A tale of cattle and buffalo — with a whisker of cat and dog

This handsome chap is A.H. Leonard, a son-in-law of the famed James “Scotty” Philip of Fort Pierre, S.D., and my dad’s hometown of Philip, S.D. Philip was known as a cattle and buffalo ranching king. Leonard continued on as sales manager for the company after Scotty’s untimely death in 1911.

The photo is from a brochure from a tannery that operated in the mid-1920s in the Detroit Lakes, Minn., area, and had a connection with the Philip buffalo ranch. The March 31 issue of Agweek carries my column on this topic.

One of the things that surprised me about the tannery is that they had a price list that included work with “cat skins (domestic)” and dogs. Times have changed.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. announces13th race on Fargo radio show

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., announced he will seek a 13th term. Peterson made the announcement on Joel Heitkamp’s “News and Views” talk show on KFGO radio in Fargo, prior to his official announcement expected at 10 a.m. at Moorhead City Hall. Peterson is the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.

Peterson, 69, represents the sprawling 7th District from northwest Minnesota to Marshall, Minn. State. Sen. Tory Westrom, Elbow Lake, is the only Republican announced for the position.

The congressman says he expects that national groups will try to target him – “these national groups, trying to take these seats for themselves, away from the people.” He says it was nearly a “miracle” to get the farm bill passed, and that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently told Peterson he hoped it would be fully implemented in 2014.

Among other things, he says the Renewable Fuel Standard needs to be maintained for corn ethanol. He says the problem with the RFS is that advanced biofuel targets were too high for the practicalities. He says corn ethanol should be protected because the industry has plants that are doing “exactly what we want them to do.”

Beet Institute shifts from politics to agronomics, herbicide resistance

The 2014 version of the International Sugarbeet Institute event is March 12-13, rotating north to the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D.

With the farm bill passed, this year’s keynoter at the institute shifts to agronomy and sports. The main agricultural keynoter is Tom Peters, the newly named North Dakota State University/University of Minnesota Extension sugarbeet agronomist and weed specialist. Peters will talk about developing new biotech traits.

It’s interesting that Peters retired from Monsanto after 24 years. Peters holds a doctorate from North Dakota State University in agronomy and a sugar beet weed specialty.

Peters replaces the sometimes controversial Jeff Stachler, who left for a private industry post in March 2013 after serving in the post since 2008. Stachler had been a prophet in raising the warnings about herbicide resistance in weeds, a problem that particularly involves glyphosate (Roundup) resistance. Stachler raised eyebrows when he suggested farmers needed to be more agressive about roguing sugar beet fields by hand, eliminating weed infestations entirely.

 I can’t wait  to see what a former Monsanto staffer brings to this issue.  

There will still be some discussion about politics. Luther Markwart, executive vice president, who keynoted last year’s show, recently summarized several priorities for the organization:

  • Solving the recent market collapse, and balancing the market with Mexico.
  • Defending the just-passed farm bill – “a constant job.”
  • Studying future trade agreements and potential future negotiation rounds for the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation in Singapore.
  • Food labeling. The ASGA is one of 30 member groups in a Coalition for Affordable Foods which is seeking “consistency and rationality in our food labeling system,” Markwart says.

Luther Markwart, executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, spoke in March 2013 International Sugarbeet Institute in Fargo. Politics won’t be on the program this year.




Milkhaus ice cream biz gets Plains Museum lift


FARGO, N.D.  — Seth Locken, 24, one of North Dakota’s newest ag-related entrepreneurs, says a recent Plains Art Museum “Unglued Craft Fest” last Feb. 21 and 22 in Fargo was another affirmation of the possibilities of his homemade ice cream business.

Locken, whose main job is in accounts payable for Northrup Grumman Corp. manufacturing center  in New Town, N.D., grew up on his parents’ beef cattle ranch.  He went to North Dakota State University for two years and did some restaurant wait-staff work before he started his job last August.  About the same time he started working on the ice cream idea, making treats in a commercial kitchen at the back of Ken Beck’s Jack & Jill grocery store at New Town.

