"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
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Political ruminations on Southeast Minnesota agriculture


Fri, Nov 14th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

As American families sit down at the supper table these next few weeks and chew over the collective political decisions we made in the voting booth this year, can we also take a moment to ruminate on agriculture?

It's a good time to realize that our elected officials at the county, state and federal level play a huge role in determining what we eat and agriculture's impact on the environment. No place is that more true than here in southeast Minnesota. For the past half-century our farm policies-policies that are put in place by our elected officials- have provided incentives for farmers to raise row crops like corn and soybeans. There's nothing wrong with those crops, but when grown to the exclusion of everything else, it is definitely too much of a good thing.

Here in southeast Minnesota, what was once a patchwork of numerous livestock farms is now a sea of corn and soybeans, with the occasional livestock operation sprouting up like an island in the distance.

According to statistics from the USDA and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in 1987, corn was grown on 127,200 acres in Fillmore County and soybeans on 40,400 acres. Twenty years later, corn was grown on 181,000 acres and soybeans on 76,700 -- a 53 percent increase in row crops acreage! Looking at farms in Winona, Olmsted and Wabasha counties in a 2006 study of the Whitewater River watershed, the MDA showed that more than 80 percent of this fragile watershed was in row crops. And this study was done before the current expansion of row crops for biofuels.

By removing diversity from the landscape, we've produced an unprecedented amount of environmental problems. For example, a 2008 multi-county water quality study by the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board recently reported that the region experiences serious nitrate-nitrogen contamination of rural drinking water. 30 percent of the rural wells tested in Wabasha County, 25 percent of the wells in Fillmore County, and 22 percent of the wells in Winona County were above the federal and state safe drinking water standard (10 parts per million) for nitrate-nitrogen. Nitrate-nitrogen contamination is caused by many factors. But the fact is that as more of our pasture, hay ground and small grains have been replaced by nitrogen-hungry corn, more groundwater contamination has occurred.

We need to get some of that hay and pasture back on the landscape, but how? Equally notable is the USDA statistic that in 1 .....
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Change is more than a word

Fri, Nov 14th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

It's over. The long, long, long campaign for the Presidency is behind us. The run for the top spot seemed to be a lifetime in length. Now we can relax. Or, can we?

The lightness of spirit many felt immediately after the election has been te ..... 
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A view from the other side

Fri, Nov 14th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Over most of my adult life, I have been a faithful follower of politics with my own strong held opinions. I've grumbled at times in disgust with some policy decisions and/or personal actions of people serving in public office at various levels.
< ..... 
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McCain can show how bipartisanship works

Fri, Nov 7th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

The election is now one for the history books. The pundits and party faithful of both sides are busy analyzing and rationalizing the results.

McCain was correct during the campaign - he is not George W. Bush. No matter who was elected chang ..... 
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Changing the Subject

Fri, Oct 31st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

The holidays are coming. I can tell by the weather and the fully stocked shelves of canned pumpkin. Here we will be again, driving to an event with all those relatives that we love and carrying our lists of topics not to mention. You know, John and ..... 
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A Christian looks at politics and government

Fri, Oct 31st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

When I listen to and look at today's political campaigns, the first thing that stands out in my mind is the question: "Doesn't anyone know the Golden Rule'? That way of assessing one's own words and actions isn't even exclusively Christian. The tene ..... 
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The things you love about Minnesota are on the ballot

Fri, Oct 24th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

On November 4, Minnesotans will have a chance to invest in a better life for future generations by voting for a proposed constitutional amendment to fund Minnesota's water quality, wildlife, cultural heritage and natural areas.

The Clean Wa ..... 
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Violence and the media

Fri, Oct 24th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

There's much to be said about violence, not only in October - which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month - but all year long. When I was asked to write an article about violence and its affect on children, I thought that I would focus on violence in ..... 
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Don't fall into the Palin trap

Fri, Oct 17th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

My family recently returned to Minnesota, the home of our birth, after nearly 13 years of dairy farming outside of Wasilla, Alaska. The straw that broke the camel's back - our Alaska Governor Sarah Palin!

It's a long story how we got to Alas ..... 
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