Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
Plastic isn't the first thing that most people associate with corn. The Minnesota Corn Growers Association is working to change that. The association, working with the University of Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Polymers, is investing more than $460,000 in research focused on developing plastics made from renewable sources. The goal is replacing petroleum with renewable sources such as corn for making plastics Corn-based plastics already are used, but have "some limiting physical property characteristics," the association says.
A U.S. House appropriations bill would be good for agriculture, including sustainable ag, but the limited amount of time to gain needed broader support is worrisome, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says. The fiscal year 2020 minibus appropriation bill passed by the House contains spending increases for sustainable ag research, food safety, local and regional food systems and outreach and training for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, the coalition said.
An animal agriculture group wants livestock producers to better protect themselves about questionable employees and animal rights activist organizations. "While the first step to take is always ensuring that your animal care practices are beyond reproach, the Animal Agriculture Alliance also advises farmers and ranchers to be very vigilant in their hiring processes to ensure that everyone hired is there for the right reason," the organization says.
Let's be honest: Most Upper Midwest farmers and ranchers didn't pay much attention when the 2017 Census of Agriculture was released this spring. And that's understandable. Producers were focused on calving, lambing, planting and preparation for planting. And many area agriculturalists aren't all that interested now, either. They're haying, spraying their crops and, in some cases, recharging physically and emotionally after an unusually long and grueling planting season.
Northeast North Dakota is among the world's best food-producing areas. A newly launched study seeks to examine how much demand the rural area has for locally-grown food, or food purchased within 100 miles of where it's produced. The study is sponsored by the Northern Plains Resource Conservation and Development, which serves Benson, Cavalier, Eddy, Ramsey, Rolette and Towner counties. It describes its mission as "building partnerships which promote leadership development and the wise use of natural resources."
It's likely that climate change already is affecting world crop production — hurting it in some areas, helping it in others but on balance pushing it lower, according to a new University of Minnesota-led study. "There are winners and losers, and some countries that are already food insecure fare worse," said lead author Deepak Ray of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment.
The use of cover crops is gaining popularity across the nation and the Upper Midwest, too, but some farmers still wonder whether the practice makes economic sense. A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education, or SARE, examines when using cover crops in corn and soybean rotations is prudent financially.
When Jim Chamberlin was 10 years old, he won a blue ribbon in a county fair for his vegetable display. That interest in agriculture — accompanied by a commitment to soil health — has been a big part of his life. Now, Chamberlin, a 55-year-old Deerfield, Minn., farmer and a Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, is encouraged that farmers statewide show increased interest in soil health. "It's got a lot of momentum," he said of soil health in general and cover crops in particular.
If you ask an Upper Midwest farmer how his or her spring-planted crops are faring this summer, you could get a wide range of answers. North Dakota crops generally are doing well, with South Dakota farmers facing much less-favorable conditions and many ag producers in Montana and Minnesota falling somewhere in between. The weekly crop progress report, released June 24 by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, again found a mixed bag. The report reflected conditions on June 23.
An undercover video taken at an Indiana dairy farm captured behavior that's antithetical to what American production livestock believes and practices, two area agriculturalists say. "We make every effort to treat our animals properly. I just can't emphasize enough how important that is to us," said Linda Hanson, a veteran Goodrich, Minn., dairy producer who helps to operate her family dairy farm.