In what experts are saying will be the biggest corn crop since 1937, farmers are having a tough time finding enough seed corn, especially biotech corn. In a story by Jonathan Knutson in Agweek the U.S. Department of Agriculture says this year’s crop will be nearly 96 million acres, up 4 percent from last year and the highest level since 97.2 million acres in 1937. Along with high demand, wet weather last year also led to less corn seed being planted. USDA corn acreage estimates are 3.4 million acres of corn in North Dakota, up from 2.2 million acres last year; 8.7 million acres in Minnesota, up from 8.1 million; and 5.5 million acres in South Dakota, up from 5.2 million. Minnesota Department of Agriculture spokesman Steve Malone said, “If you want to plant corn, you’ll be able to find seed. It may not be what you want.”
Lonny Serreyn, the manager of the County Fair Store in Marshall, agrees with Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee: They can’t see what all the fuss is over lean, finely textured beef, also known as “pink slime.” “I’ve been a sausage maker and meat cutter and I remember when they used the term ‘mechanically-deboned product’ in hot dogs. This is kind of the same thing. You’re taking trimmings and making it so all the fat is out; that’s why the trimmings are so lean,” Serreyn said in a story by Per Peterson in the Marshall Independent. The beef trimmings are treated with ammonia. “They had this guy study it from some university, and he wrote an e-mail calling it ‘pink slime’ that was never supposed to be made public,” Peterson said. “There was no safety issue. But he said it’s awful looking stuff and that it’s ‘pink slime.’ ” Treating food with ammonia was cleared by U.S. health offices nearly four decades ago and kills pathogens such as E coli and salmonella. Using ammonia is a completely safe way to kill bacteria, Serreyn said.
The Rochester Tea Party Patriots decided Monday to oppose the continuation of the city’s half-cent local option sales tax, writes Heather Carlson of the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Citizens Organized to Stop the Tax, or COST, opposes the tax that was approved by voters in 1983 to pay for flood control. The tax has been renewed since then and used for projects including college buildings and upgrading U.S. 52. In November, residents will vote whether to extend the sales tax to pay for projects such as a new senior center, University of Minnesota — Rochester facilities, transportation upgrades and regional economic development. The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce backs the extension. Chamber President John Wade was in the audience and said it is important to realize that roughly $60 million in infrastructure projects will still have to be done even if the tax doesn’t pass. That means those projects will be paid for with property taxes instead. “From the amount of services you will receive from (the sales tax), it is a tremendous bargain for the taxpayer,” he said.
The Associated Press is reporting that the University of Minnesota will begin research into the effects of sulfates in water on Minnesota’s wild rice stands. Mining and other business interests say environmental standards should be relaxed, noting they’re based on research from the 1940s. But tribal biologists blame sulfates for the decline of wild rice stands important to Minnesota’s Ojibwe bands. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said Monday it will evaluate the research, along with existing data, to determine whether any changes are needed.
In 1979, only 22 bluebirds were found in Minnesota. If the figures at the 31st annual Bluebird Expo at Byron Middle School are correct, “I think we’ll raise 25,000 bluebirds in the state this year,” said Keith Radel of Faribault, state coordinator of the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota. Tom Weber of the Rochester Post-Bulletin writes that Southeast Minnesota has fantastic potential to raise more bluebirds. Only Wisconsin and Nebraska raise more of them than Minnesota. “But we’re after them,” Radel said. Even though Olmsted County has a fast-growing urban core in Rochester, bluebirds are thriving because of efforts to place nest boxes on golf courses and other natural habitats.
Nice winter weather means lots of leftover salt and cash from the weak snowplowing season, reports Kari Petrie and Stephanie Dickrell of the St. Cloud Daily Times. At the Minnesota Department of Transportation building on Minnesota Highway 15, 8,500 tons of salt sits unused. Last year, there were just 3,000 leftover tons in the building that typically starts the season with 11,000 tons. An easy winter means saving on overtime, fuel use and wear on equipment. Statewide, MnDOT spent $29.4 million on snow removal this winter, down from $55.3 million last year. The St. Cloud area district saved $1.6 million on plowing in the 2011-2012 winter compared with a year earlier. That savings can be put to other areas, including overlay and seal coating projects, said Randy Reznicek, the maintenance supervisor for Minnesota Department of Transportation’s St. Cloud area district. Sauk Rapids saved about $13,300 this winter compared with a year earlier, Public Works Director Peter Eckhoff said. Sartell Public Works Director Brad Borders said the real savings will come next winter because the city has enough salt left over to get through most of the winter, he said.
If you live in Duluth and think you don’t make as much money as your counterparts in the Twin Cities, you’re right. Candace Renalls of the Duluth News Tribune writes that the median wage in the greater Duluth-Superior area is $15.76 per hour, compared to the Twin Cities metro area’s $19.10 per hour, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The Twin Ports area — which DEED defines as all of St. Louis, Douglas and Carlton counties — also falls short of the state’s $17.73-per-hour median wage and the United States’ $16.66-per-hour. But don’t feel too bad: Duluth’s median wage is more than Fargo-Moorhead’s $14.94, St. Cloud’s $15.62 per hour and wages in much of the rest of the state. Other than the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Rochester areas, the Twin Ports area has the highest wages of the metro areas measured in the state.
A lesson in sustainable living sent Bemidji students into area Dumpsters, reports Anne Williams of the Bemidji Pioneer. Several middle-school students, their teachers and a handful of Bemidji State University students conducted a waste audit of Bemidji Middle School’s trash with Minnesota Green Corps member Brett Cease. The waste audit was intended to find out how much and what kinds of waste the school generates. The group sorted through the trash, separated items found in the trash that could be recycled, and recorded the weight of the different types of waste and recyclables. Minnesota Green Corps works to educate the community on ways to reduce waste and conserve water and energy. Based on the results of the middle school’s waste audit, Cease said he could make recommendations on setting short-term and long-term goals to reduce waste.