What did Goehring do to draw the ire of his old buddies at the ND Farm Bureau?

I took this picture of Doug Goehring when he hosted an Environmental Protection Agency visit at his farm near Menoken, N.D., in 2010.

 

It will be fascinating to learn what North Dakota Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring has done to draw the ire of the North Dakota Farm Bureau.

A media advisory on Feb. 3 announces a news conference today at the Ramada Inn, announcing the intentions of Judy Estenson to file for his office. I’ll miss it, but the event is being handled by Dawn Pfeifer, who handles communications for the NDFB in Fargo. This makes it look like the right-leaning organization has a new horse in the 2014 race in which Goehring will try to defend his position. Republican district conventions start next week.

Strange.

Goehring, of course, was the former NDFB vice president under Eric Aasmundstad of Devils Lake. At the same time he served as president of the Nodak Mutual Insurance Co., as Aasmundstad served as its vice president, through some difficult times for the company.

Goehring tried to be ag commissioner when Democrat-NPL man Roger Johnson was commissioner. It was only when Johnson left the scene to become president of the National Farmers Union, that Goehring was appointed to the position by now Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. When the NDFB threw some of its political action committee money behind Goehring in 2010, he beat state Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette.

So, what has Goehring done to make the NDFB so mad that they’d challenge a sitting ag commissioner – one of the three members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, one who has championed the property rights and oil and gas interests that the organization often aligns with?

Was it too much support of animal cruelty felony penalties in the 2013 legislature? Not enough opposition (even though NDFB gave kudos to the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association for their work on the bill). Not enough time for former president Aasmundstad who was then a NDFB lobbyist? Or maybe Goehring didn’t voice enough support to the NDFB’s right-to-farm efforts?

A Google search of Estenson doesn’t offer many hints of why she’s the chosen one.  She once wrote a letter to the editor, blasting the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead for supporting the animal measure. I tried to reach her through her farm number at Warwick, N.D., which is south of Devils Lake near Stump Lake National Refuge. But no one immediately called back. (Cell is 701-936-0686, if you’re interested, Ms. Estenson.)

So, what’s happened here?

Did Goehring hire the wrong person at some point? Too many South Dakotans? (Hey, I’m from South Dakota.)

He seems to have picked people with close ties to the NDFB. Goehring’s deputy commissioner, Tom Bodine, of Minot, has a North Carolina degree, but he farmed in North Dakota and held a NDFB leadership post before taking the deputyship. Britt Aasmundstad from Devils Lake is a policy analyst in the department.

Did Goehring on too many trade missions, peddling North Dakota soybeans, corn, pulse and specialty crops? Say the wrong thing sometime or another? Try too hard to protect honeybees?

Whatever: The NDFB has been looking for someone to run against Goehring and they’ve found Estenson. Such a move would likely be vetted before the NDFB’s council of county presidents.

It’ll be fascinating for the relatively few North Dakotans who know much about  the office, even though it has extensive regulatory influence over farmers. Occupants of the office have won their votes through elevating their public image with the population centers — cheerleading for farmers and ranchers, helping them to throw away unused chemicals, and helping the state’s folk businesses sell  things at Christmas.

It is interesting to imagine what Warwick might do differently than Goehring, and how much the conservatives will spend to beat each other. Or maybe Goehring will just get the message – whatever that is.

Relcore - computer help for ….

 

 

Farmers show curiosity at first formal “industrial beet” commercialization meets

Randy Grueneich, Barnes County Extension Service ag agent. Photographed Jan. 28, 2014, at Valley City, N.D.

Dave Ripplinger, an agricultural economist from North Dakota State University, speaks about their interest in producing “industrial beets” at a group of about 40 farmers at the Valley City, N.D., on Jan. 28. Green Vision is promoting raising beets outside of the Red River Valley for ethanol and other products, but not refined sugar.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service seems to be especially helpful to the Green Vision folks who are preparing the groundwork for “industrial beets.” It’s not an entirely new crop to the region, but it is new to growing areas outside of the Red River Valley, and the markets are not entirely set, so there is a lot of curiosity.

Randy Grueneich, the NDSU Extension Service county agent for Barnes County attended the Jan. 28 meeting in Valley City, N.D., where about 30 to 40 farmers  were asked about their interest in the enterprise – either growing beets for it, or perhaps investing in a project , on the assumption it would arrive.

Greueneich says the organization is looking for 30,000 acres of production in a 20-mile radius. There is a lot of curiosity of how sugar beets would work in rotations in out-state North Dakota, beyond traditional beet-to-refined sugar production in the Red River Valley.

“One thing they covered today is, ‘Do they work in rocks?’” Grueneich says. Farmers are also interested in how the company addresses the need for harvest-time labor. In the end, he said farmers may look for greater returns than they’d otherwise expect from corn because of “more risk and unfamiliarity” with the crop, compared to what they’re used to.

Bruce Anderson who farms west of Valley City, says he’d like to know more cost of production, what advantage it would be financially, and what it would do to his herbicide rotations. “Some of the stuff we use for beans and corn and wheat, we have to be aware of three or four years out,” Anderson says. The “Extreme” chemical, which is a combination of “Pursuit” and “Roundup” would have a 40-month restriction. “We’ve been using it the last two years because we’ve been using it on our soybeans because it’s good for keeping down dandelions on no-till.”

Anderson says he has friends that drive beet trucks for the traditional fall campaign in the Fargo, and knows how involved and intense the sugar beet campaign is.

Al Wittenberg of Valley City, N.D.,  said he’d like the opportunity to own stock, so he can either make money on the crop or the products a plant would produce. “Nobody here knows the labor-intensive requirement to do this,” he says. He’s wary of how many farmers can handle 1,000 acres of beets.

Another farmer in his 20s said he’d be interested in how the plant will determine the price of beets, and who would own the plant. He says he doesn’t know which would be better, but he’d be skeptical of the interest if an outside owner pegs beet prices off of corn. “If it’s like growing corn, you don’t have any risk diversity,” he says. “If you own the plant the pricing wouldn’t be as important. If the plant is making the money the grower will make money.”

Look for a more extensive story in Agweek, Feb. 3, or at www.agweek.com

American Crystal Sugar Co. back at drying pulp with natural gas

 

American Crystal Sugar Co. temporarily loaded pressed pulp for shipment to area livestock feeders because it couldn’t dry the stuff to make into pellets, because of a natural gas pipe explosion and failure in Canada. I took this photo when it was about 20 below zero Fahrenheit on Jan. 26.

 

American Crystal Sugar Co. back to normal on natural gas for drying pulp?

 

American Crystal Sugar Co. had been reduced to using its biogas methane production to dry its pulp byproducts because of a natural gas pipeline explosion near Winnipeg, Man. The picture above shows loaders taking the pressed pulp product away from the Moorhead, Minn., factory, to stockpile on a beet pile slab.

David Berg, president and chief executive officer, confirmed on Jan. 27 that the company was authorized to resume its drying with natural gas as the pipeline was restored to service.

Separately, the company is also facing a railroad issue – an overflowing of sugar inventories in some factories because bulk sugar cars have been slow this winter. Berg says hundreds of empty cars stand empty on tracks, somewhere between Crystal and its major markets in the east. He and others in agriculture wonder how much the burgeoning oil industry is taking crew and track resources away from agriculture.

For stories about the problem, see Agweek.com, or gfherald.com. A story is planned for the Jan. 28 issue of the Grand Forks Herald as well as the Feb. 3 issue of Agweek.

 

Precision Ag event at Jamestown looks at drones, Google Glass, etc.

Will Google Glass — a smartphone on your face — become common for crop consultants in five years? Will unmanned aircraft systems like those below — drones — take a significant role in agriculture in the future? Scientists and others seem to think so. We’ll hear more about that today at the Precision Ag Action Summit today in Jamestown, N.D. Look for other details on www.agweek.com and in the Jan. 27 issue of Agweek for stories about what precision agriculture experts, industry insiders  and academics have to say about the developing technologies. The event at the North Dakota Farmers Union in Jamestown drew a crowd that included plenty of younger faces.

Drones, precision hot topics in cold ND. Join me in warm Jamestown.

 

ABOVE AND BELOW: IMAGES FROM A MONSANTO YOUNG GROWER EVENT IN FARGO, N.D., JAN. 14, AT THE FARGODOME. FOR INFORMATION ON THE DRONES, SEE BLOG INFORMATION BELOW.