The first products went on the shelf on Dec. 16. He sells it from two grocery stores in New Town, and he’s working to get it into a food cooperative in the Bismarck-Mandan area.

“Everybody wants it now,”  says Locken, whose business card describes him as the proprieter and“glacier”  – a person that cares for the “very cold” products in the French “bragide de quisine,” a formal hierarchy for large French kitchen staffs.

 “I brought 1,000 units of ice cream to the museum and left with zero,” Locken says of his Fargo work. He and a colleague sold “push pop” treats for $3 each.  Pints went for $8. He served salted caramel, white chocolate, Fargo Brewing Company porter, curried squash and dark roast coffee ice cream. None were new flavors, but he’ll be rolling out some new ones in May.

“It was so cool,” Locken says, of the event. “I had a couple of gals come up to me and say that I haven’t had ice cream like that since I went to college in Massachusetts.”

Anderson Seed victim ponders whether to”take my whipping” and walk


One of the farmer-creditors in the Anderson Seed Co. insolvency says he’s resigned to a settlement recommendation by the North Dakota Public Service Commission, which was approved by a Cass County District Judge in Fargo, N.D. on Feb. 25.

Judge Wickham Corwin agreed to allow an 80 percent payout on $800,000 of credit sales contracts, and a further payout on the cash sales, which total $970,000. He also agreed with a settlement with Legumex Walker of Winnipeg that contributed $630,000 to the trust fund for cash contracts. Much of that was money that was unpaid to Anderson Seed in a $1.6 million seed purchase, just prior to insolvency.

“In all honesty, I’m glad it’s moving forward,” says Kevin Kessel of Belfield, N.D.  “I knew the judge was going to decide with the PSC recommendation.” But he says if the PSC are the experts he thinks there might have been some way they could have “caught it” before Anderson Seed, based in Mentor, Minn., went insolvent in February 2012.

Kessel scoffed at the statements lawyers that the 43 cents on a dollar is an acceptable outcome. “Are they willing to accept 43 cents on a dollar for their salary next year?” he says.

He says he’s also displeased that the PSC didn’t pursue Ron Anderson and Stephanie Anderson for fraud. “In all honesty, I feel they were able to get away with stealing the rest of our money,” he says.  Kessel says that if he had stolen someone’s money from their wallet, he’d be in court and in jail. “These guys did it (stole money) and they’re out roaming the countryside, doing what they need to do.”

Kessel says he has discussed the settlement with Mike Gust, a Fargo attorney representing several farmers in the case. He says he isn’t sure whether to go after the Andersons personally for the unpaid losses. “We, as a group, are going to visit again, but I can’t say yes or no,” he says. “Part of a guy says, let’s pursue this.  Another part of a guy says I’ll take my whipping and walk away.”

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Cornvention: ND’s E15 promo succeeded in Bismarck, challenges seen

Kent Satrang, chief executive officer of PetroServe USA, based in Moorhead, Minn., says his company’s promotion of E15 ethanol blends and other “mid-level” blends nearly tripled the sales of those products in Bismarck, N.D., in the last four months of 2013,  and more than doubled them in the Fargo area. Photo taken Feb. 19, 2014, at the Cornvention in Fargo.

See Agweek, Feb. 24, 2014, for details about the Cornvention, the North Dakota Soybean Expo, in Fargo, and the International Crops Expo (ICE) in Grand Forks, N.D.


Livestock Indemnity Program expedited, helps those hit by Oct. 4 storm

It’s in the farm bill, and now Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is among those trying to expedite Livestock Indemnity relief to ranchers hit by recent weather disasters, including the Oct. 4, 2013, blizzard.

To sign up for disaster relief, North Dakotans should contact their local USDA Farm Service Agency Office. Applications will begin being accepted in 60 days, and ranchers will need documentation of their losses.  For more information, visit here, Heitkamp notes.

