Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
HALLOCK, Minn. — Mike Swanson stands in a field of rye and examines the plants as they sway in the wind. He likes what he sees. The field is thriving, and this warm-but-not-hot June day is helping it along. A few minutes later, he's back inside his nearby distillery and its many barrels, bottles, stills and pipes. Late this year, after the rye — a cereal grain similar to wheat — is harvested, he'll make whiskey from it. "I get the best of two worlds. I get two harvests," Swanson says of both raising the crop and then distilling it.
CRYSTAL, N.D. — Nick Otto stands in a 160-acre field of fledging corn on a coolish June afternoon. His eyes and experience tell him a lot, but he knows they don't reveal everything, especially about a field this large. He specifically wants a better handle on the stand count, or the number of corn plants growing in the field — information that will help Otto, proprietor of Otto Ag in Crystal, N.D., best advise his farmer client on how much fertilizer to apply. Applying too little shortchanges the crop; applying too much wastes money.
SHEYENNE, N.D. — Mark Seastrand raises barley on his Sheyenne, N.D., farm. As a director of the North Dakota Barley Council and barley sector director of the U.S. Grains Council, he's helped to sell U.S. barley to Mexican beer makers, too. So Seastrand and others in the U.S. barley industry are concerned by President Donald Trump's intention to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. "We really do need to protect that market," Seastrand says. Here's why barley exports are important to Seastrand and other U.S. barley farmers:
Biotech and genetically modified crops have helped the world both environmentally and economically over the past 20 years, according to a new study by an agricultural advisory and consulting company. PG Economics Limited, based in England, provides specialized advisory and consultancy services in plant biotechnology, ag production systems, ag markets and policy. Biotechnology refers to a wide range of tools that alter living organisms. Genetically modified crops refer to organisms produced through genetic modification.
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Augustine Obour first learned of camelina in 2010 when he joined the University of Wyoming as a research scientist. "I just got interested in it and wanted to work on it," he says. Now Obour, assistant professor of soil science at Kansas State University, wants farmers across the Great Plains to learn about the crop, too. He participated in a research project that provides more information on growing camelina in Kansas in particular and the central Great Plains in general, an area where the crop is largely unknown.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota farmers and farm groups praised Gov. Mark Dayton for signing legislation to establish tax credits designed to help new and beginning agricultural producers. "The Minnesota Farmers Union has been working on this for about 10 years," says Thom Peterson, the organization's government relations director. "We saw the need for this. A lot of young farmers have told us that access to land is really a top issue and that it's hard to compete for land." Under the legislation, which Dayton signed late Tuesday, May 30:
BROCKET, N.D. — Austin Sundeen is a little short on sleep. But that's a good thing: The Brocket, N.D., farmer has taken advantage of favorable weather to catch up, or nearly so, on most of his planting. "We've put in half the farm since Wednesday (May 10)," Sundeen said. "We haven't slept since Wednesday, either," he adds with a chuckle. The busy stretch was especially welcome because of the slow planting start this spring. A rainy stretch last fall saturated the ground, already affected by the multi-year wet cycle that's hit the Brocket area.
WASHINGTON — New enrollment in a popular conservation program has been frozen, but producers interested in it shouldn't give up hope, a sustainable agriculture official says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture as of May 3 quit enrolling new acres in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program because the larger program of which it is a part had reached its acreage cap.
MANDAN, N.D. — Erica Olson and the rest of the U.S. wheat industry now have another tool with which to defend its product against the gluten-free movement. A new study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that gluten-free diets could increase the risk of heart attack for people who don't have celiac disease. "Any time a study like this comes out, that's great," said Olson, marketing specialist with the North Dakota Wheat Commission and immediate past chairwoman of the national Wheat Foods Council.
FESSENDEN, N.D. — David Clough, who planted his first wheat crop in 1969, says he's always valued and practiced sustainability on his farm. "There's nothing new about it," the Fessenden farmer says. "This is our livelihood, so we want to keep the land productive."