We are currently experiencing one of the longest periods of dry weather over several years in the upper Midwest. Many portions of south central and southwest Minnesota have received virtually no significant rainfall since June 15–21. Most rainfall events in the Southern one-third of Minnesota in the past three to four weeks have been quite spotty in coverage, and most locations that were fortunate enough to receive rainfall have measured only 0.1-0.2 up to 0.5 in., with some isolated areas getting higher rainfall amounts.

Even a small amount of rainfall has been very beneficial, especially those areas that received 0.5 in. or greater. Fortunately, stored soil moisture amounts were above normal in most areas as we entered early July, which has helped maintain crop development, especially on the heavier soil types. Another benefit during the second week of July was below-normal temperatures, which helped slow crop deterioration from the continued dry-weather pattern. However, forecasts call for increased temperatures in the next week to 10 days, which will result in significant crop deterioration in many areas if we do not get some needed rainfall.

Most corn in southern Minnesota has passed the tasseling and pollination stage, which is very critical for determining final yield potential for the 2007 corn crop. Any corn that was under significant moisture or heat stress during this period will likely have reduced yield potential. The greatest negative impact is on corn in light, sandy soil types; however, even corn in heavier soils can be significantly impacted during extended periods of extreme heat and very little rainfall. Rainfall is needed now for proper ear fill and kernel development to achieve the yield potential that has been established. This period is also a critical time for soybean development, as they are in the blossom stage, and will begin setting pods shortly. Crop development across the region in most areas is about one to two weeks ahead of normal, as the accumulation of growing degree units since late April is running 10–15% ahead of normal. One positive of the warm, dry weather has been a slowdown in the development of soybean aphids. So far, aphids are being reported in soybean fields across southern Minnesota, but for the most part they have been well below the threshold levels for insecticide treatment. Costs to treat for soybean aphids would likely be about $10–15/acre.

FARM BILL FORUM AT FARMEST
The U.S. House of Representatives is currently working diligently of passing a new farm bill. There have been several Committee Hearings in the past couple of months, and House Agriculture Committee Chair Congressman Collin Peterson, from Minnesota’s seventh district, has released his proposal for the new farm bill. Congressman Peterson hopes to have a new farm bill passed by the U.S. House before the early August congressional recess. The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee, Chaired by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, is also having serious discussions on the new farm bill, and will be having Committee meetings in the upcoming weeks. The Senate hopes to have a new farm bill passed by September. The current six-year farm bill expires on September 30, 2007.

“The New Farm Bill ……Shaping the Future of Rural America” is the title of the Feature Forum at FARMFEST on Tuesday, August 7, at 10:30 a.m. The Forum Panel will feature Congressman Peterson and his colleague on the House Ag Committee, First District Congressman Tim Walz, along with Senator Norm Coleman and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who both sit on the Senate Ag Committee. FARMFEST will feature an exciting line-up of Feature Forums and a Farm Family of the Year Recognition Event in 2007, on August 7, 8 and 9 in the Forum Tent on the FARMFEST site, which is located at the Gilfillan Estate, 7 miles southeast of Redwood Falls, MN. For more information on the Forums at FARMFEST, contact Kent Thiesse, FARMFEST Forum Coordinator (507-381-7960 or kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com).
FARMFEST FORUMS FOR 2007
Forum Tent, FARMFEST Site, Gilfillan, MN

___FEATURE FORUMS___
Tuesday, August 7:
10:30 a.m. --- "The New Farm Bill … Shaping the Future of Rural America"
· Senator Norm Coleman
· Senator Amy Klobuchar
· Congressman Collin Peterson
· Congressman Tim Walz

1:30 p.m. --- "Global Warming … Agriculture’s Role in Finding Solutions"
featuring Will Steger, World-Famous Artic Explorer
Response Panel : Gene Sandager, Hills, MN, National Corn Growers Assn. Board
Kristin Duncanson, American Soybean Assn. National Director
Mark Willers, CEO, Minwind Energy, Luverne, MN
Loni Kemp, Senior Policy Analyst, The MN Project

Wednesday, August 8:
10:30 a.m. --- "Farm Land Usage … Finding a Balance between Production,
Conservation, and Development"
· Carol Molnau, MN Lieutenant Governor
· Mark Holsten, MN Dept. of Natural Resources Commissioner
· Gene Hugoson, MN Commissioner of Agriculture
· Perry Aasness, USDA State Farm Service Agency Director
· Steve Taff, U of M Agricultural Economist

1:30 p.m. --- "Grain and Livestock Marketing Strategies During Volatile Markets"
· Al Kluis, Private Grain Marketing Analyst
· Mark Schultz, Northstar Commodities Grain Marketing Analyst
· Kent Beadle, Country Hedging Grain Marketing Analyst
· Ed Usset, U of M Grain Marketing Specialist

3:15 p.m. --- “Becoming Part of the MARL Experience for 2008”
· Lynn Becker, Fairmont, MN, MARL Alumni
· Jon Pollock, Marshall, MN, MARL Alumni
· Teresa Spaeth, Bemidji, MARL Alumni
· DeVonna Zeug, Walnut Grove, MN, MARL Class of 2006-2007

Thursday, August 9:
10:30 a.m. --- "Strengthening Rural Minnesota’s Economic Future"
· Steve Wenzel, USDA Rural Development State Director
· Dan McElroy, MN Dept. of Employment & Economic Development Commissioner
· Bev Durgan, Dean of the U of M Extension Service
· Jack Geller, Executive Director, Center for Rural Policy Development

1:30 a.m. --- “Farm Family of the Year” Recognition Program
Keynote Address : Governor Tim Pawlenty

(Sponsored by the University of Minnesota, the MN Farm Network, and FARMFEST)

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.