, began to investigate grant money obtained by the county in late 2011.  By early 2012, the organizations had studied the paperwork done by the former Wabasha County Feedlot Officer, Troy Dankemeyer, and determined that there were some potential program implementation violations.



As a result of the Minnesota BWSR has demanded that Wabasha County repay the board 115,579 dollars.  The BWSR also wants the county to repay the cost of preparing the investigation report, which is $4,023.50.

In addition to the fines, the BWSR is withholding approximately 90,000 dollars in grant money until the situation is resolved.  The money is used for projects like manure management systems, septic tank installation and repair, clean water projects, shoreline management, and wetland conservation.  Projects like this benefit everyone in the county, not just farmers.

The main question is: Who’s going to pay this fine?

The topic is beginning to generate interest on social media as well.  I’ve not done a very good job over the past few months, but my Klout score has recently been at an all time high of 48, after bottoming out over the past month at 38.  I don’t understand the whole scoring system yet, but I do know that I’m on the right track.

I do know that I’ve made strides in social media because my impact is starting to show up in more areas than just Facebook and Twitter.  I’m starting to show measurements in Google Plus, which is not known as a highly interactive form of social media.  I do need to find a way to engage with more people on Linked In.  I’ve got lots of connections, but I need to be more engaging with those connections!

Manure management on livestock farms is something that the BWSR and the MPCA typically are concerned with and oversee: