Corn and Cows Way Up North

Northstar Notes

Livestock and crop production going strong in northwestern Minnesota.

Published on: July 15, 2013

It was a productive, story-gathering three days for me this week as I traveled to the northwest corner of the state.

I joined the Minnesota Cattlemen's summer beef tour in Roseau and stopped by the Magnusson Research Farm while there. Plus, I made other visits to farms for stories you'll see in The Farmer over the next several months.

I was in that part of the state last summer when I participated in the Minnesota Soybean Growers' See For Yourself tour. That trip was an eye opener for all to be able to see what growers are doing north of Crookston. Yes, there were soybeans—plenty of them. Farmers from southern Minnesota learned a lot about their northern counterparts. Valuable soybean research made it possible for beans to go in the ground up there.

Theres the beef. At one farm stop, Minnesota Cattlemens tour participants had a chance to eyeball a pen of heifers and compare their rankings, based on gain and grade, with how a DNA-scoring program placed them.
There's the beef. At one farm stop, Minnesota Cattlemen's tour participants had a chance to eyeball a pen of heifers and compare their rankings, based on gain and grade, with how a DNA-scoring program placed them.

And folks who recently came north for the cattlemen's tour learned a lot, too. They saw the bean fields alongside the corn, which also is growing in acreage. And they saw that the cattle business in the region has regained some of what it had lost during the bovine TB eradication efforts. It took collaboration among state and federal government agencies, state and local livestock groups, and northwestern Minnesota beef producers to put a halt to the spread of the disease. Those were some tough years as some farmers lost their herds to TB. Yet, various groups and individuals pulled together for the good of the state's livestock industry.

Northern corn. More farmers are adding corn acres to their crop rotations in northwestern Minnesota. Plummer is in Red Lake County, south of Thief River Falls. And that corn looked good. It was taller than knee-high on July 8.
Northern corn. More farmers are adding corn acres to their crop rotations in northwestern Minnesota. Plummer is in Red Lake County, south of Thief River Falls. And that corn looked good. It was taller than knee-high on July 8.

I saw that same spirit of collaboration last summer on the soybean tour and again this summer when I stopped by Magnusson Research Farm in Roseau and a regional small grains plot tour near Strathcona. Farmers were working with university scientists, providing acreage for research trials. Some farmers do this year after year, giving of their time to prepare farmsteads for hosting groups, and offering plots of their land to test seed varieties and fertility and chemical rates. That local research is so critical for Extension and area farmers. They get the chance to see how those crops would perform in their local environment.

It was so heartening to see these small groups of folks working together for the greater common good.

Contrast that with the bitter debates we have seen in recent weeks on the Farm Bill. And this week the House voted to segregate the nutrition title from the Farm Bill.

Does no one in Washington D.C. have eyes on the end result for the common good?

Sadly, I think not. No eyes and no backbone.