Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
If you've been around Upper Midwest agriculture as long as I have, you know a whole lot more than you want to about tough times. You've lived through the sky-high interest rates of the 1980s, you've experienced drought, you've suffered flooding, you've endured poor crop and livestock prices. You understand the economic pain that farming and ranching often brings, just as you know that ag brings good times, too.
CROOKSTON, Minn.—This is the story of a young man who was "nuts about farming" and later developed a passion for firefighting—and now, against the odds, is doing both. It's also the story of a man and his family who are slowly but persistently coming to terms with a terrible loss. "We're still trying to figure it all out. We still have a long ways to go, and we may never get all the answers. But we're working at it," Adam Schiller says. Amber Schiller, Adam's wife and the mother of their three young children, died unexpectedly of natural causes on Jan. 27.
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.
INKSTER, N.D. — It's too late for much of the area's potato crop, but many spud fields would benefit from a good rain, and soon. "If it's in a day or two days or five days — rain would help," said Andrew Robinson, Fargo, N.D.,-based extension potato specialist with both North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota. Weeks of warm, dry weather have stressed non-irrigated potatoes, and a shot of late-summer precipitation would boost less-advanced spuds. Rain also would soften fields and make them easier to dig for harvest, Robinson and others say.
WARROAD, Minn. — One of the worst things in Upper Midwest agriculture is watching once-promising crops deteriorate day by day because they're not getting needed rains. That's what Drew Parsley, a Warroad farmer, has been doing the past few weeks. "I don't think we've had more than 2 inches total on much of the farm; maybe some fields have gotten 3 inches. It's been especially hard on the soybeans. They had been looking so good, and now they're really struggling," he says.
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.
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.