cover crops

Soybean Business: Cover Crops Play Role in Soil Health

This story first appeared in the May-June 2015 issue of Soybean Business, the magazine of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. This article comes from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, which has invested soybean checkoff money into the development and research of cover crops in Minnesota. Click here to read more articles from Soybean Business.

With environmental concerns, including soil conservation and health on the rise, the use of cover crops has been catching the attention of researchers and farmers in Minnesota. Nutrient loss, soil erosion, weed and pest control have been ongoing concerns for crop farmers.

Even though cover crops are not a cure-all for these issues, their implementation can be seen as a tool to move in the right direction toward long-term benefits. Read more

USDA Conservation Portal

USDA Portal Allows Conservation Assistance Requests Online

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners can now do business with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through a new online portal.  With the launch of Conservation Client Gateway, producers will have the ability to work with conservation planners online to access Farm Bill programs, request assistance and track payments for their conservation activities.

“What used to require a trip to a USDA service center can now be done from a home computer through Conservation Client Gateway,” Vilsack said. “USDA is committed to providing effective, efficient assistance to its clients, and Conservation Client Gateway is one way to improve customer service.”

Conservation Client Gateway enables farmers, ranchers and private landowners to securely:

  • Request NRCS technical and financial assistance;
  • Review and sign conservation plans and practice schedules;
  • Complete and sign an application for a conservation program;
  • Review, sign and submit contracts and appendices for conservation programs;
  • Document completed practices and request certification of completed practices;
  • Request and track payments for conservation programs; and
  • Store and retrieve technical and financial files, including documents and photographs.

Read more

Dayton buffer proposal

Gov. Dayton Engages Farmers, Others on Buffer Proposal

When farmers, environmentalists, city and county officials joined Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday in Worthington to discuss Dayton’s buffer proposal, one common theme became clear: Everyone wants clean water.

What wasn’t clear was why Dayton didn’t consult the agriculture groups of the state, many of which have already invested money into researching buffers and other conservation efforts to help achieve water quality.IMG_8615

“The way this proposal came out, it put everyone on the defensive right away,” said Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, who sat on the panel along with Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson.

Dayton started off the public meeting by simply calling anyone of the more than 200 concerned stakeholders to an open mic.

“We’re gonna have disagreements, but everyone is welcome to their opinions and deserves that respect as Minnesotans,” he said. Read more

Dayton buffers

Pullman Tabbed for New MN NRCS State Conservationist

Cathee Pullman has been named the New NRCS State Conservationist in Minnesota for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. She will begin her duties on May 17.

Cathee Pullman began her career with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Soil Conservation Service, now named the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), in 1987.  She has worked across the country partnering with private land owners helping them to protect their natural resources in Oklahoma, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, the National Headquarters Office and now Minnesota. Read more

Dayton buffers

Opportunity Exists to Work Together on Buffers

The discussion over the “Governor’s Buffer Bill” has taken a decided turn for the worse in the past week.  Governor Dayton has stated that farmers need to “look into their souls” and back his plan. 

Joe Smentek

Director of Environmental Affairs Joe Smentek

Environmental groups and hunting advocates have been misrepresenting current law and are using pictures and poorly researched reports to paint the state’s farming community as a bunch of criminals.  It is easy to go out and take a picture of a ditch with no buffer. Does that mean that the farmer involved is a criminal? No.

According to the Board of Water and Soil Resources, 64% of streams and ditches require no buffer under state law.  BWSR also estimated about only 20 percent of Minnesota’s ditches require the one rod buffer under the current ditch law. Farmers with less than a 50 foot buffer on the former are law abiding citizens.  Farmers with no buffer on the latter are also 100 percent law abiding.

Now, does that mean it’s a good farming practice? The answer is it depends. There are farmers that are enrolled in certified conservation plans that may only have a 10-foot buffer along most of a stream, and then a 125-foot buffer where water runs off the field.

Tim Koehler of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources said that they had done an informal review of six counties that had really pushed the current buffer requirements. In those six counties, Koehler said, the BWSR did not find widespread non-compliance, but the exact opposite. Most counties they talked with experienced widespread compliance with current law.

Does demonizing farmers get us any closer to our water quality goals?  No. That is the truly sad part of this discussion.

At the end of the day, we want the same thing. Minnesota’s farmers do not want their soil in the water.  They need their topsoil on their fields to maintain healthy and productive soils. Minnesota’s farmers do not want their inputs that they add to their land in the water. They need those inputs on the fields to aide their crops.