If you care to look beyond the current economics in agriculture and cold winter, perhaps the world of drone-delivered crop and livestock information is for you.
I myself will be taking in much of the Precision Ag Summit, Jan. 20-21, at the North Dakota Farmers Union headquarters in Jamestown. Look for coverage at www.agweek.com in the Jan. 27 issue of Agweek. Here is a link to the agenda: http://theresearchcorridor.com/precisionagsummit2014/agenda
David Dvorak, chief executive officer of Field of View (see Jonathan Knutson’s cover story in Agweek, July 8, 2013) will be there. Erdal Ozkan, of Ohio State University Extension, will be there, as well as Kevin Price, Kansas State University, are two of the speakers I’m going to focus on. The event has an expanded livestock technology feature.
John Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer who deals with this topic, has been talking about this topic quite a bit as he attends meetings across the region. The University of North Dakota and NDSU are rivals on sports fields but are working cooperatively – feverishly? – to develop work in this topic. Historically, researchers have a heightened interest in topics where grant funding and political is most available, which isn’t always the same as the feasibility of a concept. (Think cellulosic ethanol.)
The interest is certainly there.
I learned that Monsanto on Jan. 14 held an invitation-only event for under-age-35 top growers in the region. The event attracted some 30 growers are associated with operations that account for some 800,000 acres. Simple math: That’s an mean average of 26,000 per, but some operations might not have been that large. The pickups I saw in the parking lot were largely North Dakota and Minnesota, although some may have been rented.
The young farmers met at the Fargo Air Museum and then went over to the Fargodome across the street for a 15-minute demonstration of the drones.
I knocked on the museum to see if I could listen in, but a polite fellow told the meeting wasn’t open to me, either because I’m not in the demo (a joke) or because then it would have had to be open to all of the other ag media. Monsanto’s No. 2 official had jetted into Fargo for it. They were considering issuing a press release.
Regardless: One of the farmers attending the meeting told me some of the highlights, as he remembered them. So the following is hearsay — not necessarily the truth. (Hey, I feel like those radio talk show hosts, who sometimes use a disclaimer.)
Anyway, where’s what my young man said:
• The drone demonstration explained the partnership between NDSU and UND and efforts to get regulations passed for drone operations. The two institutions are working to develop cameras with different imagery and pictures to make some use out of it. The key is to discover identify weed and disease pressure.
• At the Fargodome, the officials had a small, four-blade drone hover around for about 15 minutes. No one handed out literature. In the field, such a vehicle would be kept below 400 feet to comply with FAA regulations. The farmer saw a “Draganflyer.” It was the farmer’s impression this would fly for 30 minutes around a field, operated by remote control or perhaps autonomously with GPS.
• A much larger, more expensive fixed wind aircraft (SkyHawk?) was shown as a static exhibit but not demonstrated for lack of space. This would be used more with a flight plan from coordinates, and not with a flight team.
• University officials of the plan is to fly 500 acres on a Casselton area farm this summer in a $35,000 project funded by the North Dakota Soybean Council. Forms with the Federal Aviation Administration are difficult, in attempt to monitor five soybean fields, looking for iron chlorisis. NDSU will fly the fields weekly and ground-proof anomalies with weed, insect, disease and salinity issues. The idea will be whether aerial will detect problems sooner than ground crews. A separate project hope is to fly another 800 to 1,000 acres at Carrington at the NDSU Research Extension Center, with potential funds from Research North Dakota, with a decision pending this month. N
• One issue with the FAA is who does the work. A farmer can drive through his own fields, launch an aircraft, pending the required crew team, and that can be considered non-commercial and doable if no third party is paid to do the work..
• Officials from all organizations say they need more “interest from growers and farmers” to show the demand and to see if there “want and that there is a value.” I suppose that’s where regulatory and fiscal support for research. The big thing would be developing cameras and developing light waves to detect what farmers want to know, particularly about weed and disease pests. UND officials told farmers they a value of $13 billion in value for agriculture in the first three years.
• There was discussion about whether the aircraft might fly a field, document where weed “escapes” or resistant weeds might be located, and then the same vehicle might spray the spot in the same flight. It could be used where pre-emerge herbicides are used, to “clean up skips.” The farmer wondered whether this would be move cost-effective than on-ground crop consultants or conventional aerial application..
• Monsanto officials, who included Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer from St. Louis, talked about developing corn hybrids and looking at the genetic lineage to find exact matches for a field. This would bring together hybrid, weather, soil type, production history and other information and offer advice on such things as whether side-dress fertilizer might be needed on a hybrid or variety in a particular field. This would involve the company’s FieldScript concept.
• Monsanto talked about new linkages between Monsanto and Winfield in their R7 program, working together on the nitrogen applications, but the farmer didn’t have details. According to Farm Industry News, R7 has been available for Winfield dealers since fall 2011. Verbatim: “It allows growers without extensive yield and soil sampling records to try out variable-rate seeding and fertility. Growers work with their dealers to develop those prescriptions using historical satellite images to identify management zones.”

