Written by Jonathan Eisenthal
Farmfest, the largest outdoor farm show in Minnesota, wrapped up its three-day 2016 show last Thursday. Once again there was a strong presence by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA).
On Tuesday, MCGA sponsored “Ag Innovation Day,” which featured panel discussions, as well as a presentation by Minnesota 4-H student teams. These teams were some of the top finishers in 4-H’s Science of Agriculture challenge. MCGA also sponsored a well-attended sweet corn feed on Tuesday afternoon.
A prominent feature of the MCGA tent put a spotlight on the MCGA Innovation Grant program. This grant is awarded to farmers who are finding new, innovative methods to help farmers become more profitable while reducing the impact of agriculture on the environment. Featured was a farmer’s invented/adapted device that plants cover crop seed between corn rows, while simultaneously laying down a side dress of nitrogen.
Another tent highlight was the MCGA-sponsored “Nitrogen Smart” program, a free seminar for farmers and ag professionals held across the state. This is designed to bring farmers the latest research about best management practices for nitrogen. The Nitrogen Smart seminars, conducted by University of Minnesota Extension personnel, are scheduled to continue later this year.
On Wednesday, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler toured the MCGA tent. Kaler was able to witness first-hand the results of the MCGA/UMN partnership. This partnership has been able to promote and fund research at the University and publicize information and data through the Extension Service.
Kaler was not the only high-profile visitor to the MCGA tent. Lt Governor Tina Smith, U of M CFANS Dean Brian Buhr, Congressman Tim Walz, Congressman Tom Emmer, Minnesota Ag Commissioner Dave Frederickson, and many other elected officials, policy leaders, and candidates also stopped by.
A big hit was the UMN Dairy Lab’s iconic sweet corn ice cream, a perennial Farmfest treat. Visitors could also check out the DDGS cookies, created by MCGA-funded researchers at South Dakota State University.
A panel discussion on Wednesday focused on agricultural water quality issues. Panelists included Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center (MAWRC) director Warren Formo and MCGA grower leader Kirby Hettver, who farms near Willmar.
Regarding the recently-released buffer maps, Hettver said, “I farm by three bodies of water, and the buffer map was wrong on all three. I went in and talked to the local SWCD and they corrected it just like that.”
But Hettver also said that not all local jurisdictions offer that kind of easy experience. Formo asked farmers in the audience to “…not suffer alone. If you are doing what is required and you are still facing obstacles, tell somebody. We want to help, but you have to let us know.” Formo says MAWRC is a resource that can help farmers successfully negotiate this new buffer law.
Although each year brings new challenges, farmers continue to show their commitment as stewards of the land. Through programs like MCGA’s Conservation Innovation Grants farmers can work to become leaders in the ag community. If you have questions regarding these grants, check out the new Request for Proposals (RFP) here.