Not a good year for soybeans in Minnesota

News From Greater Minnesota

This article contains a correction.

Bad days to be a bean farmer. Steve Browne at the Marshall Independent takes aim at the soybean crop this year. A frost two weeks ago means an 11 percent yield loss, depending on where you are. “With the early frost and because this season was planted in so many stages, we see from five bushel damage all the way to 20 bushel damage” said Terry Schmidt, agronomy manager with CHS agricultural service company. “First there was a late planting, then it was wet and cold, then July turned to hot, then hail,” then the frost. “If we’d had three to four weeks frost-free we could have had a normal crop. The top part of the plant would have developed, but we’ve lost the top one-third.” He said the break-even point is about 28 bushels per acre, and a lot of farmers are at that point. Farmers need about $40 per acre to turn a profit, and they won’t get that this year. Many have federal crop insurance, but Schmidt said to get paid they have to combine, and the insurance will generally only cover up to 70 percent of their maximum proven yield.

The Mankato Free Press took a weather story of uncertain origin (I suspect the AP) and localized it. Apparently, September was the driest on record at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and the second driest recorded for the Twin Cities. The airport recorded just 0.36 in. of precipitation beating the 1940 record of 0.41 in. Precipitation recorded at Mankato for September was 0.32 in. Other cities with very dry September’s include: Redwood Falls, 0.13; Chanhassen (National Weather Service office), 0.26; St. Paul, 0.47; Crystal, 0.48; Red Wing, 0.58; St. Cloud, 0.74; Alexandria, 0.87

That dry spell has hit Lake Superior as well. The Duluth News Tribune is reporting that the dry weather has caused Lake Superior to drop two inches in September, a month when the big lake usually remains unchanged, the International Lake Superior Board of Control announced. Lake Superior sits 12 inches below the long-term average for Oct. 1 and is one inch lower than the level this time last year. Lakes Michigan and Huron dropped four inches in September, a month they usually drop just two inches. The lakes sit 14 inches below their long-term average and two inches lower than Oct. 1 last year. Lower-than-normal water levels can cause problems for recreational boat access and force Great Lakes freighters to carry less than full loads of cargo.

Anyone care to debate the harm that reduced Local Government Aid is causing to the people of Minnesota? Now we’re pointing fingers at one another. The city of Truman is facing a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice, which has accused the city of violating the rights of U.S. Army Reservist Michael Schutz, according to a story by Kylie Saari of Fairmont Sentinel.  Schutz worked full-time for the Truman Police Department from May 2005 until his deployment to Kuwait in October 2009. When he returned in November 2010, his hours were cut despite federal rules requiring military personnel receive their pre-deployment position or a position of similar status and pay. According to the city, Schutz was given a part-time position due to budget limitations. The lawsuit also alleges the city took retaliatory action against Schutz after he filed the claim by putting him on administrative leave for approximately three weeks before terminating his employment. John Iverson, attorney for the city of Truman, says the issue is not with Schutz but with budgeting issues. “The city had to make some very difficult decisions,” he said. “This is nothing about punishing a returning vet.” The Justice Department is seeking lost wages and benefits Schutz would have received if he had been reemployed as required by the USERRA and injunctive relief relating to the retaliation charge. 

Here’s one to file under the “I wish I had thought of this first” column. Sarah Nelson Katzenberger at the Brainerd Dispatch wrote a profile piece on the Wilczek family of Paul’s Firewood in Little Falls. The company provides real Minnesota firewood to fire lovers many miles away. The majority of their wood ends up in the Brainerd lakes area, St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, but they also ship their wood products all over the country. They even have some big name commercial clients including Famous Dave’s Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que. Sharon Wilczek said the most popular firewood is birch. “It’s the Cadillac of wood,” she said. The Wilczeks also process just about any kind of wood their customers could possibly want, including oak, walnut, maple, cherry, mesquite and hickory. The only wood they won’t sell is ash because of disease attacking the tree population. The family and the business have moved forward and Paul’s Firewood continues to grow. The company employs 15 full-time and part-time workers, and eventually Paul Jr. plans to take the helm of the company. “Keeping people warm and cooking food,” he said. “That’s what we do.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article contained an outdated item about Bemidji nurses. A more recent story on Sept. 14, says, “”Bemidji nurses on Tuesday formally approved a contract offer from Sanford Bemidji Hospital, ending nearly six months of contract negotiations that included informational picketing and a strike vote.”

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