Relcore – site creation and more…

Goehring, immigration lawyer slated at KMOT Ag Show

 

North Dakota Agriculture Department livestock specialists Amber Boeshans and Nathan Boehm are flanked by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, shortly after they were hired late last summer.

 

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring will be in Minot, N.D., on Jan. 31, to promote his department’s efforts to attract livestock production to the state. He’ll speak at 10 a.m. for an hour in the Enbridge Seminar Room. Among other things, Goehring will talk about how North Dakota should be a “shining star” for such development – especially dairy and swine – because of low priced hay and other commodities, and for its relatively low disease pressure. Amber Boeschans, a livestock development specialist with the department since August, will be at the meeting. The department also will host Loan Huynh, an attorney with the Fredrickson & Byron law firm in Minneapolis, speaking on immigration policies and its effect on the agricultural industry. Huynh will speak at 10 a.m. on Jan. 29 and 1 p.m. on Jan. 30.

Boeschans says Goehring isn’t expected to make any announcements at his session wants to offer background and collect input from farmers.  “At this point we don’t have anybody who’s ready to go, with permits in hand.” Not yet.

Dakota Spirit moves in the right direction, says Mike Clemens of Wimbledon, N.D.

Mike Clemens, a Wimbledon, N.D., farm leader says the news release that the Dakota Spirit ethanol plant, a 65 million gallon per year project for Spiritwood, N.D., has reached some new financial goals is important. Clemens is on the board for Midwest AgEnergy Group, which is working on a project that will include both the Blueflint ethanol plant in Underwood, N.D., and the Spiritwood plant.

“We’re able to come in on budget, and that’s very important in times like we have now,” Clemens says. He says the project will be a big benefit for corn farmers in a 50-mile radius of Jamestown. The $155 million plant is likely to accept corn in the fall of 2014 and will probably start grinding corn and making it into ethanol in the spring of 2015.

The Spiritwood plant will use heat from a nearby Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station electrical generation plant. This will allow it to meet RFS2 carbon intensity requirements, which is supported by government policies.

Clemens is a former president of the North Dakota Corn Growers and has held leadership posts in the  National Sunflower Association.

 

VERBATIM:

Spiritwood, N.D. — Midwest AgEnergy Group announced today that financing has been realized and

contracts signed to begin project execution of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy biorefinery in Stutsman County.

Field construction will start no later than January 2014. The Dakota Spirit AgEnergy biorefinery will produce ethanol, distillers grains and fuel-grade corn oil at the Spiritwood Energy Park.

“While our August groundbreaking event was a significant milestone for the 65 million-gallon-per-year biorefinery, we worked very hard this fall on supporting international fund raising by partnering with the CMB Export, LLC Regional Center, a national leader offering EB-5 opportunities to the international market,” said Greg Ridderbusch, president, Midwest AgEnergy Group. The financial advisor for all aspects of the $155 million capital raise to build and start up Dakota Spirit AgEnergy is Cappello Capital Corp.

“This moves us ever closer to an operational biorefinery in the Spiritwood area, one that will benefit the agriculture and energy industries and the local economy,” said Jeff Zueger, chief operating officer, Midwest AgEnergy Group.

The team of Karges-Faulconbridge, Inc., and McGough Construction, respectively, are the engineering and general contractors for the biorefinery. Near term activities include detailed engineering, site preparation and major systems procurement, with full construction operations underway this winter. After facility startup during the first quarter of 2015, it is scheduled for full commercial operations during the second quarter of 2015.

The ethanol biorefinery will have a significant impact on the local economy through the creation of 36 direct jobs, and 275 trade and construction jobs during the construction period. The facility will be located at the Spiritwood Energy Park, where a rail loop and related infrastructure is being developed under the leadership of the Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation. Road upgrades and water infrastructure development is being pursued in collaboration with Stutsman County and the local water utilities, respectively.

The biorefinery will purchase 23 million bushels of corn annually to produce 65 million gallons of a renewable fuel. The ethanol product from Dakota Spirit AgEnergy has been certified as renewable under the country’s Renewable Fuel Standard 2 (RFS2) administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Another 6,900 tons of fuel-grade corn oil will be marketed for use in making products such as biodiesel. Local agriculture producers will also have access to 198,000 tons of distillers grains to feed livestock.

The ethanol biorefinery will be co-located next to Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station, a combined heat and power plant. Spiritwood Station will provide process steam to the biorefinery, which eliminates the need for Dakota Spirit AgEnergy to build and operate a boiler. This innovative design also contributes to the plant’s efficiency and ensures ethanol from the facility meets the RFS2 carbon intensity requirements.

