Jonathan Knutson / Forum News Service
Britton Fuglseth’s agricultural career didn’t enjoy a promising beginning. When she took her first ag class in seventh grade at Fertile-Beltrami School in northwest Minnesota, her initial reaction was, “This is stupid. I don’t want to be here.” But the 18-year-old high school senior now embraces both agriculture and FFA, so much so that she was selected to a Minnesota State FFA leadership post — and even plans to become a high school agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor herself.
In late March, Tim Courneya, executive vice president of the Northarvest Bean Growers Association, based in Frazee, Minn., asked the farmers-directors of his organization how many acres of dry edible beans they intend to plant this spring. Their collective answer, Courneya said, was, “Status quo” — or roughly the same number of acres as they planted in 2018.
It’s no secret that the U.S. dairy industry is suffering. New statistics help to document the extent of the pain. The United States lost 2,731 licensed dairy farms from 2017 to 2018, a drop of 6.5 percent, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. The percentage loss was even worse in Minnesota, where the number of dairy operations fell from 2,380 in 2018 to 1.980 in 2017, a 10.2-percent decline, according to USDA.
Through the years, I’ve been in the barns of quite a few Upper Midwest dairy farmers. They’re some of the nicest people and best farmers I know. So I take no pleasure in writing about the long stretch of poor milk prices that has forced far too many dairy operations out of business. From 2017 to 2018 alone, 6.5 percent of U.S. dairy farms shut down, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. So what’s the problem?
EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. — Rhonda Larson has just spent a busy late-winter day substitute teaching kindergarten in the morning and second grade in the afternoon. But she’s happy to spend the last part of her afternoon talking about agriculture and promoting wheat and U.S. Wheat Associates. “It’s boots-on-the-ground marketing and a long-term commitment,” she said of the organization.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has narrowed its search for the new homes of two of its agencies and hundreds of its employees with three proposed sites in Minnesota remaining in the running, USDA announced Tuesday, March 12. Of the initial 136 “expressions of interest” received by USDA, 67 locations remain under consideration, including these Minnesota plans: Falcon Heights, as proposed by Buhl Investors.
MUNICH, N.D. — Mike Dick first grew dry peas in the 1990s. The weather didn’t cooperate, and so the Munich farmer quit raising them. But now he’s growing them again and has begun raising faba beans, which are closely related to dry peas, as well. Both crops “add a lot to our farming operation. And I think they’re an alternative that might help some other operations,” Dick said.
A European agricultural university is working to produce what it describes as “gluten-safe” wheat. U.S. Wheat Associates, which develops export markets for the U.S. wheat, welcomes the work — but with reservations. Wageningen University, located in the Netherlands and described by U.S. Wheat Associates as “one of the top agricultural universities in the world,” recently announced that one of its researchers is using gene editing to produce gluten-safe wheat that can be eaten by people with celiac disease.
Across America, people both in and out of agriculture are hearing more about cell-based meat, aka “clean meat” and “fake meat,” among other terms. Whether cell-based meat is a good thing or a bad thing — whether it holds promise or peril — depends on who you ask. To Vítor Espírito Santo, associate director of cellular agriculture for JUST, a San Francisco-based food company that expects to begin selling lab-grown chicken within a year, cell-based meat involves “changing the food system” to benefit consumers and the environment.
Approving the new farm bill was an important, necessary step for U.S. agriculture. But the legislation still needs to be implemented — a task slowed and complicated by the federal government shutdown several ag leaders say. Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will do what’s needed to put the farm bill into practice as quickly as possible, said Steve Censky, USDA deputy undersecretary. “Congress has done its work (passing the farm bill). Now it’s our turn,” Censky said.