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Farmers tell Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz about harvest woes

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MN Gov. Tim Walz, center, discusses the historic wet harvest with industry leaders and officials at the USDA office in East Grand Forks Tuesday. From left; Rep. Dan Fabian, Joe Kelly, HSEM; Commissioner Thom Petersen, MN Dept. of Agriculture; and East Grand Forks mayor Steve Gander listen in. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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Farmers from across northwest Minnesota gathered in East Grand Forks on Tuesday, Oct. 29, to tell Gov. Tim Walz and his administrative staff about the unprecedented situation they are facing this harvest season.

About 50 farmers attended the roundtable discussion at the U.S. Agriculture Department to express their frustrations about the wet conditions that have resulted in unharvested wheat, soybeans, edible beans, potatoes and sugar beets in northwest Minnesota.

Walz told the farmers he wanted to hear from them about the challenges they are facing and how the state can help them. He noted that he earlier had heard terms such as “unprecedented and catastrophic,” used to describe the wet harvest.

“We’re here to listen. We’re here to solve the issues,” Walz said Tuesday, Oct. 29.

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Farmers had a lot to say. From farmers who grow wheat, to ones who grow sugar beets, to those who grow potatoes, they told Walz about how wet conditions this fall stymied their harvests and resulted in damaged crops.

“Saturday night, I got 5 tons out of the field. Otherwise, I haven’t dug a ton out of the field since August,” said Paul Rutherford, who raises sugar beets near Euclid, Minn.

Rhonda Larson, a wheat grower from East Grand Forks, told Walz that wet conditions damaged the quality of her wheat, resulting in discounts that totaled thousands of dollars on a single check.

Potatoes also have been hit hard by wet conditions, and less than 40 percent of the fresh potato crop in the Red River Valley has been harvested, said Casey Folson, of Folson Farms in East Grand Forks. The effect of that will reach far beyond North Dakota and Minnesota, Folson said.

“That impacts the national supply big time,” Folson said.

Walz told the farmers that the problems they are facing because of wet weather can’t be immediately solved.

“Basically, it’s going to be an unfolding event,” he said. “This is going to be a stressful time. I wish there would be a certain date it would be over, but I think we’ll see this extending into next spring.”

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There are steps, however, he and his staff plan to take to help improve farmers situation in the meantime, Walz said.

For example, his staff will talk to propane distributors to make sure that farmers will have an adequate supply to dry their grain when it does get harvested. Walz staff also is having conversations with the Minnesota Highway Patrol about easing load restrictions on roads and highways and making sure the state’s counties are unified in their weight limits.

Walz office is also working with the Farm Service Agency in Minnesota to gather information about the amount of crop damage. That information will be used as evidence that a secretarial disaster declaration is needed.

It’s important that Minnesota residents in other parts of the state understand the plight of northwest Minnesota farmers because there will be a ripple effect, Walz said.

“Everytime we put one of these industries under stress, it puts more stress on the system,” he said.

“This is a literal quagmire,” he said.

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Karlstad, MN, potato farmer Justin Dagen talks about this year's wet harvest with MN Gov. Tim Walz and officials during a meeting Tuesday at the USDA office in East Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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