Agriculture Stewardship - Land, Water, Livestock

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Ag Water stewardship

July 2019

Minnesota River needs improved land, water management

minnesota river basin map

Changes in water and land management are needed across the Minnesota River Basin for the state’s namesake river to improve in water quality, as well as streams and lakes throughout the 10 million acres of the basin, according to four studies released July 22 by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and local partners.

One study calls for decreasing sediment in the river by 50 percent. The Minnesota River basin is a naturally vulnerable system with erodible soils, but some practices such as artificial drainage worsen the situation by bringing too much water at too fast a rate into the system.

“The Minnesota River is a historical, cultural, economic and recreational asset for Minnesota,” said MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop. “Improving the Minnesota River’s water quality does not start or end with one community or industry; rather it requires all of us to work together for the common good.”

To learn more about the studies:

To provide feedback:

  • Comments must be in writing and are due by 4:30 p.m., Sept. 20.
  • Use the online comment form at
  • Written comments must include a statement of your interest in the report and the action you wish the MPCA to take, including specific references to sections of the draft report you believe should be changed and the reasons for making those changes.

AgroEcology summit promotes better habitat, ag profit

willow lake farm

How do we find a path to cleaner water and better habitat while maintaining agricultural profitability? What will it cost and how can we pay for it?  Find answers at the AgroEcology Summit Aug. 16-17 at Willow Lake Farm near Windom. In conjunction with the Science Museum of Minnesota, experts will present tangible examples of policies that could improve water quality and habitat by creating incentivized markets for products derived from novel, perennial cropping systems. Photo: Willow Lake.

Friday, Aug. 16, the Willow Lake Farm, 93532 520th Ave., Windom, will welcome visitors for a weekend of conversations, swimming, camping, field trips, homegrown food and live music. Local, authentic Ethiopian meals, and festive barn dances with live music cap off each evening. The event is open to all, and there is no admission fee.

Why is this important?

Recent increases in harmful blue-green algal blooms in many lakes and the steep decline in Monarch butterflies are signatures of the trends in agricultural intensification and loss of perennial lands/crops. 
Measurable improvements to water quality and habitat hinge on reshaping the discussion about affordable ways to implement perennial vegetation/crops. We must think about products such as electricity and fuel (kilowatts) and food (calories) as markets that can be developed and modified to utilize large acreages of perennial feedstocks. This will create a landscape that benefits both water quality and habitat.

Cass County gets its first Ag Water Quality Certified farm

MAWQC Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon enjoys working with his cow-calf herd and managing pasture on his farm in Cass County. Matt also takes conservation of water and soil seriously. Because of his conservation-minded decisions, in 2018 his farm was certified in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. His farm is the first in his neighborhood to be water quality certified and one of the first in Cass County.

Matt’s pro-active approach to conservation prevents soil erosion, slows water runoff rates and protects the nearby lakes as well as groundwater. Some of Matt’s conservation practices include perennial pasture, rotation grazing, and careful management of fertilizer. These conservation principles are important to him, as are his goals for his farm:

"My goal as the owner of Fair View Ranch is to produce the best possible registered Angus cattle in the business…The most enjoyable benefits I noticed were the benefits to the land. There is more wildlife, and we left the grass long so it would be a good filter to allow for better water quality.

"I thank God that I have the opportunity to be a fourth generation farmer - it is a career I have always wanted to do. I'm striving to make the land and the water quality better for my family and neighbors," Matt said.

Over 750 producers and 500,000 acres are water quality certified in Minnesota. To learn more about the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program visit

Beet co-op meets environmental goals in 'challenging' year

smbsc beet coop logo

Reported in West Central Tribune, 7/19/19 - By most measures, this past year was an “extremely challenging year” for the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative and its shareholders, according to Sagar Sunkavalli, the co-op's manager of environmental affairs.

Producers harvested 2.37 million tons of sugar beets last year, and sliced 2.22 million tons of them, in comparison to a record 3.67 million tons harvested one year earlier. Producers saw an average yield of 20.2 tons per acre, compared to 30.6 tons per acre the prior year.

