Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- If the U.S. House version of the next farm bill is approved, the Upper Midwest would suffer nation-leading losses in federal funding for working lands conservation, according to a new report. The House farm bill proposes to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, and fold some of its funding into an another ag conservation program. That would cut a total of about $5 billion in funding over the next 10 years, with the bulk of the loss in the Upper Midwest, according to the report from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
I'm asked occasionally about my own views on various issues important to agriculture and our country. What that happens, I shrug and say, "I'm just a journalist. What I think is irrelevant to the news articles I write." But this is a column, personal views are acceptable here. Unlike a news article, which tries to provide an objective look at something, a column presents the author's opinion or judgment. The opinions and judgements that follow, whether right or wrong, are sincere and weren't arrived at quickly or lightly.
It's a truism of Upper Midwest agriculture that nature can't provide August weather to please all farmers. Dry conditions benefit small-grain harvest but work against soybeans and other late-planted crops, while the rain showers that help still-developing crops complicate combining wheat and other small grains. But most area farmers, especially ones who grow more than small grains, would welcome rain this August. Many fields across the area are getting dry, and deteriorating crops need moisture.
HALLOCK, Minn. — Theresia Gillie grimaces, only partly in mock exaggeration, and says, 'When people used to call me a 'farm wife' — I never liked that. It didn't begin to describe what I did. For 32 years I worked side-by-side with my husband." But on April 1, 2017, her husband, Keith, beset with financial worries, took his own life. Now, Theresia Gillie, "still adjusting, still farming," is carrying on the family farm, albeit in different and evolving ways.
BLACKDUCK, Minn. — Theresa Gustafson, Lily Krona and Haley Mouser have strong insights into educating the next generation of Americans about GMO foods. The three Beltrami (Minn.) County teens — members of that generation themselves — put their perspective to good use when they developed an awarding-winning curriculum for teaching pupils in grades three through five about the science and value of GMO crops. "It's so important to help the next generation learn more about science-based agricultural practices," says Mouser, 14, from Tenstrike, Minn.
Farm groups don't come more mainstream than the Minnesota Corn Growers Association. That's not a criticism, it's not a compliment. It's simply my observation — based in part on visits to the farms of a number of association members — that the group values established practices which improve the bottom line of farming operations. Nothing fringy or extreme for the MCGA: like I said, it's mainstream.
The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December 2017, will reduce tax rates for farmers and farm households. A new study provides a better idea of how much they might drop. The study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service estimated what the legislation would have meant using 2016 tax-year data.
Years ago, when I was just getting started in journalism, my 11-year-old car became unreliable and so I needed a "new" one. I ended up buying a five-year-old car; I'd diligently saved about two-thirds of the purchase price and borrowed the rest at 15 percent. Yes, 15 percent. It was the '80s. Inflation was rampant and interest rates were high. That's just the way things were for everyone.
LAKOTA, N.D.—Like many other Upper Midwest farmers, Matt Nelson got off to a slow start planting this spring because of uncooperative weather. But he got his crops into the ground, albeit later than ideal. Now, "I'm a little surprised by how they look. They're more advanced than I would've thought" given late planting, Nelson said. Overall, his crops—spring wheat, barley, corn, canola and black beans—look good, though more rain will be needed.
GRAND FORKS. N.D.—David Burkland walks through a field of knee-high corn on a late-June morning and studies it with experienced eyes. Its condition isn't ideal, but he's mostly satisfied—especially since the field was covered with grass in the Conservation Reserve Program a year ago. "This isn't going to be any kind of bumper crop," the veteran Grand Forks, N.D., farmer said. "But putting it back (into crop production) just made sense."