In the 2014 Farm Bill, which was signed into law on Feb. 7. Heitkamp was one of those pushing to include a permanent livestock disaster program so that ranchers can survive catastrophic losses. In October 2013, winter storm Atlas, an unexpected early fall blizzard, killed more than 43,000 livestock in South Dakota alone (see Agweek, Feb. 7) , includingcattle, sheep, horses and bison in the Dakotas and Nebraska.   The disaster relief is backdated to October 2011, so North Dakota’s ranchers who experienced losses last year will be covered up to 75 percent, capped at $125,000 per individual and $250,000 per couple.


Goehring and the NDFB must be pondering primary, petition numbers



It will be interesting to see how Doug Goehring defends his North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner post in the face of opposition from the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

Goehring says he’ll run in the June primary, to become the Republican candidate.

But first he’ll  try to get the Republican party endorsement at the April convention.

If either Goehring or NDFB-backed challenger Judy Estenson of Warwick, N.D., fails to get party endorsement which runs April 5 to April 6 in Minot, N.D., either one could run in the primary as a second Republican on the ballot. They’d need to collect  300 signatures and turn them in to the Secretary of State’s office by 4 p.m. on April 7 to do that. (I’m thinking that if Estenson fails to secure the endorsement, the NDFB would make sure she is on the ballot in June.) Both parties may be pondering how to collect the 300 signatures as you read this.

Whoever loses the primary would be disqualified in the general election, unless they’re running for something else. You can’t be on  the same ballot in the election cycle for the same office, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office

Of course there’s  an alternative.

If either candidate fails to get the party endorsement they could skip the primary election and go to the Nov. 4 general election – but only as an independent. This would require 1,000 signatures on a petition by Sept. 1, at 4 p.m.

Will that task may be a bit easier today than in the past, because of the uptick in the state’s population? Don’t count on it. 

National Potato Council exec calls farm bill a win for specialty crops


Here’s one of my “pole” pictures of a process potato harvest operation in 2012 near Kathryn, N.D. The Red River Valley is famous for tablestock, process, chip and seed potato industry.


National Potato Council Executive Vice president and chief executive officer John Keeling speaks at 9 a.m., Feb. 19, in  Grand Forks, N.D., for the International Ag Expo. Look for Agweek pre-stories in the Feb. 17 issue and for coverage in the Feb. 24 issue.

Keeling this week said the newly-passed  federal farm bill was a “tremendous victory for potato growers and our specialty crop partners.” It includes a 55 percent increase in new resources for the specialty crop priorities, making it “the most significant government investment ever in the competitiveness of the fruit and vegetable industry.

  • · An increase to $80 million in annual mandatory funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which has provided funding for critical potato research, including zebra chip, acrylamide, and potato virus Y;
  • · An increase to $72.5 million in FY 2014-2017 and $85 million in FY 2018 in funding for Specialty Crop Block Grants, which provide funding for state-specific projects that can promote and research potatoes;
  • · Reauthorization of $200 million per year in Market Access Program funding, which provides funding for specialty crops, including potatoes, to promote U.S. agriculture in foreign markets; and,
  • · Reauthorization of $9 million per year in Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops funding, which addresses foreign market access barriers that block the export of U.S. agricultural products, including potatoes, from their intended destinations.

 “Once the odd man out, the specialty crop industry earned respect in Washington, D.C.,” said, describing his own work and that of “growers, state associations and industry partners” who worked on the bill.


American Crystal CEO lauds Collin Peterson in sugar program win

In an op-ed written by the American Sugar Alliance, it was noted that David Berg, president and chief executive officer of American Crystal Sugar Co. of Moorhead, Minn., was invited to attend last Friday’s presidential farm bill signing in Michigan, home to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Agricultrue Committee.
Berg credited Stabenow, but also Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.
“Minnesotans and North Dakotans are blessed with elected leaders that understand agriculture and the importance of a strong farm policy,” Berg said. “The sugar provisions in this bigll give us a chance against low prices and foreign subsidies, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
John Hundley, a farmer and chairman of Sugar Cane Growers of Florida, lauded sugar as “the cheapest major commodity policy in America.” Large confectioners spent millions trying to gut the policy, which the sugar alliance says “would have left America dependent on heavily-subsidized foreign sugar suppliers.” The industry claims to support 142,000 jobs.