In a winter with its share of uncertainty, the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association held its 117th annual meeting Wednesday at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls.
The independent organization touts itself as being dedicated to improving the productivity, profitability and competitive position of producers, professors and distributors of agricultural products.
Under this umbrella of responsibilities is a group that is recognized by both the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station, as the state’s official seed certifying agency.
Wednesday’s program included 10 speakers including MCIA president and CEO Fawad S. Shah, who kicked off the day’s program. He was followed by Colin Cureton of the University of Minnesota’s Forever Green Initiative and Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Whitney Place.
Following a break, BASF Chemical’s David Bonnet gave a presentation on breeding hybrid spring wheat and the MCIA business meeting was held with Kurt Flegel delivering the chairman’s report and Shah providing the president/CEO report. During the meeting an election of new officers was held.
Noon saw the awards luncheon being held with Paula Mohr, editor of The Farmer magazine receiving the 2020 Honoray Premier Seedsman Award, Wendell’s Darius Thiel and Plainview’s Mike Zabel both earning 2020 Premier Seedsman Awards. Both men are third generation seedsmen.
The afternoon session was dominated by a cover-crop roundtable. Seed used by farmers in planting cover crops are presently one of the MCIA membership’s biggest concerns.
“Cover-crop seed ends up being a challenging one because normally they don’t want to put a lot of extra money into it so one of the ways to cut your costs, especially in a tight farm economy, is to cut on quality so they get bin-run seed,” MCIA field supervisor Seth Dagoberg of Richville said. “A lot of the seed is still protected, which means it has to be certified. You still need to be sure you are following all the patents, the license requirements and the laws.”
While cover crops are a big issue an even larger one today is making a farming operation profitable.
“The farm economy is probably the biggest challenge,” Dagoberg said. “Profitability is probably the biggest one. In our organization we feel the best way to start is with quality seed.”
Peter Friederichs of Friederichs Seed Inc. of Foxhome was also on hand to share some insights. Friederichs has been attending MCIA meetings for around 30 years.
Asked if he was in agreement that the farming economy is tight, Friederichs issued an unequivocal response.
“Absolutely,” he said.
So in an economy which sees only corn and soybeans as providing any real shot at profitability for grain farmers, is it still a good idea to practice crop rotation?
“Absolutely. Most of it is for weed control, insect control, diseases in the ground that could come up,” Friederichs said.
As a farmer himself, Frederichs sees 2020 as being another year which could see fields being planted later than normal, not necessarily because of the weather but because of fieldwork that needs to be done.
“I would guess more beans and the only reason I would say that is that it is later,” Friederichs said. “The corn ground has to get worked up and it’s going to get late.”
While he is one of many farmers who would like to see soybean prices rebound, Friederichs believes the Trump administration’s trade war with China will profit U.S. farmers in the long term.
“It’s probably something that should have been done 40 years ago,” he laughed.