Claim: Grazed Grasslands Trump Cover Crops on Long-term Carbon Sequestration
(6/5/22) The Food and Environment Reporting Network reports on research showing that rotationally grazed pastures sequester more carbon than annual cropping systems. An ongoing 29-year-old field experiment in Wisconsin shows that perennial pastures managed with rotational grazing accumulated 18% to 29% more soil organic carbon than annual cropping systems, even when cover crops and minimum tillage were used in the annual systems.
LSP’s grazing web page includes several resources for farmers looking to link livestock production, soil health, and economic viability. Check out LSP’s recent Myth Buster on carbon credits.
Land Stewardship Project Looking to Revitalize Local Foods Economy in the Upper Minnesota River Valley
(6/1/22) According to the West Central Tribune, the Land Stewardship Project is launching an effort in western Minnesota to map out the local food assets of the region while rebuilding and re-energizing a regional food systems network. Farm census data show that the number of farms that direct-market local foods in the region has been slowly growing, from 81 to 101 in the past few years, according to the Tribune. Local foods generated $612,000 in sales annually in the region, or just 0.5% of the $90 million that local residents spend on food for home preparation, according to an analysis by Ken Meter with the Crossroads Resources Center. Just boosting those sales by another percent or more could circulate an additional $1.2 million in the region, according to LSP’s Scott DeMuth.
For more on LSP’s regional foods work, see our web page.
County Board Sticks by Animal Unit Cap
(6/1/22) A push to reconsider Winona County’s limit on feedlot size was rejected by the County Board recently, according to the Winona Post. County Board members Steve Jacob and Marcia Ward proposed reconsidering the animal unit cap, which limits farms to no more than 1,500 animal units or 1,071 dairy cows. There has been a push to increase or even eliminate the cap in recent years as a result of pressure from Daley Farm, which wants to expand its operation to nearly 6,000 animal units despite widespread local opposition. Supporters of the cap, including LSP members who live in the county, say smaller farms and smaller quantities of manure reduce the risk of nitrate pollution in an area where groundwater is vulnerable and many rural wells are already contaminated. Mega-livestock CAFOs also threaten the economic viability of smaller farms.
In a new video, LSP members talk about why they are fighting to keep Winona County’s land, water, and communities from being harmed by a mega-dairy expansion. Check out more details on this fight at the Winona County Stewards web page.
Big Oil Wants New York’s Cow Manure
(5/25/22) Eight dairy farms in New York are producing pipeline-quality methane from manure, or soon will be, according to New York Focus. “Environmental experts worry this handful of farms are at the leading edge of a boom that subsidizes poor manure management practices and could promote the reckless expansion of large-scale factory farming,” reports Focus. And the state may be overcounting the climate benefits of manure biofuel as a mechanism to reach its greenhouse gas reduction targets — a miscount that will only grow as the industry expands.
In 2020, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved CenterPoint Energy’s proposal to create an infrastructure for supplying biogas generated from manure, among other waste products. A recent LSP Myth Buster tackles the claim that methane digesters on large CAFOs are a good public investment.
The Summer Minnesota’s Wells Dried Up
(5/21/22) The 2021 drought in Minnesota tool a toll on the aquifers that feed many of rural Minnesota’s wells. As a result, that summer the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fielded the most complaints over well interference in 40 years of record keeping, according to the Star Tribune. Many of those complaints were the result of large cropping operations using high capacity wells to supply irrigation water.
LSP members and staff successfully fought for drought relief during the recent session of the Minnesota Legislature. For details on drought relief support as well as assistance with this spring’s storms that’s now available, check out LSP’s latest action alert. A recent Land Stewardship Letter article describes the link between soil health and a field’s ability to store water efficiently. Another LSL article reports on what some vegetable producers are doing to make their farms more resilient when faced with the impacts of climate change.
Price of Fertilizer on the Steep Rise — Farmers Unsure Who, What’s to Blame
(5/4/22) By the end of April the price of fertilizer was $1,090 per ton, the highest it’s been since 2008, reports the Star Tribune. Industry officials say the costs are rooted in a “perfect storm” of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in eastern Europe, supply-side logjams and inflation, according to the Star Tribune. However, farmers also suspect that fertilizer companies are taking advantage of the situation and exercising some good old-fashioned price gouging.”They’re charging two times what’s logical for the product,” Northfield, Minn., farmer Mike Peterson told the newspaper.
LSP is currently conducting research that could help farms generate their own fertility via the Johnson-Su Bioreactor system. For details, check out this Land Stewardship Letter article. LSP is also pushing for a 2023 Farm Bill that will, among other things, address consolidation in the farm input industry. See our Federal Policy page for details.
Growing a New Future for Farming
(5/2/22) As part of its “Visionaries” series, the New York Times profiled Donald Wyse, a University of Minnesota scientists who has helped launch the Forever Green Initiative. Forever Green is helping develop cover crops and other plants that can keep the soil protected year-round and add diversity to the corn-soybean dominated landscape.
During the past several legislative sessions, LSP has helped garner funding for Forever Green. For a complete wrap-up of the 2022 legislative session, click here. Various episodes of the Ear to the Ground podcast have described extensively how farmers in Minnesota are utilizing one product of Forever Green research: Kernza.