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Ag meetings to address buffer strips, other topics

To the Editor:
Agriculture has always been, and will always be, the backbone of the United States economy. American agriculturalists have educated the rest of the world on how to grow and process an abundant food supply. Both production and processing standards are held high in our county. Land Grant Universities and private industry are constantly working on new innovations and changes that will ensure a plentiful and sustainable food supply. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2014, 17.3 million part- and full-time jobs are related to agriculture in the United States.  Agriculture and agriculturally related jobs contributed $835 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014 as well. All this considering that the actual number of those who are “farming” is only around 1 percent of our nation’s population is proof that our nation’s agriculture is well structured and poised as a global leader.
The state of Minnesota ranks very high in its agriculture production numbers. According to the 2015 agricultural census,  Minnesota has 25.9 million acres of farmland  (fields, pasture and orchards), and is home to 40 million turkeys and 8 million head of hogs. Our state has nearly 500,000 dairy cows that produce 9.466 billion pounds of milk per year. Minnesota is a national top ranking producer in milk, corn, soybeans and sugar beets. This puts Minnesota agriculture in a position to export our products to the rest of the United States and to the world. Minnesota Agriculture creates $21.28 billion of agricultural products each year, creates $75 billion dollars in economic activity, and supports 340,000 jobs.
McLeod County continues our story on highlights in agriculture by having a strong presence in both livestock and grain production. McLeod county grain farmers have many places to market grain by the millions of bushels, as well as keep several ethanol plants full of corn to produce our nation’s renewable fuel source. Dairy producers have a number of very high quality options for processing milk. One of the local cooperatives, First District Association located in Litchfield, collects 7 million pounds of milk per day from Minnesota farmers and produces dozens of semi loads of cheese products per week. First District Association ships these products worldwide and has earned the highest level certification for food safety known to global customers. McLeod County farmers produce $234 million worth of grains, milk and meat per year (2012 data). McLeod County has 263,885 acres of crop land and has approximately 1,000 farms.
The McLeod County Board of Commissioners recognizes the importance of agriculture at all levels. There are a number of jobs locally in the agricultural industry. Farmers, manufacturers, suppliers, processors, finance, education, research and promotion are some of those agricultural jobs. Agriculture is constantly changing to meet new demands, policies or regulations. County Board members have decided to launch a number of “town hall meetings” at the end of March to help landowners understand some upcoming farmland changes in agriculture. Agenda items and discussion at the meeting include the new Minnesota Buffer Law, change to Crop Production Index for land evaluations, and understanding road right-of-ways. We have presenters for all of these issues and following their presentations, we will have time for a panel discussion on each issue.
The new Minnesota buffer law is set to take effect soon and many landowners will be affected by this change. Some consider the law a “take away” of private land and others consider the law needed for water quality. There are typical politics on both sides of the issue. We wish to inform you on the facts of the law to avoid fines and penalties down the road.
Crop Production Index is a more modern and fair way to view farmland evaluations for your tax statements. This system brings into account scientific data such as soil type and soil characteristics, and then compares that information to University of Minnesota data for yield potential. Crop Production Index is becoming more popular across Minnesota, creating a better land class system for both government and private sector to use.
Our section on road right-of-ways will cover the importance of drainage and safety of right-of-ways in state, county and township roads.
Meeting dates, locations, times and places are as follows:
• Tuesday, March 29, at 10 a.m., McLeod County Fairgrounds Ag. Building, Hutchinson.
• Tuesday, March 29, at 2 p.m., Glencoe City Center, Glencoe.          
• Wednesday, March 30, at 10 a.m., Blue Note Ballroom, Winsted.                              
• Wednesday, March 30, at 6 p.m., McLeod County Fairgrounds Ag Building, Hutchinson.
These meetings will provide valuable information and will help answer future questions on these issues. Plan to attend if you own farmland in McLeod County.
Paul Wright
McLeod County Commissioner
District 3
Doug Krueger
McLeod County Commissioner
District 2