There was a silver lining in it all, according to Sunkavalli in a report he made Tuesday, July 16, to the Renville County Board of Commissioners. Thanks to continued investments in improved wastewater processing at the factory in Renville and operational changes, the cooperative’s environmental compliance was among its best ever. Full story.

Hemp, hops, health, weather technology at Farmfest Aug. 6-8

farmfest hops demo

Farmfest will feature several “firsts” this year that should be interesting and fun for visitors. For the first time, an industrial hemp plot will be on display thanks to growers in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Industrial Hemp Pilot Project.There will also be a hops crop planted on the grounds (Farmfest photo).These demo plots will give attendees a chance to talk with the experts about the potential for these emerging Minnesota crops.

Other event highlights include a renewed focus on livestock production, electric vehicle demonstrations, and a new Health, Safety, and Wellness Pavilion sponsored by Farm Bureau and the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center. Another new exhibit this year includes a weather station and new technology in the Dept. of Ag tent that explains air temperature inversions and shows how farmers can protect their investments by more easily tracking weather data for use in making pesticide and fertilizer application decisions. Farmfest is Aug. 6-8 at the Gilfillan Estate southeast of Redwood Falls.

'Cover Crops: Setting up for Success', Aug. 20, Lamberton

cover crops

“Cover Crops: Setting up for Success”, Aug. 20 at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center, Lamberton, will highlight U of M research that provides management tips and considerations to help farmers and ag professionals successfully incorporate cover crops into Minnesota cropping systems. Registration starts at 8:30; program is 9-2.

Learn about the latest U of M cover crop research results and management considerations, evaluate the impact of cover crops in soil pits, and see a variety of key cover crops growing in the field. The $25 registration fee includes lunch, refreshments and handouts. Pre-registration is requested at least one week prior to the event at or by calling 507-752-7372. The first 40 paid registrants will receive a FREE copy of the “Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide” 2nd Edition. 3.5 CEUs have been applied for (1.0 CM, 0.5 NM, 1.0 SW, 1.0 PM).  

Summer beef tour highlights dairy, beef in Morris area

lloyd fehr lauren carlson

The Minnesota State Cattlemen's Association Summer Beef Tour July 8 featured livestock and other industries in the Morris area. Hosted locally by the West Central Cattlemen's Association, the tour visited some of the state's most innovative beef and dairy farming operations. Photo right: Lloyd Fehr (left) and Lauren Carlson chat over lunch. Fehr is a founder of Riverview Farms; Carlson is a past cattlemen's association president and founder of the summer tours, which started in the early 1970s.

Tour stops:

  • Moore Calves: Riverview LLP’s Stevens County calf depot.  
  • Tegrity Feedlot: Cattle to finish weights (formerly Leonard Wulf & Sons location). 
  •  JMF Herefords and Sim Angus: Purebred operation hosting on farm bull sale each spring. 
  • Dennis Feuchtenberger: Monoslope slat barn. 
  • Bonanza Bean: Edible bean processor. Cleaning, drying, packaging a variety of edible beans. 
  • Blackwelder Dairy: Robotic milking units and feed pusher. 
  • Bruce Sperr: Covered feedlot system. 
  • Wally Kill: Antique oil memorabilia.  Restored gasoline pumps, signage, and filling station collector’s items.
2019 summer beef tour cattle grazing

Cattle grazing at JMF Herefords and SimAngus seed stock ranch near Holloway

Stony Creek Farm hosts Soil Health Academy Aug. 13-15

stony creek cattle

Once again the Soil Health Academy will be conducting an intensive three-day workshop Aug. 13-15 at the Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz' Stoney Creek Farm  (photo) west of Redwood Falls. It will examine all aspects of regenerative farming and ranching, soil health, plant health, and animal health. Hands-on experience will be emphasized.

