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Rain soaks farmers in Minnesota’s southwest

ALSO: Crews battle Skibo fire; spring fishing opener; ivory smuggling prof at SCSU; Sartell development moratorium. 

While praying for rain is a common enough thing among farmers, so is praying for sun, and according to Julie Buntjer at the Worthington Daly Globe, that’s what farmers in southwest Minnesota need – more sunshine. The USDA’s weekly crop report says 89 percent of the state’s corn crop and 46 percent of its soybean crop has been planted, but in the southwest corner, ponds are still visible in some fields and the week’s weather forecast calls for chances of rain nearly every day. Liz Stahl, crops specialist with the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Center at Worthington, said she’s heard of some farmers who have finished planting corn, and others who haven’t started. “Most guys are set up to cover a lot of ground pretty quickly once things dry out,” she said. “We just need a good window here to make some progress,” she said.

The good news is that rain and cooler temperatures should alleviate a dangerous fire situation across northern Minnesota. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune writes that dry, warm and windy weather helped spawn several wildfires, including the Skibo Fire near Hoyt Lakes. The fire started Friday apparently by sparks from a passing train and by Monday was spread out along eight miles and had consumed more than 1,000 acres, drawing the attention of nearly 150 firefighters from a dozen states.

The West Central Tribune is offering a list of what they believe are the top walleye lakes this spring. In the western part of the state, the best walleye fishing is to be had in Schoolgrove Lake, Lady Slipper and Lake Elizabeth. Good shallow lake fishing is available at Wakanda, Minnetaga, Lillian, Willmar and Foot lakes. Bigger lakes include Big Kandiyohi, East Solomon and Long lakes, as well as Tyson and Wood lakes in Yellow Medicine County. They add Lake Florida is “nasty” for northerns right now. They also note that Green Lake is infested with zebra mussels, while Lake Koronis is infested with starry stonewort. Green, Calhoun, Norway, Games and Florida lakes suffer from Eurasian watermilfoil.

A St. Cloud State University philosophy professor who was let go in March has been found guilty of smuggling more than $1 million in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn from the U.S. to China. The Associated Press reports that Yiwei Zheng, 43, of St. Cloud was ordered Monday to pay $500,000 and was sentenced to three years of probation, six weeks of intermittent confinement and 150 hours of community service. Zheng admitted to smuggling ivory carvings and other items from the U.S. to China in April 2011, and exporting two rhinoceros horns to China in July 2010. Zheng’s attorney, Tim Webb, said his client trades in historical Chinese artifacts and has authored books on Chinese trinkets. Webb said that while the items were antiques, Zheng knowingly didn’t follow regulatory and permitting requirements. SCSU says Zheng taught at the school since 1999 and his employment there ended in March 2016.

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Moorhead residents have said no to quiet zones. Adrian Glass-Moore of the Fargo Forum writes that the city asked residents living on streets along rail lines if spending $1.8 million to create quiet zones along 20th Street and Southeast Main Avenue — both roads that follow rail lines — would be money well spent. The quiet zones would be achieved by improving rail crossings so that trains wouldn’t need to blow the horn at the intersections. Most of the residents said no. The study cost $27,000 and the results were the same as those received at a public meeting in March.

The Bluestem Performing Arts Center in Moorhead has added two concerts to their summer series. The Fargo Forum reports that Blues Traveler will perform Aug. 9, with opener G. Love & Special Sauce. Tickets are $19.50 to $39.50 and will go on sale at 11 a.m. on May 20. O.A.R. will perform at 7 p.m. Aug. 28. Tickets are $33.75 to $53.75 and go on sale at 11 a.m. Friday, May 13.

Sartell has put a moratorium on industrial development along the Mississippi River. The St. Cloud Times reports that a task force will review land uses and look at regulatory ordinances for the properties. City Development Director Anita Rasmussen said the area includes the former Verso paper mill site, DeZurik and the hydroelectric facility. Projects that have already begun will be able to continue under the moratorium. Former city administrator Patti Gartland said it’s a good time to reassess the city’s ordinance “to make sure your development standards are consistent.”