Crop Conditions Good
A constant comment of people attending Farmfest was how great the crop conditions looked across southern and central Minnesota. The combination of warmer-than-normal temperatures and adequate soil moisture has aided 2010 crop development, and has enhanced yield potential in most areas. While the yield potential is good to excellent in most areas, there are exceptions in some localities and on some individual farms. This is due to the frequent severe storms that have occurred throughout the growing season in some locations that have caused significant crop loss due to wind, hail and excessive rainfall, which will lead to some yield reductions in those areas.

July 2010 was warmer and wetter than normal, though not at record levels for most of Minnesota. A total of 1,543 GDUs were reported from May 1 to July 31 t the University of Minnesota Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, which compares to only 1,309 GDUs accumulated by July 31, 2009, and 1,456 GDUs by July 31, 2008. As of Aug. 9, there were 1,775 GDUs recorded at Waseca since May 1 – about 5% above normal. In addition, much of the corn in southern Minnesota was planted from April 10 to 25, and thus benefitted from some significant GDU accumulation prior to May 1. As a result, most of the corn in south-central Minnesota is one to two weeks ahead of normal development.

The total two-month precipitation for June and July at the Waseca research center set a new record, with a total of 16.25 in. of rainfall in the two-month period. This broke the old record of 16.15 in. during June and July in 1930. The frequent rainfall events in 2010 are helping yield potential and reducing impacts of crop stress from the warmer-than-normal temperatures.

Growth in Farmers’ Markets
USDA designated last week, August 1-7, as National Farmers Market Week across the U.S. Farmers’ markets are a rapidly growing segment of the U.S. and Minnesota agriculture industry, with an ever increasing number of small farm operators selling fruits, vegetables, meat products and other home-produced goods through community farmers’ markets. Farmers’ markets serve as a primary or secondary economic opportunity for many rural families across the nation.

Recent USDA statistics showed that there were 6,132 farmers markets in operation across the U.S., an increase of 16% compared to 2009 and more than double the 3,706 markets in the U.S. that were listed by USDA in 2004. Minnesota saw a 61% increase from 2009 to 2010 in the number of markets listed with USDA, which was the second highest jump in the nation. The top five states as far as total number of farmers markets are California, New York, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa. A complete listing of farmers markets in each state can be found online.

Farm Bill Meetings
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has scheduled a series of forums to gather input on developing the next farm bill in Congress. The current bill does not expire until 2012, but Congress is likely to begin major efforts on the next farm bill in 2011. The bill affects commodity programs for production agriculture, conservation programs, food and nutrition programs, rural development, renewable energy and much more.

Sen Klobuchar’s farm bill forums are scheduled as follows:

  • Thursday, Aug. 12: 11 a.m. at the Public Library in Austin; 3 p.m. at South Central College in North Mankato
  • Monday, Aug. 16: 11 a.m. at Ridgewater College in Willmar; 3 p.m. at the West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17: 11 a.m. at the Municipal Building in Pipestone
  • Wednesday, Aug. 18: 11 a.m. at the Morrison County Government Center in Little Falls
  • Thursday, Aug. 19: 11 a.m., at the Public Library in Virginia

For more information on the farm bill forums, please call 1-888-224-9043.

Farmfest Successful
Even with some extreme heat on the opening day, Farmfest had another very successful year in 2010. The congressional and governor candidate forums were very well attended, with some very good questions raised to the candidates. There was some excellent information presented at the various topical forums that were held throughout Farmfest.

Governor Tim Pawlenty participated in Farmfest for his eighth straight year as Minnesota’s governor, and was honored by Farmfest for his contributions to the Minnesota agriculture industry. As has been tradition in recent years, 70 County Farm Families of the Year were honored for their achievements and efforts in the agriculture industry. Now, we begin planning for the next Farmfest on Aug. 2, 3 and 4, 2011.

Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.