Midwest briefs: N.D. groups launch drought aid efforts

Wisconsin State Farmer


Michigan apple harvest may be early this year 

Michigan State University extension experts say they think this year's Michigan apple harvest is ahead of schedule. 

MLive reports that MSU extension says data collected from around the state suggest the apple harvest will be significantly early for certain varieties in some parts of the state. The data show that predicted peak harvest dates will fall anywhere from a few days to an entire week ahead of normal. 

For example, MacIntosh apples are ten to 11 days ahead of normal in parts of Michigan and a few days ahead of 2016. Peak harvest for Red Delicious apples is predicted one to eight days ahead of normal, depending on what region they're in. 


AGRI Farm to School and Farm to Early Care grants available

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) announced that its Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation (AGRI) Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants are now available.

The MDA will award up to $400,000 to eligible institutions to increase the use of Minnesota grown and raised foods through planning and feasibility studies, or equipment purchases and physical improvements. 

In previous grant rounds, the highly competitive AGRI Farm to School Grants have helped schools and early care and education organizations purchase food processors, cooling and storage equipment, and specialized ovens to make it easier to serve Minnesota grown produce, meat and dairy.

Other recipients have utilized grant funds to develop their Farm to School programs by connecting with farmers in their areas, determining how seasonal produce fits into menu cycles, and creating processes to use local foods in infant foods in early care settings. 

AGRI Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants benefit farmers by empowering schools to use locally grown and raised foods. 

Applications for Farm to School and Farm to Early Care and Education Grants must be submitted by 4 p.m. CST on Nov. 16, 2017.

For more information and to apply, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/mnfarmtoschool.aspx and www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/grants/mnearlycareeduc.aspx.   


South Dakota farmers, ranchers get some drought relief 

Rain has brought South Dakota farmers and ranchers some relief from the drought. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says rain and cooler temperatures last week brought drought relief to parts of South Dakota. But rainfall totals varied widely and left some areas with little to no precipitation. Moisture conditions remain short to very short for a majority of the state. 

South Dakota's winter wheat harvest remains on pace with last year, at 95 percent complete, and ahead of the five-year average of 89 percent. 

The spring wheat crop is 96 percent mature. The spring wheat harvest is slightly behind last year at 79 percent complete but well ahead of the 59 percent average. 

More than half of South Dakota's pasture and rangeland is rated in poor or very poor condition. 


Two agriculture groups in Dakotas to vote on merger 

The boards of two agriculture co-ops in the Dakotas have decided to hold a second vote among their members about merging. 

The Aberdeen American News reports that a narrow majority of members from North Central Farmers Elevator voted in 2015 against merging with the Wheat Growers. 

Discussions resurfaced a couple weeks ago when leaders of both groups wanted to gather member feedback on the idea amid a changing agricultural environment. 

North Central Board President Rick Osterday says the feedback collection ended Tuesday. He says it indicates members believe unification will help with competition and securing members' equity. 

Voting on the merger ends Sept. 28. 


North Dakota cattle, corn groups launch drought aid efforts 

North Dakota's largest livestock group and its biggest corn organizations have launched efforts to help ranchers devastated by a summer of drought. 

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association and its foundation have established the Hope for the Heartland Drought Relief Fund. Donations will be distributed early next year, with applications being accepted through the end of this year. 

The North Dakota Corn Growers Association and Corn Utilization Council are urging farmers to provide free or low-cost corn grazing or corn stalk bales to ranchers.

Association board members have already contributed hundreds of acres and tons of bales. 

Many North Dakota ranchers are selling off cattle they can't afford to feed, while others are searching for affordable hay, with demand pushing prices to as much as double the normal cost. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows 82 percent of North Dakota in some stage of drought. Much of the state's prime ranching country is in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories. 


Minnesota man accused of throwing pig's foot at Somalis 

Authorities allege a Minnesota man threw a pig's foot at Somalis at a farmers market. 
Sixty-one-year-old Joe Fernkes of Willmar is charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct. He's due in court Aug. 30. 

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations wants Fernkes to be charged with a hate crime. The advocacy group notes that Muslims are prohibited from eating pork and that "bigots often use pigs or pork to offend Muslim sensibilities." 

Fernkes tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune he set the frozen pig's foot down on the table at a Willmar market on Saturday and "didn't say one word." 

He says Somalis are "taking over the whole ... town," but that he "shouldn't have done" it. 

Police located Fernkes at his home and gave him a citation.