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Published January 21, 2010, 12:00 AM

Extended Ag Services aids farmers in tri-state area

LAKEFIELD — Navigating the complex, shifting world of environmental permits, deciding on an effective crop management plan and purchasing the right crop and hail insurance are difficult tasks even for the most well-informed, patient farmers.

LAKEFIELD — Navigating the complex, shifting world of environmental permits, deciding on an effective crop management plan and purchasing the right crop and hail insurance are difficult tasks even for the most well-informed, patient farmers.

Extended Ag Services Inc., a Lakefield company led by Jim Nesseth and his two sons, Andy and Matt, aims to cut through the clutter to help farmers stay compliant with environmental regulations and make solid, data-driven crop and risk management choices.

“What we do is try to make decision making easy for the farmers, so they make decisions that are environmentally sound and economically sound” Andy explained.

Extended Ag Services also performs soil sampling, field scouting, manure testing and many other hands-on services, often done by Matt, the most hands-on of the Nesseths.

The business began in 2004 and was originally based out of Jackson, but moved to the Nesseth homestead at 507 Milwaukee St. in Lakefield in January 2007. A second office, staffed by Tim Baker and Bonnie Burgers, is at 208 Clinton St., Lester, Iowa.

“We feel really fortunate to be in the community and strive to be active,” Andy said. “We support local 4-H programs and FFA programs. (Jim) does a lot of 4-H volunteering.”

During the summer, the business hires local students to assist with soil testing, which is only one small part of its efforts to be involved with and give back to the community.

“It’s a people business,” Jim said. “We hope we are the resource for a lot of information and can help people make informed decisions.”

Most Extended Ag Services work falls into three categories — environment, agronomy and risk management. Though all three Nesseths work in all three areas, each has his own specialization.

Andy specializes in environmental consultation and often assists farmers with permitting processes for projects such as feedlots. He helps guide them through compliance requirements and maintains contacts with engineers, making the process less time-consuming and frustrating for clients.

“I push a lot of paper,” Andy said. “Some farmers do it (themselves). Most don’t have time or the inclination.”

Extended Ag Services also offers manure testing for nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can help farmers evaluate both how much the manure is worth and which of their own fields would benefit most from that manure. That testing is also required in many permits.

Matt Nesseth spends much of his time at work in the fields, as the business’ head scout and soil sampler. He also assists with record management and manure testing.

Testing is one of the activities farmers most often overlook, Andy explained, simply because the optimum time for soil and manure testing is usually harvest time, when farmers are already extremely busy.

Extended Ag Services also offers grant writing for environmental government programs, such as CRP (Conservation Reserve Program), CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program), EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program), CSP (Conservation Security Program) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program.

The grants help create value for Extended Ag Services customers, Andy said, giving an example of a farmer who might be able to get a grant to put geothermal energy in a shop building instead of using conventional energy.

The recession has hit livestock farmers hard, Andy said. At one time, most of his work was assisting with feedlot permitting. Now he focuses on other aspects of the business.

Extended Ag Services has done work all over the Midwest. Its focus is on Jackson, Nobles, Rock and Cottonwood counties, but it has also done crop and environmental consultation work in South Dakota and Iowa.

Jim Nesseth’s background in agronomy and his 14 years of experience with University of Minnesota Extension helps Extended Ag Services provide a variety of agronomy services to customers. Those services are geared toward maximizing a grower’s profits through making good decisions.

Both Jim and Andy Nesseth provide fertilizer and chemical recommendations, as well as recommendations on which crop varieties to use.

“We try to make recommendations based only on the latest research,” Andy said, allowing farmers to avoid the trends and fads that have no data to support them.

The information the Nesseths use comes from land-grant universities and reliable, independent institutions that do not stand to gain from recommending one product or another.

Extended Ag Services also works with farmers in the area of risk management, and offers Federal Crop Insurance products including multi-peril crop insurance, crop hail insurance and crop hail endorsements.

“We do what’s best for the producer. We work for them — we’re not trying to build premiums,” Jim said.

The business offers soil sampling, field scouting and recordkeeping services — services that will expand in the future. The Nesseths plan to create an online mapping and record-keeping tool for manure applications and crop planting, which may be available by the end of the month.

Visit www.extendedag.com for more information and a list of the options Extended Ag Services offers.

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