Jenny Schlecht / Agweek Staff Writer
BROADVIEW, Mont. — Rain poured down on the fields of south central Montana just as the Farmers for Free Trade "Motorcade for Trade" pulled into Erickson Farms, the road trip's final stop on its 11-state, 3,500-mile tour. The dark skies seemed an apt symbol for agriculture, affected nationwide by low prices and trade uncertainty. But the 2-year-old Farmers for Free Trade hopes that by promoting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, it can help move the industry to sunnier days.
Planting has begun in every state in the region, though farmers remain far off the average pace. North Dakota, which as of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's April 21 Crop Progress report had not planted anything, showed progress in the April 28 report on corn, sugar beets, oats, spring wheat and barley. Farmers in Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota also made progress.
HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Legislature has given the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee permission to double its checkoffs on wheat and barley, but no decision has been made yet on whether the committee will change the current assessment. Right now, the state checkoff is 2 cents per bushel on wheat and 3 cents per hundredweight on barley, which is the state limit, explained Collin Watters, bureau chief of the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee.
FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State University's National Agri-Marketing Association marketing team's idea for an oat milk ice cream made a big impression at the National Agri-Marketing Association conference, earning the team a national championship in the conference's student competition. Thomas Konetschka, a senior and the president of the NDSU NAMA, has competed for four years, including on two other finalist teams. That experience was vital for the team. He said it gave them insight on what to expect and what kinds of questions to anticipate.
WING, N.D. — Troy Vollmer can remain pretty stoic while talking about the events of the past months, the difficult calving season stacked on top of his father's health struggles. But in front of the standing-room-only crowd at the Vollmer Angus Ranch bull sale on Tuesday, April 23, he choked up as he tried to introduce his parents, the stress and worry of months showing clearly.
Planting remained nearly at a standstill across the region last week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's weekly Crop Progress report. While off the pace of the five-year average, progress is similar to last year's slow start. The report, released Tuesday, April 23, reflects conditions from April 15-21.
About a year ago, I talked to women involved in Annie's Project, a farm management course for women, for a story in Agweek. That night in McIntosh County, N.D., the class heard from a speaker on bookkeeping and audits. As I gathered my photos and videos, a lightbulb went off in my head. I needed this.
In early April, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was going to put pork inspection under industry control, rather than the control of federal inspectors. The USDA and the pork industry were quick to cry foul, with the USDA going as far as putting out a point-by-point press release repudiating the claims in the Post article.
ASHLEY, N.D. — It was 1885 when Terry Ulrich's family homesteaded the farm he operates with his brother, wife and hired man about a mile north of the South Dakota border. So he has a pretty good historical context for what a normal winter looks like in his area. The winter of 2018-19 will go down as one of the wettest in his farm's history, right up there with the wet years of the 1990s. The result has been a lot of mud and a lot of slop. "Bring your boots," Polly Ulrich, Terry's wife, advises visitors.
BISMARCK, N.D. — Representatives of ag groups are used to going to shows and conventions, talking to farmers and consumers. Talking to farmers about the importance of various crops can be like preaching to the choir, while talking to consumers at big events can be hit or miss on whether the information sets in, said Brian Gion, marketing director for the Northern Crop Growers Association.