Ag Business Briefs

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Minnesota to pay farmers for leaving corn stalks

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota officials are offering to pay farmers who leave corn stalks standing along highways this winter to help keep snow from drifting.

The state Department of Transportation says stalks can break the wind’s force and limit snow from blowing onto roads. Farmers can earn money on a per-acre basis if they leave six to 20 rows of corn stalks standing.

The department is especially looking for farmers with fields to the north and west of highways where snow drifting often causes problem. Farmers make a one-season commitment from October until mid-April.

Gas Natural sells its Wyoming Energy West assets

CODY, Wyo. (AP) — Energy West Inc. is selling its subsidiary, Energy West Wyoming Inc. to Black Hills Corp. for $17 million.

Energy West parent company Gas Natural Inc. announced the sale of the natural gas pipelines, real estate, equipment and contracts on Oct 14.

The transaction is expected to close in six to 12 months, pending regulatory approval.

Energy West Wyoming serves about 6,700 customers in Cody and the surrounding region.

Gas Natural, a holding company, distributes and sells natural gas to about 73,000 customers in seven states, including Montana and Wyoming.

Black Hills Corp, based in Rapid City, South Dakota, serves 777,000 natural gas and electric customers in seven states including South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

Minnesota makes grants available for crop research

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is making $1.7 million in competitive grants available for applied crop research.

The department says the research needs to focus on improving agricultural product quality, quantity and value. Projects must also benefit Minnesota farmers and the state’s economy in the next three to five years.

The maximum grant award is $250,000 for projects that can last up to three years.

Any Minnesota organization, research entity, individual, or business with agricultural research capability is eligible to apply. The deadline is Nov. 20.

The Crop Research Grant Program is part of the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation Program created by the Minnesota Legislature to advance the state’s agricultural and renewable energy industries. The program awarded $1.3 million to 10 recipients for research this year.

Rural electric co-ops getting fed loan guarantees

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Four rural electrical cooperatives in South Dakota are getting large federal loan guarantees to help build or improve transmission and distribution lines.

The money is part of $1.4 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantees for such projects nationwide. The agency says the goal is to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities in 21 states.

East River Electric Power Co-op in South Dakota and Minnesota is getting a $131.7 million loan guarantee for 445 miles of lines.

Loan guarantees also are going to three other South Dakota co-ops: $3.3 million for Kingsbury Electric, $6.1 million for Cam Wal Electric and $6.7 million for Bon Homme Yankton Electric. Those projects encompass a total of 253 miles of line.

Some Dakotas farmers might harvest corn in spring

YANKTON (AP) – A climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center says some corn fields in the Dakotas might not be harvested until spring.

Brian Fuchs says the cool, wet growing season has created concerns about the moisture content of the corn. He says some farmers might leave corn standing in the field through the winter so it dries properly.

The Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan reports a similar situation occurred in the winter of 2008-2009.

The corn harvest in both Dakotas is well behind average.

Farmers in the two states are projected to produce more than 1 billion bushels of corn this year.

Survey: Slow growth in rural parts of 10 states

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey suggests slower economic growth ahead in rural areas of 10 states in the Plains and the West.

Creighton University economist Ernie Goss said on Oct. 16 falling grain prices and weak global growth are weighing down the economy in rural areas.

The overall economic index for the region fell to 43.4 in October from September’s already negative 48.2. The index has been steadily falling since June 2013 when it hit 60.5.

The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline in the months ahead.

Bankers from rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

Nebraska Gov. Heineman touts E85 gasoline

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Gov. Dave Heineman and state agricultural leaders are urging Nebraskans to buy E85 fuel the next time they pull up to a gas pump in a flex fuel vehicle.

Heineman touted the blended fuel on Oct. 17 during a conference call. E85 is a fuel mix that is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gasoline.

The governor’s office says there are about 180,000 flex fuel vehicles registered in Nebraska. Nebraska is the nation’s second-largest ethanol producer, and is home to 24 ethanol plants that produce nearly 2 billion gallons annually.

The Renewable Fuels Association has developed a “Flex-Fuel Station Locator” app to help drivers locate E85 pumps.

Event will look at importance of ag communications

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – A free event next month will examine why agriculture needs to do a better job of explaining its business to others.

Agriculture is growing increasingly complicated, so helping people understand the science of food production is becoming more important.

Agricultural broadcaster Orion Samuelson will lead a panel discussion on the topic on Nov. 6 at the Nebraska Innovation Campus’ Conference Center.

Samuelson is an agricultural reporter on WGN Radio in Chicago who is also syndicated with the National Farm Report.

The discussion will be available online at

Omaha Children’s Museum opens farm exhibit

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Kids visiting The Omaha Children’s Museum can now learn a little more about what goes on outside the city’s borders.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that a new 10,000-square-foot agriculture-centered exhibit dubbed “Once Upon a Farm” opened on Oct. 18.

The exhibit will teach children about farming equipment, irrigation, crops and other elements of farming, all centered around the idea of explaining how food gets to the dinner table.

The exhibit will be hands-on, allowing children operate everything from scaled down and modified irrigation systems to harvesting equipment.

Museum director Lindy Hoyer says it’s the museum’s first full-sized exhibit centered on agriculture since 1976.