Taught by highly experienced and regenerative farmers, participants will work in teams to solve real-world grazing problems and sharpen their skills. Topics will include: Principles of soil health and adaptive stewardship, restoring vibrant ecosystems through adaptive grazing, making grazing highly profitable and desirable, successful marketing, strategies for enhanced net margins, nutrient management, designing cover crop mixes, farm economics and whole farm planning.

"We are very proud to have found our way to improving soil health," says Grant. "We see the increased wildlife, biological life in the soil, improved grain yields, and the improved health of our livestock. We have eliminated erosion and improved water infiltration, which means we now keep the water where it's supposed to be. What could be better than that?"  For more information and to register online.

Good communication helps deal with stress in agriculture

farm stress workshop

Stressful times in agriculture can trigger bad news and difficult conversations. In response, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) offered Navigating Conflict & Tough Conversations in Agriculture, a workshop designed to help agriculture professionals navigate potentially contentious situations. Coping with rural stress-U of M Extension.

“Farmers are having a tough time right now,” Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said. “There’s a lot on the line, and we recognize that lenders, agency staff, clergy, educators, veterinarians, agricultural advisors, and businesspeople can find themselves trying to help in situations where emotions run high.”

Workshop topics included reducing anxiety and fear about interpersonal conflict; understanding how self-awareness and group dynamics contribute to successful outcomes; exploring the connection between conflict and change; and precautions participants can take to keep themselves safe at work – both in and outside their office.

University of Minnesota Extension Educator Denise Stromme and local law enforcement taught the workshops, held also in Faribault, Marshall, Thief River Falls, and Duluth. The Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture supports assistance provided by Ted Matthews, director of Rural Mental Health based in Hutchinson. Photo: Faribault Daily News.

Patrice Bailey named Assistant Commissioner of Agriculture

patrice bailey

Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen has appointed Patrice Bailey to an Assistant Commissioner post at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Bailey will oversee Outreach, Agricultural Marketing and Development, Dairy and Meat Inspection, and Food and Feed Safety for the MDA.

Bailey, a native of Harlem, New York, holds a B.S. in Agriculture Education from Prairie View A&M University (Texas) and has a Master’s Degree in Agriculture from Iowa State University. He has served the Twin Cities in several positions focused on bridging underrepresented communities of color to various available resources and advocating for them legislatively at the Capitol. Most recently, he served as the Outreach Director for the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage. 

“I’m pleased to have Patrice join our team,” said Commissioner Petersen. “His expertise in working with communities of color and his passion for agriculture will be tremendous assets to our agency.”

“I believe agriculture is an important catalyst to building bridges,” said Bailey. “This is a great opportunity and I look forward to strengthening the MDA’s outreach efforts throughout the state.”

Bailey’s appointment became effective June 10.

In the news

Minnesota Groundwater Protection Rule regulations begin in 2020, MDA news release, 6/24/19
‘Planting green’ cover-crop strategy may help farmers deal with wet springs, Ag Daily, 7/5/19
Farmer finds success with cover crops, Winona Post, 7/8/19
Environmental groups, MPCA argue over farm permit, Rochester Post-Bulletin, 7/18/19
MPCA reports show need for dramatic reduction in soil entering rivers, Mankato Free Press, 7/22/19


Aug. 1: Partners in Ag Innovation, MinnWest Technology Campus, Willmar.
Aug. 6-8: Farm Fest, Gilfillan farm, Redwood County.
Aug. 13-15: Soil health academy, Breitkreutz farm, Redwood County.
Aug. 16-17: Agroecology summit, Willow Lake Farm, Jackson County.
Aug. 20: Cover crops: Setting up for success, SWROC-Lamberton.
Sept. 16: Fishers and Farmers field day, details TBA.
Dec. 17-18: Conservation Tillage Conference, St. Cloud.

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The MPCA Feedlot Update welcomes news from partners about, projects, people, and upcoming events. Email submissions to Past issues of Feedlot Update are available on the feedlot program publications webpage.