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ON THE FARM

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A beautiful winter sunrise in Minnesota

photo submitted by Tami Nelson, Ruthton, MN

ON THE FARM

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Issue 5 • Thursday, January 7, 2016

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By Dan Martens, University of

Minnesota Extension

Sometimes

for a family, a business or other

entities it can be useful to take

a look back to see what might

be learned as we consider the

next steps looking forward.

This includes looking at our

priorities and needs and making

adjustments that might be useful.

This can help to give us a sense

of direction and focus, perhaps.

Then it seems to be a “working

and learning together” process

along the way. I don’t claim to

have this all figured out, but still

trying to learn, I hope.

In the beginning of 2015, we

were figuring out what the 2014

Farm Bill was about and what

program options might fit well.

Most people in the ARC (Ag Risk

Coverage) program got a bit of a

payment for the 2014 crop year in

October of 2015.

We’d probably rather have

better market prices. Dairy people

were generally disappointed in

losing about 1/3 of third of the

milk price and not seeing Margin

Protection Program payments

because feed prices dropped

significantly also.

The winter was on the mild

side; but a couple weeks of cold

weather with little snow cover,

seemed to be a major factor in

having significant winter injury

in alfalfa fields in the spring.

Morrison County was declared a

disaster county based on more

than 30% loss of alfalfa crop

acres. Stearns and Benton were

probably close to that mark as

well.Goodweather for other crops,

also favored recovery of some

alfalfa stands and productive new

seeding. This, along with using

alternative forage crops helped

many farmers recover much of

the winter injury forage loss.

March brought a disastrous

outbreak of Avian Influenza

that took a large toll on turkey

growers, particularly in Stearns

and Kandiyohi Counties. A

few Minnesota and Iowa egg

producers took heavy losses

also. County and State Fair and

other live bird exhibitions were

prohibited. It was June before the

outbreak settled down; and a few

more months to finish cleanup

work. There were not problems

during the fall migration season;

and everyone hopes it remains

that way through 2016.

Spring seemed to start early

with very little snow to melt, but

the weather stayed cool and

soil was slow to warm up for

planting. Cool soil conditions

caused some corn emergence

issues. Soil moisture conditions

were very good for tillage and

planting; and it was nice not to

“mud in the crop.” Rain started

coming regularly about May 7th

and continued through the middle

of September. Some parts of the

area dried out some through the

later part of the summer.

Regular rain made for what

looks to be the best corn and

soybean yields ever in Minnesota

and similar for most of our area.

Some of the eastern and southern

corn-belt was limited more by wet

weather. USDA is still projecting

the second highest national corn

yields and the highest national

soybean yield. We’ll see how the

Ag Statistics Service tallies the

crop for counties sometime in

February. There were a few farms

where crops were planted later

in May and suffered more from

coming up in wet soil. For most

of the crop, planting in more ideal

soil conditions seem to enable

fields and crops to handle wetter

conditions later. Some very good

small grain crop was lost due to

difficult harvest conditions. With

frequent rain, it was challenging

to harvest hay and control weeds

effectively.

Most of the corn and soybean

crop matured well before harvest,

reducing drying costs. Hard frost

held off late into the fall. This was

favorable for harvest as well as

the work that more farmers are

doing with fall cover crops. Rain

at the end of October and Mid-

November started to limit fall

field work on some farms, even

though the ground was had not

frozen yet.

As is often the case with

abundant crops, crop prices were

low through the year. The extra

yield really helped with balancing

the books and it was a good

adventure to harvest a very good

crop. Dairy prices fell through

the year to about 2/3 of where

they peaked in 2014. Hog prices

were meager through most of the

year. Beef prices started strong,

but started dropping noticeably

during the last 3-4 months.

Farm budgets are expected

to be tight for 2016. It will be

important to spend input dollars

where odds are best for getting a

return.

For our country, grocery stores

should be well-stocked in 2106.

We can leave 2015 with a great

sense of appreciation for what

farm families provide to all of us;

and hope their needs are met as

well. And we can look for ways

to help those near and afar with

greater needs

So That Was 2015.........