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Ag at the forefront

Panel explores agronomy issues at Marshall Chamber Agriculture Committee’s event

Photo by Jim Muchlinski Mike Boerboom, center, considers a question posed by moderator Paul Lanoue at Marshall Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee’s event. Tuesday’s panel also included Sen. Gary Dahms, pictured at left, Carolyn Olson, Chad Drake and Ken Franzky.

MARSHALL — Climate, commerce and cash flow are all on the minds of area residents who have a concern for agriculture.

The Marshall Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee hosted a panel of speakers Tuesday at the Lyon County Fairgrounds. Collectively the panelists spoke of a mixture of positive trends and current challenges seen by the farm sector in 2021.

The most immediate concern, discussed at several points in the hour-long session, was the need for adequate rainfall in the next 10 days. Both corn and soybeans are reaching key points in their growth process, in which plants could either thrive or dry up depending on whether they get moisture.

“The excitement for any rain, even a tenth of an inch, is incredible right now,” said panelist Carolyn Olson, who farms with her husband near Cottonwood. “Everyone’s hopeful for a timely amount of rain. It would be really helpful with the good price trends.”

Chad Drake, Marshall market president at Bremer Bank and someone who helps with a family farm, said the immediate rain outcome is likely to mean the difference between positive and negative cash flows for some of his clients.

“Everyone wants a crop,” Drake said. “No one feels good about cashing a crop insurance check. We’ve recently had some extra revenue, which has been helpful to everyone’s bottom line. One bad year can lead to financial stress for at least a year afterwards.”

Minnesota State Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls said current drought conditions affect a wide area of the Midwest, which means a likely economic impact throughout the region.

Mike Boerboom, the CEO of the Boerboom Ag Resources family hog operation, said where to find good quality crop-based feed could become one of the obstacles in what’s mostly a good profitability situation for hog producers.

Along with the need for rain, Tuesday’s panel covered issues such as farm regulations, rural development and how to get young people interested in agricultural careers.

Olson said there’s frustration among many farmers about regulatory measures, citing limits on haying and grazing of set aside acres in 2021 drought conditions as an example. She also mentioned regulations on the meat industry that make it difficult to start new packing operations or retail butcher shops.

Dahms said many legislators would like to see simplification of the permitting processes applied by state agencies to farms and businesses.

“Minnesota’s permitting is often longer and costlier than that of other states,” Dahms said. “Agencies also often use permitting processes to push for stricter rules. That makes things difficult for the producers.”

In the area of rural development, Centrol Agronomy Services Manager Ken Franzky said steps such as rural broadband expansion are critical to rural economic growth. Olson added young people considering a farm career are concerned about factors such as rural telecommunications, child care availability and the off-farm job market for spouses.

Discussion of the next generation in agriculture expanded with emphasis on the need to encourage farm sector involvement, not just among children of farmers but with the general public.

“There’s a point when our established older generation needs to step back,” Boerboom said. “People shouldn’t have to be 55 before they finally get to make decisions about things like buying seeds. We need a thriving farm community that includes both generations.”

Franzky said he’s concerned that much of the momentum for trends such as environmental sustainability and green energy is coming from sources other than the farm sector.

“We need to reach out to the next generation, to let them know that farming is more than just plowing a field,” he said. “We’re involved in things like energy production, food safety and lab research. We need to tell our story.”

Marshall Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brad Gruhot said Tuesday’s panel featuring Olson, Drake, Dahms, Boerboom and Franzky was one of the steps toward keeping agriculture at the forefront of local business discussions.

The panel is the largest annual event hosted by the Chamber’s agriculture committee. It was moderated by Paul Lanoue, who serves as dean of Agriculture and Business Management at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

“Agriculture is the lifeblood of our community,” Gruhot said. “When the farm sector does well the entire community succeeds. It’s important to have opportunities that allow us to hear from agricultural leaders.”

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