Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
PITTSBURGH — Understanding the U.S. farm bill isn't easy even for full-time agriculturalists. Journalists with limited exposure to ag may face an even greater challenge. But three veteran agricultural journalists, with extensive experience in covering the farm bill, have some insights that can make the task a little less difficult.
PITTSBURGH — A journalist is supposed to ask questions. On rare occasions, when we're especially brave or foolish (or both), we invite readers to submit questions for us to ask in their stead. That's what I did during the recent annual convention of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Pittsburgh. Though I'm not a member of the group, its event had a strong ag component and I received a fellowship to attend.
GRAND FORKS—It may be one the most colorful images in U.S. agriculture: A tense group of farmers, bunched in a room, bidding energetically against their neighbors to buy land. But that scene has become less common in parts of Agweek Country, particularly northeast North Dakota. The Grand Forks office of Farmers National Company hasn't held a public auction since late 2014, says Jayson Menke, who works in real estate sales in the office.
BROOTEN, Minn. — This is the story of a central Minnesota dairy family that wanted to add income to its operation and support the next generation. It's also the story of a young woman with a passion for making cheese and who, like her three sisters, is a pronounced redhead. The extended Jennissen family and its Redhead Creamery are proof that value-added agriculture is always important and sometimes enjoyable, especially when done with family.
OSLO, Minn. — Earl Mallinger's 2017 harvest will begin later this summer — the 96th or 97th in which he's been involved in some way. Yes, you read that right. "Well, I've been interested in what happens on the farm since I was 3 or 4," says Mallinger, who turns 100 on Aug. 14. His remarkable life includes a still-active role on the farm, 60 grandchildren and great-grandchildren (no great-greats yet), and physical and mental vigor that many much-younger people would envy.
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.