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Despite low crop prices, ag economy still isn’t as bad as in the ’80s

ALSO: Rochester’s Pridefest won’t be downtown this year; new chancellor at U of M-Morris; Brainerd Lakes area has forum on sex-trafficking; and more.

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Gene Metz of Lismore sees parallels between today’s ag economy and the disastrous economy of the 1980s. High interest rates and low commodity prices forced out of business those farmers who didn’t own their land or had leveraged their equipment too high. Metz tells Barry Amundson of the Forum News Service that this year his break-even point on corn is $4 a bushel while the going price is $3.30. Those farmers who didn’t bank away some of the windfall from the last several years of high crop prices are going to be in trouble, he said. Margot Rudstrom of the University of Minnesota-Crookston says farmers in northwest Minnesota have it just as bad as in Metz’s area, but she adds that today, low interest rates and low fertilizer and fuel prices will keep the ag economy from replicating the disaster of 30 years ago. Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson, who farmed near Murdock in the 1980s, said times will be tight for the state’s 81,000 farms. He suggests keeping control of family living expenses. An increase in exports along with drought or other crop problems in other areas can help Minnesota farmers but, as Frederickson said, “nothing beats a good price.”

Rochester’s Pridefest has moved from downtown for this year’s celebration on July 14-17. Brett Boese of the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that after Rochester Downtown Alliance increased the rental fee for Peace Plaza by 3 percent, Pridefest organizers took advantage of an offer of free space at the Wicked Moose Bar & Grill on Eastgate Drive SE. It will be the first time since the annual event celebrating the LBGT community began in 1997 that it hasn’t been downtown. Jenna Bowman with the Rochester Downtown Alliance said that in addition to the 3 percent increase, the group would also require a staff member to be on hand at $24 per hour. After meeting in January and February, the groups decided to go their separate ways, Bowman said, adding that Pridefest is the only group so far to relocate because of the fee increase. Some fear the move from downtown will negatively affect attendance. “I think it’s great to bring in new partnerships, but personally, I liked the Peace Plaza location because it was central and put Rochester Pridefest in downtown and out in the open,” said former chairperson Vangie Castro. Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede agreed: “There’s something about having that group be a part of the city (rather than) in a private club. … I’m a little bit disappointed (they won’t be there anymore).”

Mankato cops are getting wise to the ways of social media and recognize that when it comes to organizational ingenuity, it’s difficult to top college-age partiers. Mark Fischenich of the Mankato Free Press reports that police monitored social media and got wind of this year’s edition of the “Blue Earth Blackout” – a party that draws hundreds of college-aged drinkers. Things were a little different this year: Instead of the party at the College Town rental housing complex, organizers moved the bash out of town and sent messages about pick-up sites at the College Town area. That still caused problems when hundreds of partiers parked their cars, hung out and littered while awaiting shuttle vans to the party spot. Neighbors were irked as between 500 and 800 people moved through the area during the day. Police issued 44 citations; 35 were alcohol related. Police said they were glad that by watching social media, they got a heads-up a couple days in advance.

Prince’s death reminds me of his foil in “Purple Rain,” Morris Day, which reminds me of a story a young co-worker told me several years ago. He and his father were at the State Fair and saw a sign advertising a concert by Morris Day at one of the pavilions. His father was tickled that he would get to share some of his favorite music with his son, so they sat and waited for Morris Day to take the stage. What they got instead was a college orchestra so they took a closer look at the sign and realized it advertised University of Minnesota-Morris Day at the fair. “We will never speak of this again,” his father said. Which brings me to this nugget: Rodney Hanley has been named the next chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Morris, pending approval by the Board of Regents at their May 13 meeting. The Forum News Service reports that Hanley is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fisk University in Nashville. He has a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Kansas, his master of studies in sustainability leadership from the University of Cambridge in England, and his M.S. and B.S. in environmental biology from Eastern Illinois University. Hanley will be the sixth chancellor of the Morris campus and succeeds Jacqueline R. Johnson, who is retiring in June after 10 years as chancellor.

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A forum Monday night took on the topic of sex trafficking in the Brainerd Lakes area. Chelsey Perkins of the Brainerd Dispatch writes that the Rosenmeier Forum at Central Lakes College brought together key players who admitted all their work isn’t enough without the help of the community. “It’s all of you, all of you who are the eyes and ears of our community,” said Eric Klang, president of the Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government and Pequot Lakes Police chief. Kathy Sauve, program director at Lutheran Social Service in Brainerd, said a recently funded program that provides a specialized foster care program for trafficking victims has had its first success — a 16-year-old girl who wanted to escape from a life of prostitution. Russ Wicklund, deputy chief of the Baxter Police Department, said local stings have resulted in more than 20 arrests of men seeking paid sex. Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said there’s no clear pattern among those arrested “They were of various ages, from farmhands to very successful businessmen … and of all socioeconomic levels,” Ryan said.

Two Moorhead city councilors were unhappy with a colleague’s comments in a letter to the editor. Adrian Glass-Moore of the Fargo Forum writes that Councilwoman Mari Dailey wrote a letter published in the Forum last week that discussed the process that ended with former City Manager Michael Redlinger’s resignation March 31. In the letter, Dailey claimed council members Nancy Otto and Mike Hulett faked being shocked that Redlinger’s performance review would be conducted behind closed doors and months ahead of his scheduled review. Hulett and Otto voted against the early review and were voted down by the other six councilors. Dailey’s comments were out of line, Otto and Hulett said at the council meeting on Monday. “I am just saying that I was not feigning surprise at all, and I don’t appreciate that type of accusation,” Otto said. “I don’t appreciate being listed in the paper as faking surprise about anything. Not appropriate,” Hulett said.

Albert Lea’s Hy-Vee last week made good use of groceries gone bad when it donated more than 20 tons of organic compost to the city for its parks and community gardens. Sarah Stultz of the Albert Lea Tribune reports that Hy-Vee has teamed up with GreenRU — an Iowa-based business that turns food scraps and other organics into compost for farming, landscaping and other land applications. Local Hy-Vee director Peter Streit said each day, staff puts organic waste that can’t be donated to local food pantries – including inedible food waste, fruits and vegetables, bakery products, solid dairy products and floral clippings, napkins and coffee filters —into a separate dumpster. The goal is to lower what goes into a landfill, Streit said.