BWSR has firsthand knowledge from counties that current rules can be enforced. If the state knew that a few certain counties were not enforcing the current drunk driving laws would they demonize the drivers or the counties that were not enforcing the current rules?

Let’s stop with the pictures that show perfectly legal behavior and attempt to paint our fellow Minnesotans as criminals. It is a practice we can all agree doesn’t help water quality.

Let’s work together to stop those that are not doing their part. If it is a lack of education on the importance of buffers, let’s teach them together. If it is a lack of funds to complete the project, let’s help them find solutions.

The current buffer laws can work, so let’s work together towards real solutions and stop the name-calling and demonization.

MAWRC Encourages Farmers to Take Conservation Self-Evaluation

Spring is right around the corner, and Jeremy Geske of the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center is reminding farmers to participate in the Green Star Farms Initiative, which is an online, self-evaluation tool.

MAWRC promotes Green Star as a safe, easy, confidential way to that can help demonstrate farmers are committed to being good stewards of our water and soil resources. The tool is designed for farmers and ranchers to critically evaluate their own conservation efforts without any government agency involvement. According to Geske, participation is important, because critics will use lack of participation as leverage to push for further regulation. The evaluation may also help farmers identify areas to improve and aid in their decision of whether to seek outside help or tackle those improvements on their own.

Geske said the Governor’s proposal of a 50-foot buffer requirement along all waters, the EPA proposed expansion of Clean Water Act rules, and state agencies proclaiming that farmers aren’t doing enough to protect water quality makes participation in the Green Star Farm Initiative that much more important.

Geske said the self evaluation takes about 20 minutes.

“You already know everything you need to complete the self-evaluation,” he said. “After all, who knows your farm better than you? It is easy, confidential, no government agency is involved, and no further action is required regardless of how you answer the questions.”

He said individual farm data will never be presented, only the averages of those participating.

To participate, visit greenstarfarms.org and click on “getting started”. For further assistance, contact Geske at 612-756-1200 or jeremy@mawrc.org.

Mike Pearson, Ag Daily News

Markets, Weather, Tradeshow Kick off MN Ag Expo Day 2

Market to Market host Mike Pearson has a message for farmers: “We will never see another 80s, and we won’t go back to that.”

Pearson, who farms in Iowa and is host of the popular markets show, addressed attendees of the trade show at the 2015 MN Ag Expo. While Pearson spends much of his time regayling the audience with stories of his struggles as he learns to farm, he also weaves in the current market climate to emphasize his points.

“Nobody ever wants to say it’ll be different this time,” he said. “It’s a bad omen. But if you look at the facts and look at the statistics, we aren’t just trading with one nation, we’re trading with the world.” Read more

tillage

Tillage Conference Provides Farmers with Options

Tillage is an important part of a farmer’s operation. It takes time, uses fuel and contributes to equipment wear-and-tear, but it also affects a farmer’s planning process and crop and soil management plan.

That’s why Farmers, crop consultants, extension researchers and tillage experts gathered in Fargo, N.D., this week for the 10th Annual Conservation Tillage Conference to discuss conservation tillage options on the farm and help farmers fine-tune what they are doing.

Event speakers included experienced growers, agronomists, academic experts and production economists to cover every aspect of the farm affected by tillage choices. Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Minnesota Crops Extension Educator, spoke at the conference about choosing a reduced tillage system that’s right for farmers’ operations. Read more

tillage

Conservation Tillage Conference to be held in Fargo, N.D.

A Conservation Tillage Conference is set for Tuesday, Dec. 16, and Wednesday, Dec. 17, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo, N.D. The conference will cover the ins-and-outs of conservation tillage, from soil health, to time spent in the field, to fuel savings.

Seven CEUs will be offered for attendees that stay for the entire duration of the conference. The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council is one of the sponsors of the event.

For more information, click here. (http://www.ndsu.edu/soilhealth/?page_id=1764)

Warren Formo

Plenty to Learn at First Day of Prairie Grains Conference

Farmers from across northern Minnesota gathered at the Prairie Grains Conference in Grand Forks Wednesday, Dec. 10, to discuss on-farm research, Red River Valley Watershed water quality, soybean updates and hear from agriculture advocate Trent Loos.

The day began with an on-farm research discussion at the Alerus Center with an on-farm research discussion. Among wheat and barley related research projects, a few farmers discussed research happening on their farms that were in relation to soybean production. Read more