“Many stakeholders have worked very hard collaborating with our team to bring the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy biorefinery plant to the start of construction. We appreciate their support and look forward to realizing value at the intersection of agriculture and energy,” said Ridderbusch.

RRV/Park River-Grafton connection in magazine cover story

 

Check out the Red River Valley connection in a story in Spudman magazine’s November/December 2013 issue.

The Sparta, Mich.-based magazine’s cover story is about seed potato grower Joe Thompson, who with his father, Dan, relocated to Alliance, Neb., from the Grafton and Park River, N.D., area. Joe and Dan, purchased the farm just west of Nebraska’s Sand Hills in 1995.

Spudman says the Thompson Seed Potato Partnership had early challenges with potato scab, quality and marketing issues. They coped by cutting acreage, growing better-suited varieties, and finding better land.

Today, the Thompsons produce low-generation seed potatoes — 20 varieties for the chip-stock, table-stock and frozen sectors, marketed through their Countrywide Potato marketing organization. They grow seed for customers in two Canadian provinces and 18 states from Washington to Maine. In North Dakota, they supply some seed and help market seed for Dan’s younger brothers – Rick, Ron, Tom and Doug – all in the northern Red River Valley.

Joe has a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. He is in the middle of a term representing Nebraska on the U.S. Potato Board and is part of the national organization’s Seed Task Force. Joe and his wife, Rebecca, have three young sons.

Roche honored by Sugar Club, named to Minn-Dak Farmers Co-op hall of fame

Congratulations to Dave Roche, former president of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative at Wahpeton, N.D. He is expected to be honored Dec. 4 by the Sugar Club and by the co-op as a hall of famer.

Roche was always decent to me in his times at Minn-Dak, even in difficult times. I keep thinking of him on Sundays, as he told me he planned to make more Detroit Lions football games when he retired.

Minn-Dak has enjoyed excellent leaders, including predecessors I’ve known — Gerald Shannon and Larry Steward. Recently, I have gotten to know the new president, Kurt Wickstrom. Look for his comments in an upcoming issue of Agweek.


Roche Inducted Into Minn-Dak Hall of Fame

 

 

WAHPETON, N.D. – Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative will induct David H. Roche, former President and Chief Executive Officer, into the company’s Hall of Fame at its annual meeting on December 10, 2013. The award honors a person who has made significant contributions to Minn-Dak and the sugar industry and is voted on by the Board of Directors.

 

Roche was Minn-Dak’s third President and CEO. He joined the cooperative on March 1, 2001.  He served on the boards of United Sugars Corporation and Midwest Agri-Commodities. In addition, he was a trustee of the United States Beet Sugar Association, Washington, D.C., and served as a member on the Mexican Task Force.

 

Roche began his sugar industry career as a controller for Michigan Sugar Company in 1976, and was named president in 1994. In 1996 he became president of Savannah Foods Industrial and was appointed senior vice president of Savannah Foods & Industries.

 

Roche was also named the “Sugar Man of the Year – 2013.” He’s the 56th recipient of the Dyer Memorial Award, which is sponsored by the Sugar Club. He will be honored at a Sugar Club dinner in New York City on Wednesday, December 4.

 

Roche retired from Minn-Dak on August 31, 2013. He and his wife Rae Ann live in Harbor Springs, Michigan.

 

Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative is located north of Wahpeton. The co-op has 485 shareholders, employs more than 400 year-round and campaign associates, and has been producing sugar since 1974.

 

 

Northern Red River Valley grower finishes sugar beets, wet corn harvest

I took this photo of Kelly and Scott Erickson at their farm in April 2013.

 

Kelly Erickson, president of the board of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, and a farmer near Hallock, Minn., says the 2013 crop year has turned out much better, agriculturally, than last year when some of his beets had to be abandoned due to wet fields.

The operation run by Erickson and his son, Scott, finished up beets on Oct. 16, compared to a year ago when he tried to harvest beets in a wet November. This year’s yields were very good but the sugar content was a little less than he’d like to see.

“We’re just finishing up ditching, doing some surface drainage and putting stuff away,” Erickson said. The 2013 year was miserable for many growers farther south, but not this time at Hallock. He also raises corn and – because of an inoperable dryer this year – had to haul it to the elevator.

Corn yields have been all over the board, with the “dry yield” coming in at 100 to 150 bushels or more. “Our corn, when we took it was 26 percent moisture,” Erickson says. “We know that’s way to high but you’re always trying to out-think the weather. We took it wet, but I’m happy we made that decision.”