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Farmer Spring Break Conference approaches

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news Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — Lower crop prices and higher costs for inputs such as seed, fertilizer and chemicals may have farmers calculating their risks for the 2014 planting season.

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And if that isn’t worrisome enough, there’s always the weather.

A farm management analyst and an Iowa State University climatologist will be in Worthington March 7 to discuss both farm risks and the weather during the second annual Farmer Spring Break Conference at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

Keynote speakers Dr. Elwynn Taylor of ISU and Kent Thiesse of Mankato will present in the Minnesota West Fine Arts building on campus in the morning, with six different break-out sessions offered concurrently in the afternoon.

“We’re trying to just provide an opportunity for education on some current topics,” said Roxanne Hayenga, Minnesota West Community Development Director, who planned the conference with assistance from the college’s farm business management instructor Mike Dierks and his peer group.

Attendees will have an opportunity to hear both keynote speakers in the morning, and then enjoy a noon luncheon hosted by the Rock-Nobles Cattlemen’s Association. The schedule for the afternoon is arranged so that farmers can choose three of the six break-out sessions.

Hayenga said continuing education credits are available if needed, and people can request them during registration, which is from 8:45 to 9:15 a.m. Pre-registration is requested by March 1 by contacting Hayenga at 372-3468 or Dierks at 372-3427.

Hayenga said the Spring Break Conference has been planned to provide unbiased information to local farmers and agribusiness people. The event also offers an opportunity to promote the college’s farm business management program.

Several of the afternoon break-out sessions will be led by Minnesota West staff, including President Richard Shrubb, who will share his experience viewing Russian agriculture in 2013 as a Fulbright Scholar; and Daryl Bartholomaus, the Minnesota West Customized Training educator, talking about grain bin safety.

Minnesota West Farm Business Management staff will also present breakout sessions on crop profitability, cash rent, budgets and working with lenders for success.

“We’ve tried to have the sessions be both entertaining and educational at the same time,” said Dierks. “We’ve tried to pick some topics that producers are asking about and looking for information on.”

Taylor said he will talk about climate shifts and how they impact farmers, as well as provide a weather outlook for the next few years.

“Will we be going to more milder weather or more extreme weather? Will it be like it was in the 1960s and ’70s with consistent weather or will it be erratic weather like in the 80s?” Taylor said. “We know these things repeat themselves.”

As a tease to his March 7 presentation at Minnesota West, Taylor said he and other climatologists believe the weather will be better for farming in the western Corn Belt this year than it was last, but the “devil’s in the details.”

“We’ll be talking about the details,” he added.

Thiesse will walk attendees through risk management in challenging times, talking about tighter profit margins for corn and soybeans, break-evens, increased costs of production and ways producers can control expenses.

“Obviously, we’ve seen higher land values and real estate taxes,” Thiesse said. “In southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, probably two-thirds of the land is under some type of cash rental agreement. Those have gone up considerably, probably 50 to 60 percent or more.”

Thiesse will briefly discuss the new Farm Bill during his morning presentation, and will address more specific issues with the bill during the afternoon breakout sessions.

“The Farm Bill eliminated direct payments, which for most producers was probably $20 to 25 per acre,” Thiesse said. “In a year when that would certainly be beneficial, we’re not going to have (those payments).”

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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